Daniel Martin Moore - "In the Cool of the Day" (In the Cool of the Day)
In the liner notes of In the Cool of the Day, the singer-songwriter Daniel Martin Moore thanks his family, who “taught [him], with many of these songs, to love music.” Many of the 11 songs heard here are standards: traditional folk and gospel songs, played respectfully by a largely acoustic band. The front cover finds Moore holding a guitar up to a vintage microphone, sleeves rolled up to his elbows. It’s an image that could have been taken any time in the last 80 years; the precise colors of the image and the Sub Pop logo on the back are some of the only indicators that this isn’t a recording by some Depression-era troubadour.
Guitar, mandolin, and viola waft throughout these songs, and Moore’s occasional collaborators Ben Sollee and Jim James (or, depending on your preference, Yim Yames) also make appearances. The playing of these songs is precise, oftentimes breezy, and it makes for an album that’s incredibly listenable. The jazz-inflected “In the Garden” moves along at a brisk pace, while the subdued instrumental “Lay Down Your Lonesome Burden” is as somber and restrained as its title might indicate. And when something louder does enter the mix, such as the organ that helps bring “O My Soul” to a close, the effect is dramatic.
The album’s use of vocals is less resonant, however. Moore’s voice is clear and crisp, but on well-known songs like “It is Well with My Soul” and “Closer Walk with Thee,” he sounds relatively unaffected by the words he’s singing. Given the territory he’s in here — of faith and yearning and redemption — this is an odd choice, a relatively restrained delivery of lyrics that normally suggest a richer emotional experience. When revisiting songs from bygone decades, singers ranging from Willie Nelson to Sam Amidon have been able to make those songs resonate by giving them an emotional urgency. Vocally, In the Cool of the Day often lacks that urgency: it’s a beautifully played, highly accessible album that nevertheless leaves much less of an impact than one might expect.