Allison Moorer. Down To Believing. Proper Records

Break up albums. Some folk think that the dissolution of a romance is the fuel that fires greatness and can cite a litany of recordings to prove their case. Well we’re not going there right now although Down To Believing is Allison Moorer‘s first album since her marriage to Steve Earle ended. Earle has trucked off to Texas to dig some blues and Moorer spends her time between Nashville and New York where her son John Henry who has been diagnosed with autism attends school. In interviews Moorer has been quite explicit regarding her sense of anger and self blame regarding her son’s condition and this is apparent on the blistering bluesy howl that is Mama Let the Wolves In. Produced by Kenny Greenberg the album as a whole is a return to the rock laced songs Moorer delivered on 2008’s Mockingbird album, quite a distance away from the gentler Crows, her last release. While the marital breakup underpins the plaintive pedal steel laced title song and the somewhat syrupy ballad If I Were Stronger could also allude to the pain involved in becoming Mr. Earle’s seventh ex wife, for the most part Moorer delivers a solid set of songs seesaw between Nashville gloss and country grit.

Wish I, the aforementioned If I Were Stronger, Tear Me Apart and Thunderstorm/Hurricane all seem destined for playlist attention, somewhat overproduced and melodramatic. However the sinewy opening song, Like It Used To Be, the disarming ballad, Blood (written for her sister, Shelby Lynne) and the very fine and zippy Back Of My Mind show that Moorer has the chops to deliver some choice country rock and soul. She throws in a worthy cover of Creedence’s Have You Ever Seen The Rain before closing the album with her best offering, Gonna Get It Wrong. This Dobro driven lament is a magnificent closer eclipsing all before it as Moorer bares her soul and the band hunkers down in empathy to create a miniature gem.