Ka-Ching…With Twang: Kip Moore – Damn Love

I don’t know what people love about Kip Moore. Perhaps it’s his filmstar good looks, or his whisky-soaked voice, or his arena rock guitar solos, or how he scrapped an entire album because he wasn’t happy with it.

Whatever it is, British fans of Kip will relish his return to these fair isles this month, which also takes in two German dates and a show in Amsterdam. His trick was to get in early and to come back often. In 2015 he was the opening act on a rockin’ Sunday in London, helping to rev up the crowd for Jason Aldean and Lady A at Country2Country. His nine-song included a cover of Don’t Look Back In Anger and plenty of crowd favourites: Wild Ones, Beer Money, Hey Pretty Girl and his country number one Somethin Bout A Truck.

After the evening finished, he gripped, grinned and signed autographs for hours in a Garth-like way. A year later, just before he headlined his own shows to promote his second album Wild Ones, he told Rolling Stone magazine about how fans chatted to him after that show. ‘They made a connection with passion and the lyrics,’ he said.

Kip’s 2016 gig at the Camden Koko, which ended with two encores, contained 23 tracks including Jimmy Eat World’s The Middle and his current radio smash Running For You. I’m To Blame, the first single from Wild Ones, hit number 100 exactly to become his fourth of six charting hits on the overall Hot 100. The sole single from Wild World was She’s Mine, which stalled in the twenties on radio. More Girls Like You went to number four, while Last Shot hung around for a year and hit number six on radio.

Brett James produced Kip’s first album. He joined Kip onstage at the 2018 edition of the CMA Songwriter evening as part of that year’s C2C, where he went on after Luke Combs and before Kacey Musgraves. In 2019 he came over twice: in May for some acoustic shows and in September to headline the first Long Road festival with his band. He also played the Camden Roundhouse in a two-hour set with 24 songs. His long, rambling Guitar Man is a cornerstone of his live set.

Pip Ellwood-Hughes’ review of the show began ‘no US country artist looks after their UK fans the way that Kip Moore does.’ He is ‘captivating, charismatic and magnetic’, which I think also means he’s attractive, and is the ‘best live performer on the country circuit’.

He might not have headlined C2C just yet, as Pip predicted of Kip, but he does get to headline the inaugural Highways Festival at the Royal Albert Hall on May 20 as the biggest of seven gigs that take him to Birmingham, Leeds, Gateshead, Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast. He comes bearing a new album, Damn Love, which James Daykin reviewed at EF Country; he called it ‘introspective’ and more akin to one of Bruce Springsteen’s softer albums. He co-produced it with Jaren Johnston of The Cadillac Three, another band who regularly come to Europe, and it shares the hooky commercialism of TC3’s work.

The lead single Damn Love is an outside write from Johnston among others. It has sprinklings of synth and heartland guitars, as well as a singalong chorus. Ditto Silver and Gold, a three-chord jam full of philosophy about love, hope and being a soldier. Kinda Bar is very much a Kip Moore composition, painting the picture of a typical ‘neon dive’ that is almost calculated to send people to buy another drink of overpriced alcohol at London prices. The album’s closing track Micky’s Bar is full of pathetic characters (as in deserving of sympathy) drowning their sorrows.

In spite of many tracks featuring some form of alcohol – well, this is the Beer Money guy so it’s on brand – It’s nice to hear an album where one song reflects its predecessor. Neon Blue sounds like what happens when the ‘kinda bar’ has closed to reveal sticky floors and puddles of spilt beer. Kip’s narrator is still believable, and a whole lot more in touch with his feelings than bombastic Aldean or Brantley Gilbert. It’s followed by The Guitar Slinger, another song of heartbreak where ‘last week runs into yesterday’, and two tracks after that he’s pouring out his heart on Another Night In Knoxville.

Some Things is filler, a radio-friendly list of stuff that any old chump can write when they’re starved of inspiration. One Heartbeat is much better: a duet with Ashley McBryde that sounds like an event as well as a wedding song thanks to its ‘you’re my X, you’re my Y’ structure.

Love is still a keen interest from the man who had a hit addressed to a pretty girl. Heart On Fire smoulders appropriately, while Peace & Love is a typical fist-puncher like More Girls Like You. Mr Simple has Kip saying he doesn’t like the sea but will willingly ‘put on a captain’s hat’ to spend time with his beloved. Sometimes She Stays (‘sometimes she goes, that’s when you know you want her to stay’) is another one of those songs that packs an entire relationship into a chorus, complete with ‘toothbrush at your place’ and ‘bedsheet negligee’.

So there’s rock’n’roll, romance and a vocal that rips into the soul. Maybe that’s why folk love Kip Moore after all.

Tickets for Highways are available here.

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