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Allison Moorer: Miss Fortune (Universal)

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There’s also a definite edge here that suggests Janis Joplin more than chanteuse.

Allison Moorer’s new album, Miss Fortune, is clearly a departure from her last release, 2000’s The Hardest Part. It’s evident from the start that this is not a traditional country album, but whereas that’s usually a criticism when leveled at the likes of Shania Twain and Faith Hill, don’t think that Moorer has sold out. Instead, she’s traded up.

Think more along the lines of kd lang’s Ingenue, which cemented that artist’s position as a singer to be reckoned with and was a drastic departure from her previous, heavily country albums, and you have an idea of the warmth and sensuousness that flows through Miss Fortune, from the string arrangements to the smokiness of Moorer’s voice. But there’s also a definite edge here that suggests Janis Joplin more than chanteuse. From the breathiness of the first track, “Tumbling Down,” and the sadness of “Cold in California,” Moorer lets loose and shows the power in her voice on “Ruby Jewel was Here,” and virtually channels Pearl on “Going Down.” There isn’t a single misstep in this collection of down-on-her-luck, unlucky-in-love songs, just some high points that are bound to attract attention because they do soar so high. But the album’s quieter moments are also worth noting, like “Let Go,” a rumination on lost love and how time doesn’t heal “no matter what folks say.”

The highlight of the album, though, has to be the closing track, “Dying Breed,” a haunting, funereal ode to addiction, decay, and death. Self-destruction never sounded so good.

Comparisons to Moorer’s previous albums are at worst unfair and at best not very helpful. Don’t worry about trying to pigeonhole her sound. Miss Fortune is a compelling album from a talented singer/songwriter who deserves notice.

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