Allison Moorer: Crows
Crows (Rykodisc, 2010)
Last night I warned a college writing class against assuming that the "speaker" of a poem was in fact the poet. But it's hard to ignore the life behind Allison Moorer's art. Moorer was 14 when she and her sister witnessed their father kill their mother and then himself.
Moorer has been in the news as the seventh bride of legendary country-rocker Steve Earle. I'll pass on psychoanalyzing the marriage, but it's hard to miss the fact that at least half of the lyrics to Crows' 13 mostly somber tunes are about sadness and depression. At least three have staying in bed and hiding from the world as a theme. Desperate prayers abound throughout, including one addressed to St. Jude. Even one of the only up-tempo tunes, "The Broken Girl," features a "la, la, la" backing chorus behind the line, "How'd she get so blue? Who broke her in two?"
Moorer says the low-key tone of the music came from writing the songs on piano instead of guitar, although acoustic guitars are out front in the recorded versions. The two piano-driven songs admittedly do have some of the most morose lyrics. One title asks the question, "Should I Be Concerned," for instance, "that my thoughts are dark and I fall apart over nothing." "When You Wake Up Feeling Bad" has a blues structure in which subsequent verses begin, "When you wake up feeling old" and "dead."
The closest thing to uplifting that Moorer offers are two plainly autobiographical songs at the heart of the album. "Easy in the Summertime" paints an idyllic picture of her Alabama childhood set in 1981. The very next track is "The Stars and I (Mama's Song)," in which the night sky becomes "the perfect place to watch you [the dead mother] from afar."
One is tempted to say that every copy of Crows should come with a dose of anti-depressants. But Moorer's bone-deep honesty in facing her demons may also provide a catharsis more healing than Prozac.