Ian Moore came out of the box swinging. He emerged from Austin as a young blues prodigy in the early '90s heyday of Stevie Ray Vaughan, later playing guitar for Joe Ely's band and opening for the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan early on. But ever since his auspicious debut, Moore's been moving away from the blues and exploring an ever-expanding palette of sounds. Of course, to hear the 41-year-old singer tell it, the sounds have been there all the time.
"You come up and start playing gigs, you start to get a little attention, and as soon as people come around you, they start going, 'This is who you are. This is what you should do.' They basically spend your whole life corralling you," Moore said from his Seattle studio, referring in part to his label troubles with Capricorn Records, which released his first two albums.
Freed from label contracts and constraints, his next two albums, 1998's "Ian Moore's Got the Green Grass" and 2000's "And All the Colors "¦," balance his hard-rocking impulses with sonorous pop melodies. But after recording the 2001 live album "Via Satellite," his band fell apart, and the singer/songwriter moved to Seattle with his new wife to embark on an entirely new chapter of his life.
He picked up the acoustic guitar and shelved his electric ax for a while, having grown a little sick of the sound. During this time, Moore had his first child and his father died. It was a rapidly changing time in which "everything is shifting underneath you and you're trying to get your footing," he said.
He soaked up the atmospheric tone of his environs, finally returning with 2004's "Luminaria," which suggests the rain-speckled windows and overcast skies one hears lurking in the background of area acts like Death Cab for Cutie and Modest Mouse. The somewhat downbeat, dreamy disc opens with Moore singing, "Seeing the world through gloomy windshields / Waiting for the sun to show." Its delicate, quiet, gauzy sound is far removed from the musician's shredding past.
"It took me a while to kind of figure out what I was doing there and come to a point where I felt I had some substance that was worth recording," he said. "I actually started learning to record and playing a bunch of different instruments, and I started recording my own records during that time. So things slowed down a bit."
If "Luminaria" was like a horizon-shrouding storm of enveloping textures, then his most recent, 2007's "To Be Loved," is a revealing sun making a rainbow dash cross the sky. It's a bouncy, energetic album rife with exhilarating melodies, ringing guitars and among his finest batches of songs, particularly with the punchy psych-pop paean to discriminating tastes, "Literary Kind," and the disc's mod-inflected ode to hardening arteries and hearts, "Killing Joke."
"When I made 'To Be Loved,' I felt like I had more of a mental spiritual grasp on where I was at," Moore said. "It's guitar from the standpoint of textural power pop and psych guitar."
Not one to sit still, he's already moving in a new direction. For more than a year, he's been writing with touring band member Matthew Harris, writing music that circles back to where Moore began, bringing back a bigger role for the electric guitar.
"It's way more raw, way more. It's still got structure and hopefully not too much gratuitous guitar, but I've been in this crazy, Lindsay Buckingham, Richard Thomspon phase," he said, explaining that the new songs formed through such a collaborative experience that they've decided to release the songs under a band moniker, Lossy Coils. The pair enters the studio this fall with hopes of a spring album release.
Whether people like it or are thrown by yet another change in direction is not something Moore feels obligated to worry about. His muse dictates, and if really pressed, he knows he has a withering comeback.
"When I'm feeling insecure and that people don't value my contributions, there's always this mantra that goes on in my head," Moore said. "It says, 'Hey, fuck you, I toured with the Stones.'"
Ian Moore performs at 8 p.m. Monday at The Blue Door, 2805 N. McKinley. Tickets are $20. "Chris Parker