Gary Moore's blues

Richard BatsonBlues rocker Gary Moore brings his distinctive brand of music to UEA this Sunday, April 26. He spoke to Richard Batson about the blues, guitarists, his songs and his advice to the son seeking to follow in his fretmarks.Richard Batson

We've all got a bit of the blues as the recession casts a shadow over lives and livelihoods. But Gary Moore has had them in his soul, played them on his wailing guitar, and sung them with his rich rock voice for more than 30 years. He's still got the blues, to reprise the name of his most successful album back in 1990.

However, there is a spring in the Irishman's step as he gears up to a 12-gig UK tour, including a visit to UEA, Norwich, that is anchored on his most recent CD, Bad For You Baby.

It is being hailed as one of his best yet - a mix of originals from his own pen and rediscovered blues classics that showcase his talent as a musician and reinforce his regular calling back to his musical roots.

'I started playing the blues when I was 13 or 14. I had been listening to clean sounds like Hank Marvin. Then I heard Eric Clapton playing with John Mayall. His version of All Your Love blew me away. I had never heard a guitar so full of passion and emotion,' said the 55-year-old brought up in the shadow of Belfast's Stormont.


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These days he is regarded in the same league - putting a Celtic spin on blues standards, writing songs that have become classics in their own right, and squeezing soaring solos from his guitar, as his facial expressions, under a shock of unruly hair, bend with the emotion-laden notes.

He cut his musical teeth listening to Belfast showbands, and picking out tunes on his first acoustic guitar, bought for a fiver when he was just 10.

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His tutors were chord books and simply watching other people play. But it was seeing Jimi Hendrix and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers in his home city that sparked an interest in blues rock that has dominated his life.

While blues remains the mothership to which he regularly returns, the Irishman has jigged to other tunes over the years, adding elements of rock, jazz, and country to his style - resulting in collaborations with artists as diverse as Albert Collins, Jimmy Nail, Ozzy Osbourne and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

His first band Skid Row, formed in 1969, saw his first link-up with Phil Lynott. After a spell of solo work and a series of rock records, Moore made the benchmark Still Got the Blues album.

The latest Bad for You Baby CD was recorded last year, hot on the heels of touring, which Moore says adds to the aggression and energy of the album.

'People saying it is me at my most brutal. It is rockier than the last one which was laid back and melancholy, and it is more like us live on stage - because we had just a month's break. I really enjoyed playing on it.

'When you are playing all year, your playing is very strong and it came over on the album.'

As well as the rocky title track, there is the funky Umbrella Man, about a man 'who thinks his girl loves him, but just wants him to get the spiders out of the bath', and a cover of Muddy Waters' Someday Baby.

A lot of the solos are improvised - showing the calibre of the man who says the guitar is the perfect blues instrument. 'It is so expressive, so hands on. There are not the hammers and valves in the way like there are with some instruments. And I just love blues lyrics which are so poetic. And blues don't have to be miserable, because you can rock it up.'

Moore said his new tour, which kicks off this month, would feature five or six songs from the new album - but also some of his classic numbers, including his signature finale Parisienne Walkways.

His haunting guitar, teamed with the evocative voice of Lynott - whom he later joined in Thin Lizzy - took them to number eight in the singles chart in April, 1979.

'I still love playing it,' admitted Moore. He has developed his own style over the years, which he says is the key to anyone wanting to cut it as a blues guitarist.

'A lot of guitarists, especially youngsters, like to fill every effing gap, not realising they won't fall down the hole and die.

'It is about phasing - and stopping, leaving people hanging for the next note' - something he learned from his main mentor Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac - who he paid tribute to with his 1995 Blues for Greeny album.

'We all have our influences. You copy your heroes, like I did with Clapton. But you don't have to pretend to be black, and I like to hear an individual's own style rather than their influences,' he added - even if for young guitarists it took until their thirties.

Moore is dismissive of the overnight success enjoyed by the stars of today's reality TV talent shows, saying that with a few exceptions, their careers will end as quickly as they started.

He believes the only way to longevity in a business that can 'spit you out' as quickly as it propels you into the charts, is to gain experience through gigging.

It is a gospel he preaches to his 21-year-old son Jack, who plays in a band called Shotgun Eddie based in Brighton near the family home.

'He has a big ego and reckons he's better than me. But I tell him that if you want to be really good, it takes hard work and practice. You need to push the van up the hill in snow, sleep on the speaker cabinets, and stay at home and practice rather than go down the pub.'

His own career proves the point, as it continues to sustain as long as some of the soaring notes screaming from his amplifier.

t Gary Moore is joined on the Bad For Your Baby tour by Texan guitarist Buddy Whittington, who plays lead in John Mayall's Bluebreakers. It started at Folkestone on Thursday and finishes at the Hammersmith Apollo on May 2. The UEA gig is on Sunday, April 26. Tickets, costing �26.50, through the box office 01603 508050 and www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk, the hotline 0871 220 0260, 0871 230 6230 or via www.gigsandtours.com or www.ticketmaster.co.uk

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