Videos above are from the Rose Garden's February 2009 Woody Guthrie/Pete Seeger Tribute show, featuring, from left, Brian Kalinec, Alastair, Scott Alarik and Mark Simos. (More videos of Alastair on YouTube.)
There was a time in America when folk music was relevant, edgy, even dangerous — a tool of personal and political expression, at once raw and beautiful. That spirit lives on in the music of Alastair Moock.
Moock sometimes performs with a band or accompanist, but you're most likely to find him alone on a stage, sitting in a low chair, stomping his foot, and growling out some of the most finely crafted songs you're likely to hear anywhere. Those songs have won Moock top honors at many of the country's most prestigious contests, including those at the Falcon Ridge, Sisters, and Great Waters folk festivals. In 2007 he was nominated for a Boston Music Award for Outstanding Singer/Songwriter of the Year. The Boston Globe calls him “one of the town's best and most adventurous songwriters” and The Washington Post says “every song is a gem.”
Moock's writing style is often compared to that of John Prine and Woody Guthrie. Like them, he tends to stick to simpler harmonic forms and tight rhyming patterns that emphasize his lyrical dexterity and natural talent for storytelling. His songs have the smooth, clean lines of American classics — a timelessness reinforced by his whiskeyed voice and muscular fingerpicking. But this is not museum music. Moock frequently tackles contemporary subject matters, examining the changing world around him. The songs are observant, heart-wrenching, funny, and defiant — often all at once.
As a performer, Alastair engages audiences with a style of humor and insight that Americana Radio chart-topper Slaid Cleaves describes as “masterful.” Not content to simply serve up a laundry list of tunes, he mixes his own songs with spoken word pieces, stories from the road, and even a bit of American history, providing context for the traditional blues and ballads he includes in every show.
Moock started performing in 1995, moving from his home outside New York City to the folk haven of Boston, Massachusetts. After honing his skills on Boston's innumerable open mike stages and working his way up through the local coffeehouse and club circuit, he began touring around the U.S. By 2002, he had already traveled extensively throughout the East and Midwest, performing at some of the top listening rooms and outdoor events in the country, including the Newport and Boston Folk Festivals, The Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, The Birchmere in Washington D.C., and The Bluebird Café in Nashville. In 2003 he made his first trip to Europe, where he performed at the prestigious Bergen Music Fest in Norway. Since then he has made numerous trips across the pond with appearances in Scandinavia, the UK, France, Germany, and the Netherlands.
In 2007, Alastair released Fortune Street, his fifth album and second on international roots label CoraZong Records. Produced by veteran David Goodrich (Chris Smither, Peter Mulvey, Jeffrey Foucault) and featuring nine new originals and a traditional cover, it's Moock's most intimate and mature effort to date. The BBC's Bob Harris decrees it “a wonderful album,” and Rock 'n Reel Magazine gives it five stars.
When he's not out singing his own songs, Moock wears a second hat in Boston as impresario of a roots music series called Pastures of Plenty (after the song by Woody Guthrie). Alastair started the series in 2000 as a way to bridge some of the gaps he saw on the Boston music scene — between the folk and roots rock crowds, between the contemporary and traditional scenes, and between younger and older players. But what it really came down to was bringing together some of the northeast's best songwriters and musicians to swap tunes on a stage. Ten years on, the series still regularly fills the seats at Cambridge's Club Passim with shows that The Boston Globe call “the hippest hootenannies in town.”
Currently, Alastair is engaged in a whole new kind of effort: helping to raise his twin girls, Elsa and Clio (born in 2006). Though touring less frequently for now, he is still writing and performing regularly and claims to be “happier than he has any right to be.” In early 2010, he released a first album for kids, appropriately titled A Cow Says Moock.