Gary Moore, Cass Lewis and Darrin Mooney
I wasn’t born I Chicago / But I can play the blues / I wasn’t part of no union / But I paid my dues / I never got into a train wreck / But I went off the rails / I never rent another hammer / ‘cause I was hard as nails.~
One of THE most anticipated releases this fall lives up to its hype. Scars is Gary Moore’s answer to the power trio for the new millennium. The record is a surprise perhaps, to those fans and critics who have found it challenging to follow Moore’s ever-changing direction over the past six years, but a welcome one. Crashing back onto the music scene with what has to be his heaviest collection of songs to date, the ex-Thin Lizzy guitarist once again forces listeners to reassess any opinions and preconceptions of his playing. Joining the master rock/bluesman are Skunk Anansie bassist Cass Lewis and Primal Scream drummer Darrin Mooney; a team of seasoned professionals able to shake the very foundation of modern rock.
Moore has had a flourishing, 30-year career steeped in rock and blues, but few projects have excited him as much as his new outfit. Says Moore, “I was blown away by the power and precision of Mooney's playing when I was auditioning drummers two albums back, and whilst looking for a bassist to complete the new line-up Darrin suggested that I take a look at Cass. When we all got together to play for the first time, it was perfect. Everything just clicked. It was so natural, so completely uncontrived that it was immediately obvious to me that this was going to be the ultimate line-up.”
From the Hendrix-like riff of ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ to the slow grind of ‘Ball And Chain’ it’s obvious the disc has it all - heavy, melodic, twisted rock 'n' roll played down and dirty and crafted with soul-wrenching emotion. "I wanted to do more improvisational kinds of things with this record,” states Moore in his press release. “Much like Jimi Hendrix did with the Band of Gypsys. I was looking for that kind of Band of Gypsys atmosphere and vibe. It was even surprising to me that I wanted to return to this kind of music again because I said I wouldn't do that. I was sick of hard rock. I started enjoying hard rock music again through new bands I like such as System of a Down. There's a huge difference in hard rock these days with these big, fat grooves."
Moore’s own fat grooves pack the ten-track disc. The MONSTER track ‘Rectify’ is a perfect example with wide-open chords over a shivering bass line. Add Moore’s gravel voice, bold, brash lyrics delivered with a sarcastic mouthful of pissed-off spit and you have the quintessential return to hard rock Moore style.
Though the Belfast native has been focusing on blues for years, it took rediscovering blues-oriented guitar master Stevie Ray Vaughan to inspire him to re-embrace hard rock, once again. Moore claims he wasn't moving backward, he was moving in a circle. Moore hadn't really listened to Vaughan's work until recent years. (When Vaughan died in a helicopter crash in 1990 his creativity was peaking, and that was the year when Moore enjoyed his greatest U.S. commercial success when 'Still Got the Blues' went gold.) "What really got me into Vaughan was the 'Live at El Mocambo' video. I was actually supposed to tour with him, but it never happened. I really got to appreciate his music.”
Vaughn’s influence can be heard in the rockin’ ‘Stand Up,’ ‘My Baby (She’s So Good To Me)’ and ‘World Keep Turnin’ Round’ as well as the mellower ‘Just Can’t Let You Go.’ The album doesn’t completely abandon the blues. Its roots can be heard in each song. He even takes a well placed jab at critic of his blues period in ‘Wasn’t Born In Chicago’ with a funky back beat and lyrics that demand, “I never swam in dirty water / But my name is Mud. I never knew you were a virus / But you got into my blood.”
As with many of Moore’s records, he includes a heart-stirring ballad as the final selection entitled “Who Knows? (What Tomorrow May Bring).’ The song was actually written prior to the bands formation, but they put their own unique stamp on it. It is an emotional look back at so many changes; be they in Moore’s own life (“Gonna put some distance / Between me and the bad times”) or the world in general (“Say goodbye to the sad times”). Coming from a guy who was raised in Northern Ireland, when he says, “who knows what tomorrow may bring, who know what’s around the next corner…gonna find a reason to move on from the sad times,” it means just a little bit more.
Scars only played one gig before recording the album. It was at Royal Albert Hall in London last February, and the trio received a standing ovation after just 25 minutes. Says Moore, "We were playing my old material only, which was a challenge, but the crowd loved us. We didn't play any new material. In fact, we wrote half the album in the studio." In a power trio, individual musical weaknesses cannot be hidden. In fact, substandard musicians have no business trying to exist in this realm. It's a rare, exciting occurrence to have musicians the caliber of Moore, Lewis and Mooney join forces.
Scars is a vital achievement to one who has done so much for and with the guitar. As a fundamental member of Thin Lizzy he contributed integral works like ‘Black Diamond’ to an internationally famous band. Moore has been a successful hard rock solo artist with albums like 'Corridors of Power,' he's been part of a supergroup -- BBM -- with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce of Cream, he's been a straightforward contemporary blues musician on hit albums like 'Still Got the Blues' and he's been embraced by his own heroes like Fleetwood Mac guitarist Peter Green. His legacy is found in his passion for music and his willingness to share it with others.