Allison Moorer | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Allison Moorer 

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After making three terrific studio albums and a decent live recording for Universal's Nashville division, Allison Moorer had very little to show for it--major-label publicity machines aren't programmed to deal with idiosyncratic artistry like hers--so she negotiated her way out of her contract and inked a new deal with the indie Sugar Hill. Doyle Primm, Moorer's husband and songwriting partner, claims the change of imprint had nothing to do with the new direction of her latest album, The Duel, but with its hard-rocking, Crazy Horse heft and uncompromisingly dark lyrics ("In this cemetery mist / Stands a newborn atheist") it sure doesn't sound like anything I've heard on country radio lately. In "One on the House" Moorer plays a drunk begging a bartender for free drinks while rationalizing her boozing; in "Sing Me to Sleep" she asks for a lullaby to take her to eternal rest. And in "All Aboard" she caustically mocks post-9/11 jingoism. The arrangements are even less radio ready: the first half of the album is gritty and guitar driven, shot through with Adam Landry's scrappy, stinging leads; the second is dominated by delicate ballads whose beauty further highlights the soulful anguish of her singing. It's Moorer's best work to date. Her touring band includes Landry and Dan Baird (ex-Georgia Satellites). Swamp Sugar opens; Jim White plays second. $12 in advance, $15 day of show. Saturday, July 31, 9:30 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace; 773-478-4408 or 866-777-8932.

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