Standout Track: No. 2, “Lost, Boy,” which showcases Jim Dempsey’s twangy electric guitar and cracked vocals—a honey-thick drawl that sounds like John Hiatt swallowed Jeff Tweedy. The laid-back groove recalls summer dresses and whiskey sours, but a closer listen reveals a tale of lost friendship: “AM/FM songs that make it hurt/I’d bring you back, I’d bring you back, I’d bring you back if I could,” Dempsey sings as the band does a big-sky waltz.
Musical Motivation: “Lost, Boy” is about the death of Dempsey’s friend in an automobile accident four years ago. “He was drunk, and it was stupid,” says Dempsey, a 25-year-old Glover Park resident. “But I was doing the same stuff all the time. There will always be a little guilt that it happened to him and not me. It’s just a fluke; you just can’t do anything about it. The song is about feeling helpless yet realizing how lucky you are.” The tragedy made Dempsey rethink his lifestyle; he’s been sober since then.
Dead Alive: Dempsey is an unrepentant Deadhead, which shows up in both his lazy singing style and loosey-goosey lead guitar work. But he’s not big on noodling. “A jam is something that should be cherished and not overused,” he says. “You can’t do it all the time and have it not sound trivial.” All the same, he thinks his heroes get a bad rap. “People will dismiss the Dead as just a bunch of hippies,” Dempsey says. “But Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter wrote great songs before they jammed out on them for a half-hour.”
The Moderate plays DC9 Tuesday, March 11.