Two singer-songwriters with drastically different approaches took up residence in a candle-lit corner of Luna Music's midtown store Monday night: Daniel Martin Moore and Impossible Shapes guitarist and songwriter Chris Barth, performing under his Normanoak alias.
It's a surprise to contrast Moore's serene Appalachian folk - he's from Cold Spring, Ky. - with Barth's violent freak folk but both songwriters offer something tangible, and something worthwhile.
Moore opened with the title track from his 2008 Sub Pop release, "Stray Age," which summarized and introduced his hushed, subtle American roots and folk music. But more importantly, it serves as an introduction to his greatest strengths: his resonant voice and elaborate finger-picking.
Late in the set, Moore played "Fly Rock Blues," a track that is set to be released on an EP recorded with cellist Ben Sollee. One doubts anyone was left unconvinced after it. Some of the best songwriters create affecting music in the simplest terms, and Moore nailed it out of the park.
On the other hand, there's little subtlety in what Barth does, and that's OK. Perhaps the evening's most memorable moment came after Barth finished a nearly six-minute song about elves. Sung in his trademark high, piercing falsetto and performed on guitar with all the care and nuance of a Weed Whacker, it literally cleared the room.
"The Elves song usually clears the room," he sardonically remarked.
Ironically, after that Barth's best work emerged. His best moments, like the slow, sinister "Free Words," are truly experimental, and endlessly interesting. Someone with a voice like Barth's can't hope for pop bliss, but when he strikes a balance between his off-kilter pop sensibilities and his experimental, jarring tendencies, he can be illuminating.