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Josh Moore's "Be Not Afraid" 7"

(Drughorse)

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Both sides of the new 7" from Carrboro singer/ songwriter/ sideman Josh Moore revolve around death—namely, the inevitable demise of the musician himself. It's risky territory, prone to clichés as camouflage and exaggerated metaphors. But singing over simple but immaculately rendered country music, Moore tackles the subject squarely and beautifully.

Passing away comes wrapped in Christian salvation for Moore. "I won't shed no tears/ Lord, I'm heaven bound," Moore sings with pride on the B-side, "How Sweet the Sound." The idea unsettles him, though; his voice, while strong and clear, tenses with foreboding. The effect is startling, pairing the off-the-cuff conviction of Johnny Cash's gospel with the honest grace of Simon & Garfunkel.

"Darkness, all that I've asked is, 'Lay by my side?'" Moore sings on the A-side, "Be Not Afraid," wishing that our hearts "return to dust as the ashes rise." Supported by rich pedal steel and violin and enveloped by warm harmonies, he takes in the frightening nature of the end and then eases his mind with the titular advice. Moore indulges himself in flowery prayer on the flip before a chorus joins him to beg, "Bury me beside my mother. That's the place where I belong." It's simple and heartwarming, stunning with beauty without forsaking the gravity of the subject.

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