Record Review - 2 July 22 2004

Stardom often comes at the price of artistic integrity — just ask critically scathed Liz Phair. For "modern troubadour" Abra Moore, that price was too high. In 2002, Clive Davis' J Records was poised to release No Fear, a follow-up to Moore's breakthrough 1997 album, Strangest Places, which featured the hit "Four Leaf Clover." Unhappy with the album's sound, and the label's Avril Lavigne-esque marketing plans, the former Poi Dog Pondering member escaped her contract and — in a rare moment of generosity — was allowed to take her masters.

More than half of Moore's new, aptly titled album, Everything Changed, is drawn from those sessions, whose lush, slick, pop sound and ethereal, heavily reverbed vocals are instantly recognizable constituents of radio-ready pap. Fortunately, Moore salvaged many of the unreleased album's better songs, and has sequenced Everything Changed such that her gifts emerge the deeper you go into the album.

Moore's thin, girlish voice (reminiscent of Rickie Lee Jones) is overmatched by the production and undermined by weak material on album openers "I Do" and "No Fear," but she quickly redeems herself with the infectiously bubbling folk of "Big Sky," the lyrically canny "Taking Chances," and the Mike Mogis-produced highlight "If You Want Me," shining with a dreamy, vaguely country, orchestral sound.

Sad, slow-burning piano ballads predominate Everything Changed's second half, utilizing Moore's lithe vocals to better advantage. While a capable pop singer, Moore's real talent lies in a less lucrative "elsewhere" that she's not too craven to call home.

Abra Moore plays Smith's Olde Bar Wed., July 28, 8 p.m. $12.