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Allison Moorer

Down to Believing – 2015 (Entertainment One)

Reviewed by Henry L. Carrigan Jr.

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CDs by Allison Moorer

Allison Moorer's eighth studio album may be her finest yet; her voice rings clear, soaring on the tender ballads of loss and fiercely raging through the rockers that name the ongoing struggles we all face as we maneuver in and around the vagaries of love, failure, momentary hope and disillusion.

Moorer joins forces with her old producer Kenny Greenberg, who also plays electric guitar on several songs and co-wrote the title track, and though it took them two years to record the album, it was worth the wait.

On the gospel-inflected "If I Were Stronger," Moorer builds the song layer by sonic layer to mount the heights of regret that accompanies the death of a relationship: "I wish there were something/in my heart to give you/but I felt around and nothing's left/I got to let go and save myself." The dreamy title track - with a bridge filled by Dan Dugmore's cosmic steel licks - waltzes across heartache, disillusion and the realization that a love that once seemed to shine with the glitter of "diamonds and pearls" all comes down to the decidedly dull decisions of "whether we do or we don't/guess it comes down to staying or leaving/whether we will or won't."

On the seething-with-irony rocker, "I'm Doing Fine," Moorer tries to convince herself and her ex-lover that she's making it just fine; by the final verse, though, when she tells him she's changed the sheets and "if you want your old guitar/it's sitting out on the porch," she can shout resolutely the choruses of "dah-dah-dahs" that echo through the song's fade out. With a riff resembling Patty Loveless' "Jealous Bone," Moorer declares forcefully on the opening track, "Like It Used to Be," that she's moving on and there's no looking back, much as she feels the loss of what she's had: "love shows up and love goes south/ don't wanna say goodbye but it'll set me free/I ain't looking back I'm just looking up/it ain't ever gonna be like it used to be." Moorer drags her losses out the door on her originals, but her version of John Fogerty's "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" is little more than a pleasant diversion, the weakest track on the album.

Having come through the depths of hell these past few years, Moorer emerges brightly confident in her gifts and herself; down to believing, indeed.