CD Review: Allison Moorer

Crows (Rykodisc)

Allison Moorer has never stood still long enough to be readily typed. With each album, she has pushed in a new direction, ferrying a deep, strong alto capable of pulling off just about whatever she attempts. So after the Neil Young-ish folk-rock of 2004's Duel and the catchy classic rock/pop of 2006's Getting Somewhere (produced by hubby Steve Earle), it seems natural to make something more sedate. The piano-heavy torch-pop of Crows would seem up Moorer's alley, showcasing her resonant vocals gilded in rich adult-contemporary arrangements. It's quite pretty and will appeal by fans of the genre.

But it doesn't display Moorer's gifts to best advantage. Lacking the rock bristle and hook-fueled energy of Duel and Getting Somewhere, it too often lies there like ornate costume jewelry that sits in a glass case rather than worn. There are a few exceptions: The jangly, propulsive "The Broken Girl" features a beguiling vocal hook and la-la-la backing vocals, and album highlight "When You Wake Up Feeling Bad" has a slithering slow-burn thread of guitar that suggests something John Lennon might have played. The track crackles despite its slower tempo — unlike most of this languorous, overly graceful album. — Chris Parker