At first glance, it looked as though the devil himself had made a one-evening stopover April 4 at the Barns of Wolf Trap on his never-ending recruiting trip. By the end of the night, it was confirmed.
John Mooney is six feet tall, has a head smoother than polished steel, and a goatee longer and whiter than sea foam on a cresting wave. He has an intimidating presence. Then he picked up his guitar and blew everyone out of the concert hall.
Mooney’s concert promised a night of blues and introspection. After kicking a 20-year drug habit, he was out to prove he not only knows the blues – but also can play them. Mooney’s lyrics cut deep into the Virginia night, quickly giving the cold, dead air a hot, pounding pulse. His voice was loud enough to hear from the parking lot and clear enough to understand. Every word was absorbed to the point where eternal truths seemed easy to fathom.
Mooney’s technical ability is astounding. His style is unique in that he is able to reverse his arm position on the neck of the guitar in order to hit notes otherwise impossible. The remarkable part is that he reverts back and forth from this inverted position at lightening speed. By doing so, he has attained a sound that balances itself on the edge of scientific reasoning. Utilizing every raw material on his guitar – plastic wood and steel – the sound he produces adds up to be greater than the sum of its parts.
His total sound, voice and guitar are only intensified by the conviction with which he plays. The stage lights caught the beads of sweat on his head and gave him an almost luminous appearance.
After last Saturday, it is safe to say John Mooney and the blues are both alive and well, and looking forward to the 21st century.