Allison Moorer, "Crows"

85 Billboard Rating

Trying to pigeonhole the restlessly creative Allison Moorer remains as gratifyingly fruitless as ever. Her latest release (and Ryko debut), "Crows," finds the erstwhile Nashville fixture moving further away from country music and the roots rock she explored on her two albums for Sugar Hill Records. Embracing an approach presaged on "Mockingbird," her Buddy Miller-produced 2008 covers album, "Crows" opts for a mostly stripped-down acoustic sound that provides the perfect setting for Moorer's marvelous, R&B-inflected voice. With the compositions on "Crows" alternating in tone between hopeful and foreboding, Moorer explores themes of regret, loss and new beginnings with a deft hand and some of the best singing of her career. Highlights include "It's Gonna Feel Good (When It Stops Hurting)," the lovely title track and the affecting piano ballad "Easy in the Summertime," a reflection on her Alabama childhood.-Louis Hau