Blues has always owed much of its appeal to the sincerity of its performers. Up until the mid-1960s the blues was very much considered a black man’s genre, belonging to those who lived and breathed the hardships that were conveyed in the music they performed. As a result many of the white blues players who emerged in the mid-late 60’s, predominately from England and Ireland, are often criticised by purists for lacking the level of sincerity that their forbearers had. There are of course some notable exceptions to this rule.
There are very few guitarists who are able to convey their feelings through their guitar playing as well as Gary Moore. This is perhaps the main reason why Moore is so highly respected amongst his peers and also by those who influenced him. Along with Peter Green, Moore is one of the few British blues guitarists to have earned such high levels of praise and respect from blues legends such as BB King and Albert King (among others). However, unlike Green, Gary Moore didn’t burst onto the blues scene until quite late in his career. Despite starting off as a bluesman, Moore swiftly moved on to other genres, gaining much of his recognition as a part time guitarist for rock band Thin Lizzy. It wasn’t until the pair of albums released between 1990 and 1992 that Moore really established himself as a blues player. The second of these albums, 1992’s After Hours, is often overlooked in favour of its predecessor, (the classic Still Got the Blues) despite being equally impressive in many respects and possessing much of what has made Moore such a highly regarded blues artist.
It only takes a couple of seconds for Moore’s unmistakeable guitar tone to come soaring over the top of Cold Day in Hell’s horn section, signalling the kind of emotion-fuelled guitar playing that dominates much of the album. While Moore’s playing style is always distinct throughout After Hours, there is no shortage of variation in his playing, songs like Separate Ways and The Hurt Inside feature a much more refined and laid back approach to his playing than is heard in the likes of The Blues is Alright or in the blistering version of John Mayall’s Key to Love. The former style is perhaps best displayed during a superb rendition of the Duster Bennett-penned Jumpin’ at Shadows, a song that had previously been performed by one of Moore’s idols, Peter Green. During this rendition Moore’s gentle, melancholic guitar playing is just as emotionally evocative as Green’s, a feat that is very rarely achieved by anyone. Even more melancholic is the mournful album closer Nothing’s the Same, which sees Moore at his most intimate. The song features one his most memorable and emotional vocal performances, which is augmented by his soft, subdued guitar playing, every note of which feels like a further expression of his sadness.
The highlight of the album comes in the form of Story of the Blues, one of the album’s six originals. This slow tempo blues ballad reaches its climax with one of Moore’s finest and most intensely emotional guitar solos. It is here where Moore really comes into his own. Every long sustain is held with the upmost intensity, every combination of notes seems so perfectly thought out whilst at the same time having a feeling of spontaneity. It’s as if he is pouring out his soul through his guitar playing, a characteristic that is largely responsible for the sincerity of his performances.
In many ways After Hours is one of the best representations of Moore as a guitarist. Everything that makes him standout from other guitarists of a similar ilk is presented on this album (well at least everything except his vast stylistic versatility). In addition, the album is also a great representation of his vocal abilities, featuring one of his stronger vocal performances, as well as his talents as song writer, with many of the album’s originals sitting comfortably alongside well-known blues classics. While After Hours may not have received quite the same level of acclaim that its predecessor has over the years, there’s no doubt that this album is one of the best and most consistent albums of Moore’s illustrious career.