Allison Moorer Brings Poetics, Piano to 'Crows'
AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 08: Photo of Allison MOORER; performing live onstage Redferns

Allison Moorer is planning a February release for her seventh studio album, "Crows," her label debut for Rykodisc and a marked stylistic departure from her previous work.

"I really just set myself free and just threw all the rules out the window," Moorer tells Billboard.com about "Crows," a sophisticated, pop-flavored outing marked by intricate arrangements and delicate dynamics. "Y'know, I've never been that concerned with fitting in anywhere, and I've always been sort of a square peg in whatever hole anybody would put me in. This time I just said I'm gonna do what I want to do and let this be as me as I want to."

Moorer says she "ratcheted up the poetics" for "Crows'" lyrics, many of which are about coming to terms with events and people in her own life, including her mother. Moorer also wrote and played most of the songs on piano, which brought a different sensibility to the compositions.

"Guitar is a very mysterious instrument; you can work and work and work for years and never learn how to play it, and God knows I'm still struggling with that," she explains. "Piano is my first instrument; I started playing when I was teeny. There's an openness to it for me; I can see all the notes and reach every note in the octave with one hand. It's not like you have to make some strange finger formation to come up with a chord."

"Crows" was produced by R.S. Field, who also played drums and wrote the song "It's Gonna Feel Good (When It Stops Hurting)." Joe McMahon, a onetime member of Moorer's road band, played guitar, while Brad Jones played bass and Chris Carmichael handled the string arrangements. The album was recorded at House of David in Nashville, where she also made "The Duel" in 1994.

Moorer doesn't expect to tour in support of "Crows" until next summer, though she'll be promoting the album upon its release. She knows it will surprise some -- and maybe many -- of her fans, but outside opinions are not guiding her at this juncture.

"I was in a label meeting the other day, and someone asked me who I thought my target audience was," Moorer recalls. "I said, 'I have no idea,' and I'm thinking to myself that the minute I figure that out, I'm artistically dead because the minute you've got that nailed then you can start to shape and mold your output to who you think that (audience) is and then it becomes something less than an honest statement.

"Of course you always want people to like what you do. I have high hopes for this record -- I've had high hopes for all of them. This is my seventh studio album in 12 years, so at this point it's not like I don't have expectations. I do. But those expectations aren't why I made this record."