Allison Moorer

Miss Fortune

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Rather than open her Universal South debut with a boot-stompin' rave, Moorer sounds an autumnal tone -- not just on the opening track, but on the first three. Though several up-tempo tunes do follow, this muted quality pervades Miss Fortune. Clearly the point is that Moorer intends to move past her identification with traditional country into a more personalized and varied realm in which she exercises full creative control. Make no mistake: This is a country album, but it's closer to what the music might have become rather than to where it has sunk in its current doldrums. A honey-toned and expressive singer, Moorer does seem more at home with slower, thoughtful material; on faster numbers, like "Ruby Jewel Was Here" and "Hey Jezebel," her phrasing is more affected -- in fact, the grooves are transparently derivative, reflecting the Band and the Stones, respectively. On the other hand, when she slinks into a Kurt Weill pose on the closing track, "Dying Breed," she feels totally at home with the idiom and its interpretive implications. Despite the ambiguity of the title, Miss Fortune suggests an intriguing turn for Moorer, not to mention affirmation that there are still opportunities to experiment outside the boardrooms of Music Row.

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