Country chanteuse Allison Moorer’s third record overall and first for the Universal South imprint showcases some of the same songwriting talent and brassy, this-side-of-Reba McEntire vocals that won her praise for 1998 debut Alabama Song and 2000’s The Hardest Part. Unfortunately, parts of it also sound a bit more corporate and less genuine than those two records, aiming squarely for country radio.
Moorer had a hand in writing 12 of the CD’s 13 tracks, many of those with husband Doyle Primm. The opening “Tumbling Down” is a slow, blues-y number with strings and a gospel-style chorus backing her up. The production of R.S. Field (Webb Wilder, Scott Miller) nearly rescues a rather lackluster tune. “What happened to the world we painted / The masterpiece of me and you,” Moorer sings.
Moorer once covered “Here Comes the Sun,” and a couple of tunes on The Hardest Part had some Beatle flourishes as well (provided mostly by Wilco’s Jay Bennett). That Fab Four fixation continues on the nice “Cold In California” which features a hit of George Harrison-style slide guitar, sleigh bells and horns to go with its ELO-style, faux symphonic intro.
Also strong is “Up This High,” a bouncy, effortless sounding confection that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Dixie Chicks record. Moorer gives her most animated performance on “Going Down,” a Stones-y barrelhouse rocker that shows her stretching her vocal range a bit. There’s also “Yessirree,” about a favorite watering hole, and the slow groove, Hammond organ-accented “No Place For a Heart.” On the latter, Moorer comes up with one of her best lines: “A sleeve is no place for a heart.”
Two songs on Miss Fortune that previously appeared elsewhere are also worth mentioning. “Can’t Get There From Here” was the opening track on co-writer Bruce Robison’s Country Sunshine disc last year. And the stunner “Dying Breed” was recorded by Lonesome Bob on his Things Change CD earlier this year. Here Moorer revisits a tragic event from her past. When she was young, her father shot her mother and then turned the gun on himself (Moorer was raised by big sister and fellow country artist, Shelby Lynne). On the song she sings, “I take after my family / My fate’s the blood in me / No one grows old in this household / We are a dying breed.” The subject matter is made somehow less maudlin by a pretty arrangement that features fiddle and accordion.
But the story song “Ruby Jewel Was Here” wears out its welcome. And dramatic, tremulous vocal ballads like “Steal The Sun” and “Mark My Word” just don’t sound as convincing and sincere as some of Moorer’s previous work.
Miss Fortune could have used a few tunes like Hardest Part’s sprightly, roots-rocking =ECThink It Over” or the beautiful pop gem “Send Down an Angel.” She may still win the country radio support she seems to covet here, but this record could have been a lot more fun and could have showcased her talents to better effect. It’s no disaster, just a disappointment.