Moses Atwood’s “One Bright Boat”

Here’s something you might not know about Moses Atwood: Even though he plays (piano, guitar, harmonica) and sings like an old soul whose been doing this since back in the days of juke joints and hobo college, he actually only came to music a dozen years ago.

Singing was first (with his dad, in the car), but he was 19 before he picked up a harmonica after a Blues Traveler concert, and then a guitar. “That was it,” says Atwood. “Music has pretty much been at the center of my life ever since.” After that, it was still a fairly convoluted path from playing tunes for his own satisfaction to standing up in a front of an audience and doing what he does so well. He learned to build guitars and studied for stints at Berklee College of Music and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music before releasing his inaugural album in his hometown of in Damariscotta, Maine.

In fact, it after the relative success of that folk-oriented self-titled debut that Atwood tricked out a conversion van and took to the road.  He’d planned to do the troubadour thing, winding his way down the eastern seaboard, singing for his supper more or less. But by the time he reached Asheville he was sick of van living and, since the local music scene quickly adopted him, he stayed.

So, for the last several years, that’s what Atwood’s been doing. Writing songs, playing a little bit, lending his talent to Johnson’s Crossroad and The Overflow Jug Band. But he hasn’t put out another recording since 2008. And then, last year, he just got the feeling that it was time. : “I’d found so many ways of circumventing the actual making of the record that I was like, ‘book the dates, get the people and do it,’” he says. He pulled together a group of musician, including Michael Libramento who plays pretty much everything, and headed to Philadelphia, to the new studio of Dr. Dog collaborator Bill Moriarty. And there, in a week’s time, Atwood laid down most of the tracks for his new record, One Bright Boat.

The album’s official release date is Saturday, March 30. There’ll be a CD release party at The Lab (Johnson’s Crossroad will play, too). More about that in the future. What’s important to know now is that Boat is something to look forward to.

It opens with rollicking piano, the easy jingle of tambourine and tasteful flourishes of guitar. Atwood’s voice is what colors in the picture, relaxed and rich, rising effortlessly in a warm baritone. “I’m tired of being the sad man, tired of all the sad songs. I’m tired of living my life like I’ve done something wrong,” he sings. Here, Atwood leaves the troubadour-folky sound role for that of bandleader in the style of Van Morrison and Randy Newman.

While there’s no weak link, one stand-out track is “At Last,” rich with pedal steel accents (Matt Smith), gospel tones and warm brass (Justin Ray and Jacob Rodriguez). Listen to that track here; look for the full release in March.

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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