Style: Singer-songwriter pop/rock/folk/country; compare to Over the Rhine, Emmylou Harris

Top tracks: "Crows," "It's Gonna Feel Good (When it Stops Hurting)," "Just Another Fool"

Allison Moorer's 2008 album, a collection of cover songs, was aptly titled Mockingbird. Her most recent one, Crows, is indeed a different creature altogether: She says it's her most personal work yet, but you don't have to read the press release to know these songs could only have come from great pain and heartache.

At first glance, Crows is a break-up album, filled with songs about loneliness and separation; but it's more than a chronicle of a crumbling relationship. The album could almost be divided into three acts. In the first, Moorer mixes country-tinged folk with electric pop, confession with psychoanalysis: "Don't expect a twirl, she's not that kind of girl / She reserves the right to be sullen," she sings, perhaps about a character, perhaps about herself. The pain is nearly palpable.

But Moorer gives listeners a respite. The middle of the album is a glorious burst of childhood memories, a retreat into happier times of family and lazy summer evenings. Sadness comes in seasons. One song promises that "this too shall pass," while another acknowledges that "it's gonna feel good when it stops hurting."

But it's the back half of the album that really glows. A devastating sequence of anguished confessions, laments, and prayers, it's almost hymn-like in its solemnity. Here, sadness leads to soul-searching ("I'm down on my knees, calling on Saint Jude / Maybe he will hear this brokenhearted prayer I bring, and send a miracle my way") but also to an affirmation of grace.

And with grace comes the acknowledgement that pain isn't without purpose. The titular bird shows up on the album's final track as a messenger of lamentation—and Moorer knows that he's "trying to tell me something." Elsewhere, Moorer likens her sorrow to rain, which falls "to make the flowers grow / to make the rivers flow." She doesn't always understand "where it's gonna land," but she doesn't need to, because the rain is just doing "what it's supposed to." There's a plan here, a design for beauty to spring forth from sadness—something that Crows proves in spades.

Our Rating
4 Stars - Excellent
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Release Date
February 1, 2010
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