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Return of the Rhymin' Pieman: Tate Moore's Latest Platter

Oxford troubadour Tate Moore takes a ballad break at his restaurant, Square Pizza.
Oxford troubadour Tate Moore takes a ballad break at his restaurant, Square Pizza.

“I’m right at home in a honky tonk with a microphone,” Tate Moore admits in “Guitar Man,” on his forthcoming album Avalon, and some of his old buddies evidently have that feeling, too. When Moore began recording his new solo album, his Kudzu Kings cohorts began creeping home like the vines they were named after.
Moore made his first public release in high school in Ohio with a cassette titled Mile of My Time before enrolling at Ole Miss, where he would form seminal Oxford group the Kudzu Kings, with two albums to show for it. In 1999 he went back go basics with a spare record called Old Dead Dog, followed by Punk Poet in 2001, with former Kudzu collaborator Ted Gainey involved in the production of both. Avalon, being released on Gainey’s Hill Country Records imprint, marks Moore’s first outing of original material in 13 years.
In the interim, Moore married a girl from Avalon (see the title track) and has donned an apron as proprietor of Square Pizza and performed as a solo concern as well as with his sometime band the Cosmic Door. But when he began recording Avalon with Gainey—a former Kudzu drummer—Moore’s new solo album turned into something of a Kudzu Kings reunion. Band alums Dave Woolworth (bass), George McConnell (guitar), Max Williams (guitar), and Robert Chaffe (keys) filtered into the studio to lend some of their classic leafy licks.
“The idea that I still get to play music with these guys—we just have an understanding,” Moore says. “We don’t have to practice, because we’ve done it thousands of times together. Here we are in 2014, and it kind of feels like ’94 to me. Everybody came in and did their things, and that’s how we built the Kudzu King catalog. There’s an excitement with new stuff, where you’re kind of on the edge.”
Avalon_CoverIn fact, though they don’t convene as often as they used to, the Kings’ recent live performances have included workouts of songs that appear on Avalon.
“Each time we play this new stuff, it’s going to get better and more interesting,” Moore says. “I’ve been writing these songs for the last five or six years,” he says. “Some are new and got written for the record, but a lot of them I’ve been tweaking. Maybe it just took this long to get the band back together. We all kind of had families and started businesses, and now we have the itch again to go out and do it again.”
So, why not just call it a Kudzu Kings album?
“We had discussed doing a record for our 20th anniversary,” Moore says. “I think I was just the first one to set up studio time, and that’s how it went down. I went with familiarity, so the first guy I called was George. He’s such a great rhythm guitar player. And of course I’m going to ask Dave to play bass, and Ted was drumming.”
The initial tracking was done in Terry at the studio of Chalmers Davis, longtime keyboardist in Little Richard’s band. “When Chaffe heard George and Dave were playing, he wanted to be on the record,” Moore says. “Slowly he came in and playing, and Chalmers ended up on only a couple songs now.”
The result is a cool, laid-back album that might be filed under “Kudzu Kings for grown folks.” That mischievous spirit of old is hanging out in the corner, to be sure, but Moore and his crew’s time away brings sublime seasoning to Avalon.
Besides an album of gospel standards a few years ago, why did Moore wait 13 years to release a set of original songs? He cites Willie Nelson’s “Shotgun Willie” lyric: “You can’t make a record if you aint got nothin’ to say.”
Moore finally has something to say, in the form of his new album Avalon, due out in October on vinyl and by digital download on iTunes.
— Tad Wilkes, tad.wilkes@hottytoddy.com

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