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Mockingbird

3.8 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Working with producer and acclaimed roots artist Buddy Miller on this release, Moorer has conjured a rich pastiche of the phases of women's hearts, lives, needs, and yearnings on this recording of other peoples' songs. It's about honoring the women who inspired her. "Mockingbird" is an album of subtlety, sensuality, and grace. Moorer is a 2008 Grammy Award nominee for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals (Steve Earle & Allison Moorer).

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One of the most technically gifted vocalists in contemporary country, Allison Moorer sharpens her interpretive chops through this selection of songs from other female artists. After setting the tone with her self-composed, bittersweet title track, framed by chamber strings and punctuated with a saxophone solo, she and ace producer-guitarist Buddy Miller find revelatory dimensions in material by artists ranging from Nina Simone (the sultry, torchy "I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl") to Joni Mitchell (an older-and-wiser "Both Sides Now") to June Carter Cash ("Ring of Fire," which she wrote for her husband, Johnny, and which here features a languid vocal over a rhythm loop). You’d expect Moorer to do fine by her sister Shelby Lynne ("She Knows Where She Goes"), Gillian Welch ("Revelator"), and Julie Miller ("Orphan Train"), but it’s a real surprise to hear her connecting from the inside out with Patti Smith’s hypnotic "Dancing Barefoot" or channeling the blues of Ma Rainey ("Daddy, Goodbye Blues," featuring Moorer’s husband Steve Earle). Moorer shouldn’t give up writing, but she obviously doesn’t need to write much to make inspired music that sounds very much her own. --Don McLeese
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 19, 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Watertower Music
  • ASIN: B00113R1I4
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,980 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mark #1 HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on March 18, 2008
Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Mockingbird

This new album from Allison Moorer has continued to grow on me. The overall result is a well-delivered and interesting mix of very good songs. The more times I hear it, the better it sounds.

The first few times around a few tracks overpowered the album. Yet the last four tracks were so strong, I decided to listen to it again a few times. I put on my trusty headset to really focus in on the music. Sure enough, I heard a lot of great elements I had missed.

Ms. Moorer's musical pedigree has been well touted in her bio. When you've been nominated for a Grammy award on a major record label, people do tend to take notice. Perhaps the excessive hype hurt my expectations, especially when she's described as a "technically gifted vocalist."

I'm sure the number crunchers decided that by adding some well-known covers they could be sure her songs would get played at Gap stores and restaurants everywhere. By and large they've succeeded. Those songs will get this record played, though they are not my favorite parts of this album.

Her take on "Both Sides Now" has a tighter musical arrangement and seems more suited to her voice than the other remakes. "Ring of Fire," "I Want a Little Sugar In My Bowl," and "Daddy Goodbye Blues" have each grown on me but could have all been improved.

"Ring of Fire" as done here highlights a subtle recording choice. The vocals were clearly not leveled. You can hear her as she gyrates closer and further from the microphone. This seems to have been intentional, as recording engineers love to give songs that "live" recorded feel.
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So far this year Cat Power, Shelby Lynne and now Allison Moorer have released cover albums. Of the three this is my favorite. Interestingly she covers both Cat Power (Where Is My Love) and a song written by sister Shelby (She Knows Where She Goes). The arrangements and vocals are splendid throughout. For me the weakest track is Ring of Fire, but she gets into a groove with Patti Smith's Dancing Barefoot that doesn't let up for the rest of the album. She shows her musical range from punk to country to folk to blues while maintaining a flow and consistency to the album, thanks to producer Buddy Miller. And thankfully the title track is not a Carly Simon cover, but an original composition.
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Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Allison Moorer's Mockingbird contains a series of highs and lows producing an uneven listening experience. Ring of Fire is an embarrassment that will never challenge the Cash sound. I want a little Sugar in My Bowl misses the blues mark but is an enjoyable interpretation. The balance of the CD is generally good if standard work. Overall, this is an enjoyable CD but not an inspiring one.
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Steve Earle's missus and Shelby Lynne's kid sister has never quite made the first rank of stardom, despite an Oscar nomination (A Soft Place to Fall from The Horse Whisperer). With this cleverly-titled set of covers, she demonstrates a vocal maturity and interpretive sensitivity which could do the trick. But it is not a complete success. The mixing is often very good but sometimes overwhelms the vocal. There is no doubting her vocal skills, but she deserves better production values.

The opening, self-penned title track is, ironically enough, the weakest. The tune is slight, the seventies-style keyboard arrangement is rather trite, and the whole mix is too smooth by half.

Ring Of Fire becomes a slow, rock-me-gentle anthem, bringing out the smoldering romanticism of the June Carter Cash classic. The effect is quite magical, but some fans of the song may need to listen to this version a few times to tune into it. It's worth it.

Dancing Barefoot is one of the more up-tempo tracks, but perhaps a little too subdued to inspire you with the need to dance, barefoot or otherwise. There's no doubting her vocal skills here, though.

I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl is Blues with a swing -- smooth and easy Blues, without the edge and earthiness. Some listeners will enjoy it, others will prefer their sugar less refined.

Go, Leave has some beautiful orchestration and a delicate, melodic lilt that repays repeated listening.

Revelator is good, but the style is exactly that of Gillian Welch's original, but lacking the brilliance in the guitar accompaniment. So the comparison is negative, even though Moorer sings it well. If a cover simply makes you want to go back to the original, it has surely failed.
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Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Never having heard of Allison Moorer prior to "Mockingbird" I was surprised to learn that she is considered a "country" musician. This CD certainly doesn't fall into exclusively into that genre. The overall effect here is more of a folk/rock/country singer/songwriter. The CD is an impressive demonstration of Moorer's range. She has a strong, melodic voice and she uses it here to cover songs from artists as diverse as Ma Rainey, Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell, Jessi Colter, and David Rawlings, among others.

That Moorer is willing to tackle a Ma Rainey blues ballad, "Daddy Goodbye Blues," is impressive. However, it was a mistake to imitate the original Rainey version down to the sound of the 1920's recording techniques. Part of the joy of a cover is not only hearing a fresh take on an old favorite, but getting to hear the song "cleaned up" with state of the art sound.

Moorer puts her own spin on June Carter's "Ring of Fire." She has both slowed it down and prettied it up. It makes a nice alternative to the Johnny Cash version.

Her hauntingly beautiful version of "Go Leave" may inspire some to look for more of Kate McGarrigle's work.

Back to the blues, Moorer is fearless taking on "I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl." Nina Simone's classic has been covered by Billie Holiday to Ingrid Lucia. Moorer offers up a respectable version, closer to Simone than anyone else.

"Both Sides Now" could have been left on the editing room floor. It's not that Moorer doesn't do a good job with the song, it's just that it has been covered by so many and has been played to death over the past 30 years. I could go another 30 years without hearing this particular song again and never miss it.

Altogether, Allison Moorer has done an outstanding job on "Mockingbird." Recommended!
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