Moot Davis gets country music. There is a lot of debate these days over what country music is and who belongs in the genre. Fans of the artist get defensive about their favorite acts and point out that country music has been evolving and blending with other genres for years. Fans of the genre get frustrate because it comes down to something more undefinable than that. Moot Davis’ latest album Goin’ in Hot could put an end to all this debate, because Davis just gets country music. A recent break up spurred Davis into a searing modern country rock that stands in stark contrast to his past few albums. It is a sonic change that could come as off putting to fan who reveled in such work. However, underneath this sound is the soul and spirit that spoke to his most Hank Williams loving fans.
The album opens with a different sort of retro twist. The title track swings with a grunge take on a 60’s fusion of beach and rockabilly. It is in the next song that the heart of Davis’ country roots start to show themselves. “Food Stamps” is a timely ballad about a man who has “made a career out of waiting in line” with he lives on “food stamps and four bottles of two dollar wine.” It is layered with the sort of laugh-so-you-don’t-cry humor that made Haggard and Nelson resonate so clearly. It also puts front and center that most evocative of all country instruments—the pedal steel. “Used to Call It Love” is one of the most stately and pure country waltzes songs Davis has ever put out. “Hurting for Real” is a perfect country music duet that conjures up memories of Johnny and June Carter Cash. (Perhaps the greatest of producer Kenny Vaughan’s many contributions to the album was recruiting Nikki Lane and her burnished whiskey voice.) “The Reason” is a sweet tribute to his mother that manages to come down just barely on the right side of cloying. “Love Hangover” is a song and a metaphor that should not work, but Davissomehow pulls it off. “Wanna Go Back” is a dreamy waltz, reminiscent of the Mavericks, that finds Davis’ vocals shimmering against Luella Wood’s sweet harmonies. Top to bottom, Goin’ in Hot is one of the strongest and haunting albums of Davis’ career.
The debate over the future of country music often comes down to one between tradition and evolution. Goin’ in Hot is the kind of album that blows such debates out of the water. Davis easily fuses rock, blues, soul and country into a sound that is at once modern and traditional. It’s easy to compare Davis to traditional artists like Hank Williams or Merle Haggard, but, in spirit, he brings to mind Roger Miller. He is the kind of artist who takes in the music of his era and turns it out in a slice of country that is all his own, the kind of writer who can pen songs that run the gamut from the absurdly funny to the heartbreakingly poignant. Goin’ in Hot is his most personal and brilliant album to date.