Strangest Places (Arista Austin)
As "Four Leaf Clover" blankets the national airwaves and the rest of the world is introduced to the singular talent of Abra Moore, you who knew her from Sing will be blown away by how she's rockin' these days -- and even more surprised at how much you'll love it. While nothing on Moore's Arista Austin debut is completely unfamiliar or groundbreaking, it's definitely a shift in season. Strangest Places is full of songs that are eager and ready for a bigger audience and far-off stages. Moore's taken an approach similar to that of Joan Jones and Sun 60 going powered-up folk. To say this represents departure wouldn't be accurate; after all, any new step depends on where the previous steps fell. Still, it's definitely a progression. In most cases, the fuller and often noisier instrumentation does nothing to hinder or hide Moore's soft-spoken sense of poetics, though in a couple spots (like the near-pat "Don't Feel Like Cryin'"), it seems that the Moore who'd "sing to your eyes where they once held windows" is less of a presence in the mix. But the pained losing-the-luster-of-love exposition of "Happiness" and the rolling guitars of "Keeps My Body Warm" are equally at home on this album, and the easy fit of it all is perhaps what's most surprising. Mitch Watkins' clean, textured production and the talent with which she surrounds herself here will no doubt push Moore and Strangest Places into a larger forum, where both will thrive quite beautifully.
(3.5 stars) -- Christopher Hess