Finds Moorer hitting her stride and going somewhere special.
Sid Smith 2010-01-28
Being successful right from the off can be as much a blessing as a curse. Whilst the qualities of Moorer’s voice has never been in doubt since her 1998 debut, Alabama Song, they’ve sometimes been over-exposed in the gloss and glare of Nashville production values that haven’t always served her well.
Commercial considerations aside, Moorer’s sound has been getting tighter and more intimate with each successive album. As she’s honed her writing, her considerable voice has also benefitted from closer direction.
Whilst there are some concessions to her previous, radio-friendly work, the darker ambience of Crows suggests the game plan is veering towards not only keeping the customer satisfied, but in giving the artist space to develop as well.
For the most part these are sparsely textured songs, delivered by a quartet that includes her long-time producer R.S. Field playing drums, acoustic bassist Brad Jones and Joe McMahan on guitar. Along with Moorer’s own contributions, their collective and individual playing is never less than exquisite. Occasionally augmented by beautifully restrained strings, there’s a kind of heat-haze shimmer evident, of a kind that gave Bobbie Gentry’s sound some of its mystery and magic.
The forlornly waltzing lilt of Should I Be Concerned morphs from being a Ketty Lester-style torch song into a David Lynch-like (blow)torch ballad. Swaying between light and shade, the emotional journey she undergoes – sounding as though it cost something of herself in order to find it – makes the song a powerful but disconsolate force. This gripping performance is matched by McMahan’s dissenting guitar and Jones’s lithe, uplifting bass at the coda.
The comfort of memory is a staple in the country music diet, but with Easy in the Summertime Moorer draws upon her early life in Alabama with sister Shelby Lynne, via a series of tautly drawn observations that bring both landscape and the past to life without cloying sentimentality.
If 2008’s Mockingbird had the hallmarks of an indifferent stopgap, Crows has Allison Moorer hitting her stride and going somewhere special.