Released just three months on the heels of her extraordinary seventh album, Crows, Allison Moorer’s Crows Acoustic EP provides a different take on six of the songs from one of 2010’s best records. Moorer claims that this EP gives her fans the opportunity to hear her songs in the “form they were born in,” making the project a glimpse into the creative process of a first-rate singer-songwriter. With producer Jason Finkel bringing a light touch to the mixing board, the unadorned, spare arrangements on the EP serve to highlight the strengths of Moorer’s compositions and the beauty of her incomparable voice.
One of the strengths of Crows is its atmospheric production, which enhances the album’s American gothic tone. The thematic coherence of the songs is another of that record’s key selling points. By jettisoning the bells and whistles from the production and by cutting the number of songs in half, the EP automatically loses a good deal of the full length album’s depth. Still, the lilting “Easy in the Summertime” is simply gorgeous, its effortless melody conveying a potent blend of nostalgia and regret. “When You Wake Up Feeling Bad,” with its simple minor-key piano chords, imagines what Cat Power might sound like if she actually conveyed any sort of affect in her singing.
With her rich alto in superlative form, Moorer’s performances showcase the pitch-perfect clarity of her voice and her soulful, sensitive phrasing. That’s a good thing, since the arrangements here aren’t radically different from those on Crows. Only “The Broken Girl” stands as a departure: The studio version of the single boasts some terrific, ironic girl-group chants; here, the song’s melancholy narrative is all the more powerful without that ironic remove, as Moorer fights her way through its thorny emotional terrain.
The songs have lost none of their potency, and there’s no faulting Moorer’s singing on this project. But without much distance from the studio versions of this material, and with only one substantial rearrangement, the problem is that this EP is just inessential.