James Bruce Moore is a Toronto-based singer/songwriter who has just released his second album, Soul’s Journey Home. It is a labour of and about love, an eloquent exploration of different facets of love and life, and a gentle balm for the ears and the soul.
In 2013 JBM released the very first recording under his own name. But, his lifelong passion for music was born at an early age, he recalls. “As a kid, I’d listen to Hank Williams, and my world changed when I heard Elvis sing on those early ’45s. At nine, I begged my folks for guitar lessons. I remember having so much pride in taking this six-string acoustic guitar home. The teacher told my father ‘this boy has something,’ but we didn’t have the dough to carry on.”
He later taught himself to play bass, and by 15, Moore was in a Toronto rock ‘n roll band, playing University of Toronto frat parties. “We thought we’d died and gone to heaven,” he laughs. “All these 18 year old women there and all the beer we wanted!”
Bitten by the rock ‘n roll bug, James headed over to London after finishing high school. He joined three young Brits in a blues-rock band that played the London circuit and got to record at the ITV studios. The group never quite broke big, though its guitarist would later join hit-makers Mungo Jerry. Moore recalls one highlight as a gig at famed London hangout the Speakeasy at which such British rock royalty as Robert Plant and Stan Webb (Chicken Shack) were in attendance.
On his return to Toronto, James enrolled at York University and met Lisbeth. Family and career then took precedence in his life, but the creative urge never left him. “I taught myself guitar and began recording on a little unit in my home,” he explains. “I was really missing the vibe and interplay with other musicians, doing it on my own, so I really wanted to go into a studio with other people and see what the result was.”
Moore then sent a few demos of his material out. Serendipitously, one reached George Rondina at Number Nine studio. James explains that “George rang me up and said ‘I want you to come and meet George Koller. We like what you’ve been doing on your own but we’d like to hear more about your plans.’ I told him ‘I just want to create a collection of these songs.’ I had about 25 at this point. I then went down to the studio with my acoustic guitar and played my heart out.”
It is testimony to James’ skill as a songwriter that his compositions shine whether they’re embellished with lavish strings or recorded simply with his guitar and voice. Two tunes on Soul’s Journey Home, the narrative-driven “Roy Benavidez” and the tender closing song, “Sigh Unto The Universe,” are played in this sparse fashion, a setting that matches their content perfectly.
Three other songs here, “Bridges To Love,” “Gentle Witness,” and “Open Your Heart,” feature Moore and a band comprising Koller (bass), Steve Briggs (guitar), Denis Keldie (piano and organ), Mark Mariash (drums), and Kirsten Rea (backup vocals). Mariash, Rea, and guitarist David Piltch are also featured on the strings-accompanied tunes.
The different settings and combinations of players add a welcome diversity to Soul’s Journey Home. Whereas Lisbeth featured some country, blues and jazz strains, the new album is rather more consistently folk-based.
The proceeds of James Bruce Moore’s music go to Princess Margaret Hospital and The Sick Kids Foundation.