Now Playing: Chris Moyse’s ‘Bitter Ballads & Cynical Prayers’

Image courtesy of Chris Moyse

American singer-songwriter Chris Moyse is prepping for the release of his new release. It’s titled Bitter Ballads & Cynical Prayers and drops on March 20th. But first, for those not yet familiar with the artist in question, a bit o’ background.

Chris Moyse

Image courtesy of Chris Moyse

Chris Moyse is a Nashville-based folk singer-songwriter and guitarist. He is from Monroe, Connecticut. He began performing his own song at various bars at the age of 16.
According to his website, Moyse’s material focuses on “the truth [and] “the places most would rather stay away from.” He put out his premiere platter, an EP named Bad Parts, in 2017. He has been touring ever since. Indeed, he recently shared a stage with the likes of Joe Ely and Mary Gauthier, and members of Old Crow Medicine Show. Moyse took top honors at the of the 2017 Kerrville New Folk songwriting competition too.

Signature sound

Chris Moyse’s signature sound is a musical mix of multiple genres. It includes folk, Americana and country.

Bitter Ballads & Cynical Prayers

On this full-length, 11-track debut disc, Chris Moyse(guitar, lead vocals, and percussion) is backed by an assortment of other artists including Erin Nelson (drums, background vocals, and percussion), Matie Biomarz (bass and background vocals), producer Shawn Byrne (mandolin, guitar, and background vocals), Steven Cooper (electric guitar), John Henry Trinko (B3 and keys), Adam Haynes (fiddle), and Kirsten Maxwell (harmony vocals). This album offers more of his poetic, personal work complete with revelatory lyrics and memorable melodies. Here he works hard to substitute stories of people who don’t always know what they’re doing with their lives let alone have all the answers.

Track by Track

The album opener is titled “Time’s Gonna Tell.” It’s one of the latest examples of how Moyse approaches break-up songs. It has soundtrack potential however it is not overly insistent and certainly not intentional.

The second selection is the surprisingly uplifting single “Live Till We Die.” He sounds like he is actually thankful we live till we die because we have more time to discover, experience and when necessary recover. It sounds as if it was inspired by both fact and fiction complete with a musical last will and testament. The addition of a simple chorus no doubt makes it a fave among live audiences.

Next is “Pueblo Dust.” By now his signature sound and contemporary folk focus is clear.  “How Deep Can You Dig?” is perhaps overshadowed here and yet it is certainly a stand alone cut.  It’s followed by the penetrating “Drinking Again.” It is a reflective song that works in part because misery truly does love company and we all understand that life is not without difficulties.

“Dancing Round A Fire” is the second single off the album. Musically, it brings to mind a picture of a man, alone, in a car or on a train on his way to an undetermined destination thinking about a recent relationship failure. This is perhaps a somehow slightly sentimental tuneful tale of a man in search of hope for the future.

“Magician Song” has an underlying night universal feel for any child who has taken the road less recommended by a parent. In that sense, it’s a fun, little song complete with a tad of self-deprecating humor. Musically, it seems somehow vaguely reminiscent of lesser known early Randy Newman material.

“I’m Not Your Man” is perhaps destined to be an early fan favorite. It seems to combine elements of roots music and has been compared by some to the work of Leonard Cohen. If you listen to it carefully, you certainly can hear the truth behind this compositional comparison.

“Hurricane Blues” is yet another penetrating, pensive piece. This is the only song on this CD that is not a Moyse solo composition. This one was co-written with Graciela Jean.

Finally, things wind down with “Maria.” The quality and consistency of Moyse’s vocals and the band’s performance remain in this final example of Moyse’s songwriting abilities.
Finally, “Reprise” is little more than 34 seconds of in-studio business to parenthetically emphasize the album’s enclosure.

Image courtesy of Chris Moyse

Overall, the listener now understands that this album is pretty much what the title  says it is, trenchant tales set to music complete with comparatively simple, honest arrangements. The music is almost always tidy but, much like it is any interesting life,  the story endings aren’t.  His characters are worthy of empathy despite or perhaps because of their morally ambiguous moments.

Nevertheless, they all find ways of dealing with break-ups, death, family, and other inward journeys. Overall, this platter contains an ample sample of the artist’s oft’times intimate audio offerings on perseverance. post-breakup healing, and maybe even a willingness to try again. So check out Chris Moyse’s Bitter Ballads & Cynical Prayers because we “Live Till We Die” and then it’s too late.