The inspiration behind In The Cool Of The Day isn’t an original story but it’s still kind of touching. Getting ready to do what would be a standard interview and radio session, Daniel Martin Moore came face to face with an old 9ft Steinway piano which inspired him with the sound it made. It was then he decided to create In The Cool Of The Day; an album of new and traditional gospel songs re-interpreted.
And going by that story (or the more detailed one written on the Sub Pop website by My Morning Jacket lead singer Jim James) you have to credit Moore for succeeding in his aim. The gospel influence is there for any listener to pick up on but it’s never overbearing. I like to think it’s the personal manner in which Moore delivers these songs (often with a small band or just a piano and guitar) that goes against the traditional idea people have of gospel, where a church full of people would belt out old hymns with thunderous energy and no more than some handclaps guiding them along. In The Cool Of The Day sounds like an intimate affair, like Moore has called up his friends and invited them over to the studio upon finding the Steinway piano.
If you go along with this kind of romantic idea, then it makes the album that much more impressive when you consider how well every instrument is mixed and given an equal place in his songs. At times it sounds like a house band in a pleasant little bar having a great time (“Up Above My Head”, “In The Garden”) while others sound like some of Moore’s most personal and intimate moments (“In The Cool Of The Day”, “All Ye Tenderhearted”). But the spontaneous energy does have a bit of a downside, as some tracks feel like they could have used a little more time to come about before they hit the studio. The piano solo on “In The Garden” feels a little unfinished, while as nice of an introduction as “All Ye Tenderhearted” is, it can feel a little out of context at times, like it’s part of something much bigger.
These minor qualms don’t really matter when you’re just listening to In The Cool Of The Day. For the majority of the time Moore is calming you with his soothing voice and unobtrusive but considered arrangements. A good part of the album is given to slower numbers (especially the second half) but these allow for the subtleties to emerge in his voice and occasionally in the instrumentation (the fading organ on “O My Soul” or the way the cymbal is brushed to a fading silence on closing track “Set Things Aright”). I’ll admit I have a personal fondness of his more upbeat numbers and would have liked him to have included a few more as it’s on these tracks that he sounds like he’s having the most fun while also showing he can dabble in other styles while interpreting an original gospel song (eg., jazz, folk, country). But there’s no set way of expressing your faith; it’s a hugely personal thing in the end and I’m in no valid position (even as a music critic) to question Moore’s method of expression.