Allison Moorer

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Crows Review

by Mark Deming

Allison Moorer may have seemed like one of Nashville's most promising new voices when she first emerged with the album Alabama Song in 1998, but with the passage of time, it's become abundantly clear she has something else in mind besides being contemporary country's Next Big Thing. On Crows, her seventh studio album, Moorer's country influences have practically vanished, and the rock & roll vibe that informed The Hardest Part and The Duel has faded; instead, Crows is a mature and artful set of keenly intelligent pop tunes from a singer and songwriter determined to avoid easy categorization. Moorer wrote 12 of the 13 songs on Crows, and producer R.S. Field has teamed her with a small but expert backing trio (including Field on percussion, Brad Jones on bass, and Joe McMahan on guitar) who give these songs a rich, moody tone that meshes gracefully with the tales of broken hearts and bruised lives that inform Moorer's lyrics. Moorer's a gifted singer, and her vocals on Crows show a control and confidence that's impressive even by her high standards, but she doesn't get nearly as much credit as a songwriter, and her compositions on Crows are quietly remarkable stuff, suggesting a previously unimagined middle ground between Bobbie Gentry and Laura Nyro. That a song as simple yet gently eloquent as "The Stars and I" could follow something as lovely but deeply troubling as "Easy in the Summertime," with each seeming like matched parts of a striking whole, is an accomplishment few singer/songwriters could manage these days, and it's one of several minor miracles Moorer brings about here. If Crows was the first album from a new artist, it would certainly be hailed as the debut of a powerful new voice, and the fact that it comes from someone who has already been making fine music in notably different styles makes the accomplishment all the more impressive.

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