Down To Believing
4 out of 5 stars
“Change comes in like the rising tide,” sings Allison Moorer on the opening track to her first album in five years. And she should know. In the interim between releases, she had a child later diagnosed with autism and watched her marriage to Steve Earle dissolve. But, like the best songwriters, she transforms those painful events into songs with themes we can all relate to.
Even without knowing specifics, titles such as “If I Were Stronger,” “Tear Me Apart,” “Gonna Get It Wrong” and “I Lost My Crystal Ball” imply themes of mistakes made, incorrect paths taken and navigating life’s rollercoaster. Thankfully Moorer funnels her strife into some of the most musically and lyrically powerful tunes of her career.
Producer Kenny Greenberg returns after working on Moorer’s 2000 album and the combination yields impressive results. Recorded over two years where the singer-songwriter commuted to Nashville from her New York home, her eighth studio release flows with remarkable continuity. Notwithstanding the melancholy circumstances, Moorer is rocking out forcefully on chugging, swampy gems such as “Like It Used To Be,” the roaring, cautionary bad luck tale “Mama Let The Wolf In” (about her son’s autism diagnosis) and the taut-fisted “I Lost My Crystal Ball,” where her frustrations are symbolized in the loss of the titular object.
Elsewhere the mood is more reflective, especially on the title ballad, a lovely if unflinchingly personal account of her marital breakup that’s vague enough to apply to anyone’s relationship. In this context, her faithful cover of John Fogerty’s “Have You Ever Seen The Rain” takes on new levels of depth. The sweet, acoustic “Blood” is a tribute to Shelby Lynne and their strong, sisterly bond but is a wonderful reflection on the strength of family.
Despite the unfortunate life turns, Moorer channels her complications into poignant, introspective yet remarkably universal material. Her robust, melodic Americana approach implies she will emerge stronger and more resolute from the personal struggles that help make this music so potent.