The record starts out in a minor key, both musically and lyrically, with "Abalone Sky," and remains a downer for several tracks. Even when "Just Another Fool" and "The Broken Girl" pick up the pace, the messages are no more positive.
By album's end, though, hope shines through. Tracks like "Still This Side of Gone," "Sorrow (Don't Come Around)" and "It's Gonna Feel Good" remain bleak, but offer just a sliver of hope. Sometimes that's enough.
Moorer herself, though, has explained the title track and why it fits the album so well.
"We have crows in the yard at our place up in Woodstock. I am a little obsessed with birds, and have been told that they are indeed our messengers from the other side," Moorer said. "So I decided that instead of letting the crows make me uneasy, I would start to consider them as friendlies, and that they were actually bringing me a message of comfort."
The comfort in this one comes with a pair of tracks about Moorer's childhood memories. "Easy in the Summertime" and "The Stars and I (Mama's Song)" lighten the mood considerably, perhaps even inducing the album's first smiles.
The songs feature memories and thoughts on Moorer's late mother, the latter offering the comfort that she's looking down on her daughter.
From there, the mood is lightened, ever so slightly, for the final five songs. It never gets happy, but there remains a glimmer.
Musically, the album is impeccable. Moorer's full, sultry vocals meld wonderfully with acoustic guitars, keyboards and the occasional flourish of a string section.
The songs themselves don't shine. While the intimacy of Moorer's lyrics is refreshing, the songs don't really draw you in.
Moorer's voice alone can carry average songs a long way, but this album just isn't memorable
My spin: C
While Moorer's vocals continue to shine on "Crows," it's simply not an outstanding collection. It's collection of average to good songs, but it never flirts with greatness.
The top moments come on "Easy in the Summertime" and "The Stars and I (Mama's Song)" (which are best as companion pieces), "The Broken Girl," "Sorrow Don't Come Around" and "Should I Be Concerned."
Perhaps the darkest song on an already dark album, "Should I Be Concerned" starts with piano before adding strings and finally exploding into a short, cathartic guitar solo by Joe McMahan.
Besides these, it's pretty much an album to be reserved for Moorer fans or those who simply appreciate a beautiful female voice.
Allison Moorer, Crows
Released: Feb. 9 on Ryko
The players: Allison Moorer-vocals, background vocals, piano, Wurlitzer, acoustic guitars; R.S. Field-drums, tambourine, acoustic guitar; Joe McMahan-electric guitar, acoustic guitar, steel guitar, celestaphone; Brad Jones-bass, vibes; Ken Lewis-percussion; Richard Bennett-guitar; Chris Carmichael-strings
Producer: R.S. Field