Steve Earle and Allison Moorer

Her husband might be the headliner with his name in much bigger print in the ads, but Allison Moorer could very well steal the show. She'll certainly be more enchanting, with the languidly melodic way she interprets songs from her 2007 collection of mostly covers, Mockingbird (New Line), which has her championing and expanding upon the work of a diverse lineup of women songwriters. June Carter Cash & Merle Kilgore's "Ring of Fire" is given a solemnly lulling makeover with a gorgeous sheen of celestial organ and violins weaving smoothly under her glassy vocals. Her spare, intimate version of Kate McGarrigle's spurned-lover's lament "Go, Leave" is quietly moving, while Gillian Welch's "Revelator" is piercingly sad and ruefully entrancing. Acoustic-guitar-based remakes of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now," Cat Power's "Where Is My Love" and her sister Shelby Lynne's "She Knows Where She Goes" are simply lovely. Moorer's new single, a straightforward take on Patti Smith's oft-covered "Dancing Barefoot," is so appropriately slinky and beguiling that one hopes its heroin references won't trigger a relapse by former junkie Steve Earle, who celebrates Rush Limbaugh's favorite crutch on "Oxycontin Blues." Apart from the self-important crowing of "Steve's Hammer (for Pete)," Earle's recent CD, Washington Square Serenade (New West), is an enjoyable assortment of gruff-voiced, Dylanish visions of old-timey Americana, even as one wishes he had dug a little deeper lyrically to avoid corn-p(r)one clichés.


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