Chris Moss Preview

Justin McCraw

The Feel-good Blues

By day, Chris Moss travels Northeast Ohio installing fixtures and replacing ballasts for an industrial light company. But when the sun sets, he transforms into another man, not so much in appearance, but in presence.

You won’t find him on the cover of CDs or T-shirts, even though he carries a Fender Stratocaster, and he isn’t well known outside his circle of Ohio followers. But what Chris lacks in notoriety, he makes up for with belted, bluesy ballads too good for a dive bar.

So when we hear him sing, we wonder how he ended up here.

“I’m awful at promoting myself,” he says, “that’s part of the problem. I feel cheesy when I try.”

He played at Bailey Road Tavern March 20 to a crowd of locals, and most seemed to know his name. And after his six songs, he slid into the silence that greeted his appearance. In this bar, the applause is a whisper, the sound an audience would make following a eulogy if clapping was kosher. But it doesn’t match the performance just rendered.

Music Runs Deep

According to Kim Moss, Chris’ mother, music runs deep. She says her family preferred records over television, raising Chris and his brother in Stow, Ohio, on Cat Stevens, Etta James and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

“I think he’s done an excellent job pretty much by himself,” Ms. Moss says of her son’s musicality. “Earlier he had influences, but I’m very proud of where he’s come with his music.”

Moss has been in numerous bands throughout his 15 years of music making, with The April Fools among the last. In perhaps the largest venue of his solo career, Moss is playing Annabell’s Bar & Lounge in Akron March 31. Part hipster trove with free Wi-fi, part punk bandstand in the Highland Square’s menu of barhops, Annabell’s often features live performances and cheap draft beer.

“I haven’t even thought about what I’m going to play yet,” he says calmly. “I’m not nervous about it. I have enough material, and I’m comfortable with all the stuff I’m going to play. So probably the day of the show I’ll sit down and write down a quick set list, and that’ll be it.”

If Bailey Road Tavern is any prelude to his coming show, then the trek from Kent to Akron will be worth the gas. Moss has an unsuspecting country twang on top of a strong vibrato. When he sings, his lips purse, his cheeks resemble golf balls, and his face goes red. It’s pure passion billowing through a man with a voice much larger than his unassuming demeanor.

Musical Satisfaction

“I used to really have the dream,” Moss says, “but it’s a passion more than anything. I’m completely realistic about the chances of making it. I’m looking for respect from my peers and musical satisfaction. I think that’s what it’s really supposed to be about.”

Ms. Moss says she thinks people will be impressed once they hear him sing. “He plays a type of music that … touches everybody,” she says.

For Moss, Bailey Road Tavern was another open mic, another opportunity to practice a craft he loves; Annabell’s is another such opportunity, only it pays. He sums his career succinctly, whether he knows it or not, with his final song, a Travis Tritt cover, “I’m gonna be somebody, someday. You can bet your hard-earned dollar, I will.”

Who: Chris Moss

What: Live Americana, blues, country, rock performance

When: March 31, 2011 at 8 p.m.

Where: Annabell’s Bar & Lounge, 784 W. Market St., Akron’s Highland Square

Why: If you like bluesy vocals from a man you could take home to mom.

Price: Free