Fort Worth native Peter More is a polymath of roots rock, ultra-competent, fluent in regional dialects and sensitive to sound of the eras, observationally astute and emotionally anchored. He rocks, grooves, swoons, waltzes and whispers with the kind of offhand authority that his genre reveres. He can even turn a tune with a wonderfully rustic Samba or Afro-Cuban flair. In today’s globalized roots rock renaissance, these strengths mark him as an excellent songwriter but not necessarily as an unusual one. What does distinguish More’s solo debut Beautiful Disrepair on paper is the production credit line: none other than Donald Fagen.
As Steely Dan’s mouthpiece and central writer, Fagen is known for some of the most harmonically sophisticated and subtly subversive music ever called rock — a tense modern jazz/20th century classical dissonance and irony-laden, post-Beat poetry washed down on grooves of the highest smooth, leading some folks to perceive it as lite rock in one of pop’s grossest misconceptions ever. But Fagen’s involvement with a talent like More will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the early Dan, back when they really were a rock band. Even as he rewrote rock’s harmonic rulebook, Fagen always fancied soul, rhythm and blues, gospel, boogie, funk, and swing — his own polyglot roots language.
Mostly, Beautiful Disrepair sounds exactly as it should — robust and raucous, telecasters and B3s and gospelized harmonies over a tough, tender, pliant rhythm section. Song to song, the stylistic coordinates move freely without ever leaving world map of roots. But sprinkled throughout the record are moments, grace strokes and filigree, where the savvy listener is likely to say “ F*ckin’ Fagen!” — the angular, almost twelve-tone riffage in the middle of the funky two-chord rocker “What You’re Looking For,” for example, or the wild counter melody in the chorus of “Cohabitate.” Even without those infrequent flourishes of pure, devilish musical surprise, Beautiful Disrepair would have been an exceptionally assured effort. But it’s those “damnit, Donald” moments that put this thing over the top.
Supporting a new three-song EP called Shoulder, Peter More performs on a bill with the quaver-voiced new-folk rocker Brett Dennen out at Levon’s place on Saturday, August 3. Seated tickets are $55 standing room goes for $35.
Saturday, August 3
Levon Helm Studios
160 Plochmann Lane