Candy-country queen Shania Twain is in need of a serious ass-kicking, and I say Nashville newcomer Allison Moorer, a neo-traditionalist in the spirit of George Strait, has the best boots for the job. The sister of WPOC favorite Shelby Lynne, Moorer on her debut, Alabama Song, displays the perfect blend of talent (she wails, she writes, she reveals true feelings!) and beauty (flaming red hair, Nicole Kidman smolder, sensual phrasing), and could prove to be the perfect antidote for country’s current bloat for crossover bucks. Moorer co-wrote all but one of the album’s 11 tracks, and whether she’s slipping out of the arms of a wayward cowboy (“Pardon Me”) or ridding her bed of yet another stone-cold loser (“Set You Free”), the musical road she walks leads straight on back to her elders. “A Soft Place to Fall,” first heard on The Horse Whisperer soundtrack, is filled with the forgotten strains of natural heartache (Moorer’s ace in the hole), and “Tell Me Baby” is big-band country—pedal steel leading a teary-eyed string section—with Moorer taking her sweet but not saccharine voice in directions that scream standard but feel fresh. Moorer may not be the cure for all of contemporary country’s maladies, but there’s not a single synthetic note on Alabama Song, and that’s a damn fine start.—Sean Daly

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