A decade ago Abra Moore stood at the cusp of mainstream success with her GRAMMY-nominated single “Four Leaf Clover” and the superb album from which that song sprang. Stardom eluded her, but the albums she’s released since have been gems of sophisticated pop. Her newest ranks among her best. Kicking off with the breezy, keyboard-and-horn driven “Into the Sunset,” the album establishes a sound-scape-ish texture that runs throughout. Songs such as “After All These Years” and the title track sport the sort of langui, cinematic quality that Hollywood execs crave. (Moore’s songs have been featuredd in Dawson’s Creek, Felicity and the like.) Elsewhere, as on “Sorry” and “You,” the pop emphasis is flavored with a cool jazz vibe. Vocaly, Moore evokes thoughts of what Billie Holiday might have sounded like had Holiday been a ’60s flower child. And that’s an altogether good thing.
The spirit of Lilith Fair renews itself in the music of Austin’s Abra Moore, who flashed breakout potential with 1997’s Strangest Places (which earned her a GRAMMY nomination)… Here, she reunites with producer/multi-instrumentalist Mitch Watkins, who provides atmospheric arrangements behind the wispy-voiced romanticism of Moore’s vocals… the support of accompanists including vocalist Will Sexton, percussionist Pat Mastelotto, and trumpeter Ephraim Owens, along with guitarist-keyboardist Watkins, provides counterweight ballast. On the title cut, Moore’s horn-like vocals blend so well with Owens’s flugelhorn that it can be hard to distinguish between them.
Like Joni Mitchell and Sarah McLachlan, Abra Moore has a special way of evoking a tranquil, sensuous mood, quietly seducing her listeners with her music’s haunting lilt and swoon. Indeed, Moore’s languid motifs turn her beautiful and beguiling new album On The Way into the aural equivalent of twilight sleep, a wistful watercolor dream in which the boundary between waking and slumber is inevitably blurred. The first song, “Into The Sunset,” sets the tone, a hushed, shimmering narrative meshing a guarded view with its gentle tapestry of muted trumpets, sumptuous keyboards and dense acoustic textures. Elusive and yet evocative, songs such as “On The Way,” “Take Care Of Me” and “No Turning Back” convey a heightened sense of expectation with their quiet melodies and airy, ethereal arrangements. At times Moore’s grasp seems tenuous, but the soothing, suggestive tones are never less than affecting. So even though it’s not always entirely clear where On The Way is headed, in this circumstance, the journey is ample reward in itself.
Abra Moore opens On the Way with the pop-flavored “Into the Sunset,” a warm song filled with lovely hooks. Moore’s girlish vocal sketches the fate of a contemporary Icarus, a beautiful innocent who tries to touch the sky, but “it carried him away.” The lyric has a nice abstract quality, spun from metaphor, while the melody and easy-flowing pop/rock arrangement lift Moore’s words upward… On “Sorry,” the trumpet adds a nice touch to the pop arrangement, and Moore’s vocal falls into a relaxed, loose groove… There is great deal to like about On the Way. The mix of keyboards, pianos, guitars, and percussion fittingly underline Moore’s confectionery vocal style, injecting the material with an easygoing pop feel…
With “On The Way,” her first solo album since “Everything Changed” in 2004, Abra Moore continues to push the boundaries of the singer/songwriter genre. Producer Mitch Watkins, who also contributes guitar and keyboards on the album’s 11 songs, provides a sonic landscape that allows Moore’s voice to wash over the music. “Into the Sunset,” the opening track, sets the tone as a soaring pop song with Will Sexton, providing an effective vocal counterpoint. “Sugarite” starts gently with Moore’s acoustic guitar but builds in intensity as Watkins adds layers of guitars to create a dizzying, whirlpool effect. The music dovetails nicely with Moore’s lyrics on the power and mystery of love. The former Poi Dog Pondering vocalist switches gears for the jazzy regretfulness of “Sorry” that features electric sitar fills by Watkins and trumpet by Ephraim Owens. His playing recalls the melancholy phrasing of Chet Baker. “I Believe” is an upbeat take on the same subject, highlighted by Moore’s double tracked vocals. Moore remains an expressive singer. She is able to capture the mood of a song, be it the pensiveness of Tom Freund’s “No Turning Back,” the album’s sole cover, or the wistfulness in the ethereal “You.” The CD’s sole drawback is an occasional tendency to let a song go on too long (“Take Care of Me” and “Birthday Song”) but it’s not a fatal flaw. As former baseball executive Branch Rickey once observed, it can be a case of addition by subtraction.
ABRA MOORE/On the Way: In which we find one of our fave angry, young ladies… with a new outlook and understanding tempering the fire that drove her so well for so long into something that might seem demure to the uninitiated but is a real valentine for her long time fans (it has been 20 years since Poi Dog Pondering). Bristling with the energy that grabbed us in the first place, Moore gleefully turns on the mixmaster to genre blend styles that turn her on and affect us accordingly. On an indy label and returning her to her indy spirit, this is the kind of set that people who have been losing interest in new music will sit up and take notice of. Solid throughout.
— Michael Sullivan
Abra Moore has had a very nice career, racking up GRAMMY nominations, having her music featured in various films and movies. She has toured and played with a who’s-who of adult alternative acts, she has had video hits on both VH-1 and MTV. Now she is back with a brand new album on Sarathan…and how is it?
This is an extremely mellow and very enjoyable CD…a long perfect lazy sunny cruise on a hot summer day… Her vocals are soft and very sweet… while you can a bit of Shawn Colvin here, Moore’s vocals are far more womanly and the lack of a hard edge makes the songs all that more powerful, they stay in your heart long after the CD is done playing.
The music and production values are spot on as well…Mitch Watkins not only engineered this beauty but also supported Abra with guitar,bass and keys. The rest of the musicians are also superb… especially John Leon’s pedal steel on the haunting “Sugarite”. This is a serious contender for my top 10 of the year… highly recommended!