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Allison Moorer
THE DUEL
(Sugar Hill)

On the boozy, bleary-eyed The Duel, former country-queen contender Allison Moorer decisively turns away from her more clean-cut former sound and points her muse toward a rockier brand of country. Previously poised as a grittier rival to the ProTools perfection and hopped-up glitz of such superdivas as Shania Twain and Faith Hill, Moorer abandons Nashvilleís high-gloss components and positions herself as a new-millennial version of í70s-era Linda Ronstadt backed by a let-loose-at-the-wheel Heartbreakers. Moorer shows her newfound punching power on the albumís shot-glass opener, "I Ainít Giving Up on You," with its electric-downslide soloing and torrid vocals. Itís when she dips her toothy maw into the nit-and-grit of loveís misery that The Duel hits its stride. Be it the classic tear-in-my-beer, steel-guitar-fueled "One on the House" or the minor groove-rocker "Melancholy Polly," Moorer displays a sultry voice that rivals any in the business. Thatís not to say Moorerís sweet coo has been abandoned; one would be hard-pressed to find any songs prettier than "When Will You Ever Come Down" or the cryptic character sketch "Louise Is in the Blue Moon" (whose la-di-da melody would fit comfortably in an Eagles song). With The Duel, Moorer turns away from the fashion-statement, self-conscious world of Music Row country, and delivers a rocking chronicle of relationships gone astray.

(Allison Moorer performs on September 14 at the Paradise Rock Club, 967 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston; call 617-562-8800.)

BY MICHAEL MCLAUGHLIN


Issue Date: September 3 - 9, 2004
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