'ACL' Live Shots
By Christopher Gray, Fri., Oct. 4, 2002
Allison MoorerZilker Park, Sunday, Sept. 29, noon
Wrong time, wrong place, right singer. An outdoor stage on a postcard-perfect (if a little warm) Central Texas afternoon is hardly the ideal environment to truly appreciate Allison Moorer's songs, populated as they are with addictive personalities, hard-luck cases, and enough down-at-the-heels barroom ambience to have your clothes smelling like stale cigarette smoke for days. Her four-piece band helped close some of the gap, emphasizing the rockier elements of her material over the sultry cocktail-lounge pop of albums such as the new Miss Fortune. Even so, on a pair of new songs during her abbreviated set (abbreviated further by a writer's confusion over the location of the Heritage Stage), her sidemen conjured the proper atmosphere; brooding organ captured the dysfunctional Southern-gothic dynamic of "Dying Breed," while the gospel halo of "Yessiree" suited its tavern-as-tabernacle motif. The dirty-fingernail slide guitar and barrelhouse New Orleans piano of "Bully Jones" gave it the feel of "Jole Blon" in reverse. Moorer's Forrest Gump-quoting finale translated its lessons learned the hard way ("I should've left the first time ...") into a slow crescendo climaxing in a web of jangled nerves and guitars. Not a bad way to begin the festival's second day, but her neon-tanned repertoire would've gone down much smoother with a shot, a beer, and a bowl of peanuts.