Music » Critics' Picks

Allison Moorer

Wednesday, October 8; Blueberry Hill's Duck Room


It may come as a shock, but your average music writer for alternative weekly newspapers doesn't spend a lot of time listening to commercial country radio. As far as we knew, for the past few years Allison Moorer was a big star in that realm. She has the requisite looks, catchy songs and an unforgettable, powerful voice. It seemed logical that Moorer's newest release, a concert CD packaged with the video on DVD called Show, was a career culmination, a gift to the millions of fans she must have entertained since she rocketed to the top of the charts.

Show was in stores only a few weeks when Moorer announced she had left her major record label, Universal South, for lack of promotional push. Before we could blink, Moorer was signed to feisty independent country and bluegrass label Sugarhill Records, and plans were being made for a new album early next year. Believe it or not, there were no hit records in Moorer's catalog.

We should have paid attention to the lyrics of "I'll Break Before I Bend," in which she rails against radio stations that have refused to play her music. Or perhaps we should have noticed that, with very few exceptions, most of the country music we love doesn't get played on commercial radio.

Moorer is touring this fall with just her voice and an acoustic guitar, which at first sounds disappointing because it means she won't be accompanied by the crack soulful country band that backs her on Show. Then, you remember just how talented a singer she is, and how good her songs -- almost all co-written by Moorer and her husband Butch Primm -- are. Moorer has a husky alto and the ability to project it for miles. This has led some fans to jokingly compare her to Cher, but Moorer's phrasing and dynamics are considerably richer than that would imply. The word on the street is that she's showcasing songs from her forthcoming fresh start away from the Nashville mainstream pressures of the past five years. Why not catch her now and make her a star on her own terms?

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