Dave Moore’s sinewy, yearning vocals make him sound like a prairie Springsteen, but his music draws together both rootsy, romantic hard country and the noirish “alternative” variety–along with dashes of blues, rockabilly, and boisterous conjunto. (He studied accordion with some of the most respected squeezebox masters in Texas, including Santiago Jimenez Sr., father of the legendary Flaco.) Moore’s 1985 debut, Jukejoints & Cantinas, won him a cult following in what would soon be known as the No Depression community, and within a few years he’d landed a gig as touring bandleader for Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion. The 1990 release Over My Shoulder cemented his reputation as both a songwriter and an interpreter, showcasing his talent for immersing himself in another musician’s persona without losing his own identity: his trembling delivery on “God Moves on the Water,” Blind Willie Johnson’s parable about the Titanic, conveys all the terror and awe of the original, but where Johnson seemed ready to accept the horrible power of the Lord, Moore sounds determined to buck it. Yet when his infant daughter died in 1994, Moore all but dropped out of music: for years he only played shows near his Iowa home, and it wasn’t until 1999 that he finally released Breaking Down to 3 (Red House), his most recent album. It might just be because I know a little of his back story, but the way he tackles his subjects on this record–music as a faint beacon of hope (“Mr. Music”), betrayal as a destroyer of dreams (“Sharks Don’t Sleep”), despair and redemption as the twin poles of the human condition (an elegy for his daughter, “All the Time in the World”)–feels more personal than ever before. For these solo sets, part of a pair of concerts billed as Voices of the Prairie, he’ll accompany himself on guitar, harmonica, and accordion. Saturday, December 1, 7:30 and 10:00 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; 773-728-6000.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Sandy Dyas.