Allison Moorer: Crows, in "Nothing Not New"

Welcome to "Nothing Not New," a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 40-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.


Artist: Allison Moorer
Title: Crows
Release date: February 9, 2010
Label: Rykodisc
A commenter ripped me for suggesting in my blog post on Joe Pug's new record that Pug should've let some of Steve Earle's genius rub off on him after opening for Earle on a recent tour. I wrote that Pug's new record, Messenger, was perfectly listenable -- but that's about it. It was nothing special. 

For today's post, I listened to another Steve Earle-related act, Allison Moorer, who, as it turns out, is married to Earle. I assure you it's purely coincidental that I lined up Pug and Moorer on back-to-back days. In fact, it wasn't until I started reading about Moorer after giving her new record a new listen that I discovered anything about her.

Anyway, in Crows, she's got a much better record than Pug does in Messenger. Granted, at this point, Moorer is a seasoned performer who's been making music professionally for over a decade, and Pug is in early 20s with only an EP under his belt. Still, he could learn a few things from Moorer. 

Her new record of folk rock is low-key, understated, and full of minor-key melodies. Like her husband, she's clearly rooted in country music -- and, seemingly, has a voice beautiful enough to be a Nashville hitmaker -- but flouts country/folk conventions with rock flourishes, most noticeably distorted or dissonant electric guitar lines, and plenty of piano, often standing out in the mix. Crows is moody and atmospheric with just enough upbeat moments ("The Broken Girl," the one obvious appeal to the modern-country industry) to keep it from being too much a musical downer.

Musically, there are some interesting things going on in Crows, and it bears repeating that Moorer's voice, filled with sadness and longing, is incredible, the obvious star here. If you're an adult who finds contemporary country music to be contrived and stupid but still enjoys classic Nashville songwriting and powerful, unaffected singing, you might enjoy Allison Moorer.

Best song: "Still the Side of Gone," a dramatic ballad about 
Rotation: Medium
Deja Vu: Lilith Fair
I'd rather listen to: Earle's I Feel Alright
Grade: B

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