In the Cool of the Day
In the Cool of the Day
Daniel Martin Moore is a singer’s singer. His voice is as smooth as birch bark, a quality he puts to great use on his latest release In the Cool of the Day, a stunning collection of traditional hymns and five original compositions. But what gives this record its transcendent quality is Moore’s decision to weave his own theology into some of the older songs while remaining true to their spirit. Such a choice might have proved disastrous, but Moore is the master of subtlety.
On “Up Above My Head,” a track that pulses with Brian Lovely’s swinging guitar and co-producer Dan Dorff’s shuffling drums, he alters but one word of the original lyric—changing “God” to “joy”—a variation that captures the song’s mood perfectly. Such seemingly small details are an invitation to the nonreligious to move beyond traditional dogma and simply appreciate the music. The title track offers a similar call. Written by Moore’s fellow Kentuckian Jean Ritchie, whom he has long admired, his cover of the environmental psalm more than does her proud.
On this album Moore also shows his strengths as a songwriter. His own compositions mesh beautifully with the traditional material. “O My Soul” is in many ways the album’s centerpiece, a gentle march in which he proclaims Each step a living prayer/And we never walk alone over his own gorgeous piano.
Much of what makes In the Cool of the Day so striking is, again, Moore’s voice. Gospel is a genre that is notorious for vocalists who over-sing, belting in feeble attempts to imitate artists such as Mavis Staples. But not Moore. His vocals are crisp and understated, as on the classic hymn “Softly and Tenderly,” which features an achingly beautiful cello courtesy of Moore’s regular collaborator Ben Sollee and sterling harmony vocals from Haley Bonar. The contemplative “Set Things Aright,” the album’s final track, provides yet another example, with Moore’s tender vocals blending with those of Yim Yames (My Morning Jacket) and again with Bonar.
In a recent interview, Moore observed, “Much of the mystery, joy, and simplicity of a thoughtful life is lost in the rigidity of the answers that seem to have been created to support the brick-and-mortar side of religion.” In the Cool of the Day razes that restrictive building, and in doing so Moore has created a cathedral of song, a record that belongs on the shelves of believers and doubters alike.