Review : Allison Moorer - Crows
LatimesblogsAn album named for a creature often viewed as a harbinger of doom given to a batch of songs more than half of which are written in minor keys promises some heavy emotional going. And on "Crows," Alabama-born singer and songwriter Allison Moorer's first collection of original material in four years, she's wrestling with how to find some sort of acceptance of life's dark side.
Moorer and big sister Shelby Lynne were orphaned as children when their father killed their mother and then himself.
Her honesty in exploring the underpinnings of depression reveal the potential for liberation in facing one's demons. That process allows her to truly savor the sweet moments she celebrates in "Easy in the Summertime," a reverie of youth that quickly transcends the stock-image concoctions so common in contemporary country music.
Moorer and producer R.S. Field go for sonic atmospherics that ideally frame her songs, from a Chris Isaak-like down-in-the-tunnel-of-broken-love grandeur for "Goodbye to the Ground" to the flamenco-folk drama of "Just Another Fool." "The Stars and I (Mama's Song)" is a poetically compact expression of love, a powerful hymn carried aloft on a simple three-chord progression....full text
AbsolutepunkSure must be nice to be Allison Moorer. As if the success of her Grammy-winning sister Shelby Lynne wasn't enough, the Alabama native is also married to alt-country legend Steve Earle and has been nominated for an Academy Award for her contribution "A Soft Place to Fall," which appeared on the soundtrack to the 1998 film The Horse Whisperer. Last year, she was nominated for a Grammy for her work on her husband's 2008 album Washington Square Serenade, and while Sheryl Crow made it ubiquitous, Moorer, the single's original singer, made quite a dent on country radio with the Kid Rock duet, "Picture."
On her sleepy and sedate new album Crows, her eighth and first on Rkyodisc, she seems to settle into a landscape of softness, dotting her album with only three upbeat numbers and ten (yep, ten) ballads. Thankfully though, most of it is done well, thanks in part to the deft production of R.S Field (John Mayall, Billy Joe Shaver). Aside from throwaways, "Should I Be Concerned" and "It's Gonna Feel Good" much of Birds is absolutely ravishing. Take for example the bare piano ballad "Easy in the Summertime," or the jangly "The Broken Girl."
Though the disc starts off unhurried and threatens to dawdle, the gentle lilt of "Goodbye to the Ground," makes for one of Moorer's most creative efforts to date. The matriarchal ballad, "The Stars and I (Mama's Song)" is equally compelling as the song's first 90 seconds features ethereal instrumentation and a gauzy veneer not unlike Jann Arden. Other high points include the chill-inducing "Like the Rain," and the torch ballad "When You Wake Up Feeling Bad."...full text
SlantmagazineThat Allison Moorer has recorded albums of traditional country, Neil Young-style roots-rock, and even lush pop in the vein of Dusty in Memphis speaks to the singer-songwriter's restless creative spirit. That she has pulled off this eclectic mix of styles with some truly superlative performances—2000's The Hardest Part and 2004's The Duel are both essential modern country records—speaks to the real depth of Moorer's talents and her effortless capacity to transcend simple genre tags.
For her seventh studio album, Crows, Moorer has ventured into the atmospheric, American gothic territory of Neko Case, Fred Eaglesmith, and Scott H. Biram. With songs that eschew linear narratives, conventional rhyme schemes, and straightforward emotions, the album proves her to be quite the capable Impressionist in the purest, most classical sense. A melancholy, haunted album, Crows is a masterful minor-key tone poem.
Opening the album with a delicate, repeated guitar figure that builds an unnerving sense of dread, "Abalone Sky" capitalizes on Moorer's languid, silt-slowed phrasing as she prays that her desire to hang from any limb will quickly pass. The songs rarely get any brighter: Even the sunny girl-group "la la la" chants on lead single "The Broken Girl" play as ironic, with the song's protagonist, whose every step "feels like a mistake," unable to reassemble her fractured psyche, doomed never to say another word about what or who so devastated her. Moorer has never been one to shy away from heavy ideas, but Crows is perhaps the bleakest record of this sort since Case's phenomenal Blacklisted.
Taking a view of the destructive power of love that shares Case's nihilistic bent, Moorer's snapshots of lives gone awry suggest that her narrators may or may not have gone down swinging. "Sorrow (Don't Come Around)" chooses to hide from grief rather than fight it head-on, while "It's Gonna Feel Good (When It Stops Hurting)" scans as a half-hearted suggestion of something that might happen. Only "Should I Be Concerned" puts up a real fight: Moorer hasn't belted out a song's climax with such power in years. Even more impressive is "Easy in the Summertime," a wonderfully complex, beautiful reminiscence of warm experiences that the singer does not expect to come again. Hell, there's a good chance that the lilting ballad "The Stars and I" is sung from the point of view of a dead woman, watching over a lover left behind.
This is simply tremendous, intelligent stuff that scrapes close to the bone. With her songwriting on point (she's always had a weakness for obvious, forced rhymes, but her discovery of slant and blank rhyme leave just a couple such offenders intact) and with her distinctive contralto in exquisite form, Moorer's performance here is arguably a career best. As a fully realized, heady concept that is all but flawless in its execution, Crows joins Hardest and Duel as the third unqualified masterpiece of Moorer's rich career....full text
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