PVD Live: The Denver Boot

This Providence-based band crafts tender, personal tunes.

Billy Moretti isn’t an entertainer.

His band, the Denver Boot, forgoes a rompin’ stage act for simple riffs and intimate songwriting — folk tunes that make you think, feel and really listen.

"If we play for a crowd and I see one person dead staring, that means way more to me than when everyone's dancing," Moretti says. "Maybe they get what I'm trying to say."

Backed by the talented John Phillip Marlowe on banjo, Tony Nimmo on drums and DJ Yglesias on bass, Moretti hews lyrics of loss, heartbreak and a troubled childhood in his hometown of Cranston. As fate would have it, the latter paved the way for the band's bluegrass sound.

"When I was sixteen, my parents, who are very religious, sold my electric guitar and gave me a banjo. They thought it would sound better in church," Moretti says. "I wasn't happy about it then, but I am now."

The twenty-eight-year-old made his stage debut at age fourteen, opening for Deer Tick frontman John McCauley at AS220. Moretti performed in several circles for a decade, but officially adapted the Denver Boot moniker three years ago.

The band’s debut album, 6 to 9, 7…12, released in 2012, has the raw character of a diary with a worn-down lock. “I'm a really silly guy in everyday life, but I don't like dealing with my demons,” he says. “Music's always been my outlet for that. I write like no one is going to hear it."

One of the album’s most poignant tunes, “Porch Light,” opens tenderly with whistling, guitar picking and muffled vocals. The lyrics reveal Moretti’s remedial form of songwriting: “As I write this letter/know it’s not goodbye/just some things that needed saying over time.”

But Moretti also notes the band's versatility, which is demonstrated on the sing-along track, “Keep It Close.” “It's simple music, don't get me wrong. This isn't Frank Zappa,” he says. “And the band, we're all on different pages, but we’re in the same book. Everyone brings something new to the table.”

The Denver Boot’s second album, set to be released next spring, steps back from bluegrass but maintains the deeply personal themes of 6 to 9, 7…12. “It feels like the second half of a conversation that I've been trying to get out of my head for awhile,” Moretti says. “Once I get it out there, I can finally move on.”

See the Denver Boot live at Dusk in Providence on November 14, or visit the band's Facebook page for more dates.