Allison Moorer

She's country for those who loathe the genre--or, more to the point, those who loathe the pale, limp pop to which it long ago succumbed (say, around the time Patsy Cline wrapped herself in honeydew strings). That she's considered "country" says less about her work, which is as hillbilly as the Stones' "Country Honk" and as pop as Edith Piaf, than it does about the state of a biz that fences in and tames its rare and random mavericks. As Shelby Lynne's younger sister says on her Web site, "Don't worry about what bin it's gonna go in at the record store," meaning her third disc lands in C&W only because there's no slot at Best Buy for Nashville hotties who go for cabaret torch songs (closer "Dying Breed," a bitter slice of autobiography about how nobody in her tragic family lives long) as quickly as they rip the Faces ("Hey Jezebel") and The Band ("Ruby Jewel Was Here"--yeah, the night they drove old Dixie down) and Al Green (the strung-up "Steal the Sun," which sounds more like a sunset).

Moorer, the honky-tonk angel with the Tori Amos face, does better when she sounds sad; her "up" stuff doesn't hold up against her down-turned smile, though slow songs don't get you on the radio, unless you count public radio (and you shouldn't). That's because Moorer, a co-writer of 12 of this disc's 13 tracks, has a voice (and penchant) for jazz, which made k.d. lang a household name 10 years ago wherever The Advocate was delivered. Maybe that just means Moorer is bound for cult success, since it's easier to sell Norah Jones at Starbucks than it is Moorer; they don't serve bourbon macchiatos, do they?


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