The Outlaw country movement, codified in the early 1970s by a shaggy posse of Nashville rebels, is archetypal Americana. Dark, complex, self-possessed and self-destructive, always struggling to rectify sin and salvation, it's a rich genre that continues to thrive.
When Outlaw cult hero Dallas Moore makes his West Coast debut at Burbank's Viva Cantina on Friday, Oct. 23, expect a high-velocity, double-barreled blast of rousing, defiant music.
A long-haired redneck who studied classical and jazz guitar at Northern Kentucky University, Moore's 25-year career and relentless touring (he averages a staggering 300 shows a year) has gained him a formidable reputation in the hard country underworld. Moore's songs, as showcased on his current "Dark Horse Rider" album, are meditative, irony-laden mid-tempo examinations of the outlaw's troubled, disruptive psyche. While cleaving to the classic tradition of stark, scab-picking realism which mad-dog forebears like David Allan Coe and Johnny Paycheck introduced and epitomized, Moore is genuine, not derivative, and his growling, expressive vocals deliver with resonant authority.
Like Coe and Paycheck, Moore is an Ohioan, and music has been a lifelong avocation.
"My mama always played lots of Hank Williams, Bill Monroe and Elvis Presley records around the house when I was growing up," Moore said. "I got my first guitar at age 16 and started writing songs right off the bat. When I was at the university, it was my chance to play in a gig band during the day and at local honky-tonks at night. I found the common ground between Django Reinhardt and Willie Nelson, Benny Goodman and Bob Wills. It was a blast soaking up the different influences and putting them into my own music."
After graduating and forming his own band, Moore was inevitably drawn even further into these infamous iconoclasts' orbit.
"Paycheck used to park his bus across the street from my best friend's house and sometimes we'd catch him and his band loading up and hitting the road. It was a big black Silver Eagle bus that read 'The Last Outlaw' on it," Moore recalled. "A few years later we got to open a show for Paycheck in Kentucky, right after he'd gotten out of prison in Chillicothe. I've always loved ol' Paycheck and he was a big influence.
"I've been friends with David Allan Coe for over 20 years," he added. "He has always been kind to us and we've done hundreds of shows together. They broke the mold when they made D.A.C. There will never be anyone like him."
Informed, firsthand, by their lurid sphere of interest, Moore has produced plenty of his own memorable songs, like "Blessed Be the Bad Ones," "Crazy Again" and "Bottle and a Bible." He is an integral part of a booming Outlaw movement that's anchored by Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Billy Joe Shaver and contemporaneously upheld by younger artists like Hank Williams III, Sarah Gayle Meech and Sturgill Simpson.
Naturally, all of this occurs far from the glossy realm of Nashville and big radio. "That stuff is not really my cup of whiskey," Moore said. "There's a lot of great new music being made, but you won't hear it on mainstream country radio. It all comes out in the wash either way, and we're glad to hit the road and take our music to the people, one honky-tonk at a time."
For Moore, only one thing really matters: "The love of the song. That's where it all begins for me. I love being able to write my own songs, bring them to life and share 'em with people. It's a connection and a high like no other in the world." He said. "I'm most comfortable with my old guitar in hand, sharing my music, stories and jams. It's literally a different show every night and we're all fired up to bring our music to California."