Posts Tagged ‘Allison Moorer’

Autotelic records

First solo album in four years from the Academy, Grammy, Americana and Academy of Country Music award nominated artist. “Blood” is not only Moorer’s most personal and revealing work to date, but also her finest and most important. Blood stands on its own as a complete work, but the album serves as a companion piece to her anticipated autobiography, Blood: A Memoir, being released on October 29th through Da Capo Press, an imprint of Hachette Books.

Blood: A Memoir is a detailed account of Moorer and her sister’s (Grammy Award winner Shelby Lynne) childhood growing up in a troubled home in Southern Alabama, which ended with the well-documented murder-suicide of her parents in 1986. Much of what the public has known about the tragic event begins and ends there. For years Moorer had avoided going into the traumatic details of the abuse, alcoholism, intimidation, poverty and neglect, that existed prior to the deaths, and for good reasons which she addresses in the memoir. Moorer also addresses the fact that there was so much more to her family than tragedy, darkness and what people thought they knew. There was love, there was a protective mother, there was the bond of sisterhood and there was music. There was always music.

Moorer first gained recognition in the pop music world with her 1998 debut single “A Soft Place To Fall,” a song she wrote with Gwil Owen and which actor-director Robert Redford heard, instantly loved and incorporated into his film “The Horse Whisperer,” earning her an early-career Oscar nomination for best original song.

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Alison Moorer has been making records for years, She has a wonderful voice and she can certainly write a song. But it wasn’t until her collaboration of covers with her sister Shelby Lynne, 2017’s “Not Dark Yet,” that I got on board. I wish I could tell you the precise reason why 20 years of prior recording failed to pique my interest. But I can’t. Wrong place, wrong time, I guess.  Now seems to be the right time, as her new release, “Blood,” the companion to her memoir of the same name, has really shaken me up.

Moorer’s not so secret life includes among other things, a divorce from husband Steve Earle, and of course, the 1986 murder-suicide of her parents, both of which I imagine take up more than a few pages in the book. While I plan on reading the memoir, until then, “Blood,” the album, gets heavy rotation, thanks to some truly amazing songs, like the beautifully heartbreaking “I’m The One To Blame,” a song with lyrics written by her father and found in a box, or “All I Wanted (Thanks Anyway),” a song Jagger & Richards have been trying to write since 1975.

From the album “Blood” – the musical companion piece to Allison Moorer’s memoir by the same name.

The names Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer will be more familiar to our readers as solo artists in their own right. With a shared output of over 20 albums, a Grammy award, an Oscar nomination and a host of other plaudits between them, it’s perhaps surprising that these Alabama born sisters have never, until now, released a studio album together. However, since Moorer announced last November that ‘the sissy record is coming’, there’s been widespread speculation about what form the album will take. At last, the waiting is over and “Not Dark Yet”, the first studio album from Moorer & Lynne, is out now.

It’s perhaps surprising that two such accomplished song writers should, when finally recording an album together, decide to create an album almost entirely of cover versions. As the album opens with guitar and sombre vocal for The Killers’ My List, it’s soon clear that there are many more surprises in store – and all of them welcome. As Shelby and Allison trade verses; piano and Hammond organ, acoustic and electric guitar create peaks and troughs of emotion in between the combined voices of the chorus. Teddy Thompson‘s sparse production allows ample space to keep those two perfectly matched voices at the centre of our attention, which is no small feat considering the interpretation of the songs may well be the first thing on many listeners’ minds.

Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer grew up on a 1,000-acre farm in Alabama, learning music and song together, encouraged by their parents’ love of country music. Those musical beginnings are very much to the fore on Not Dark Yet. The careful harmonies and the strong country sound of The Louvin Brothers’ Every Time You Leave disperses hope and despair in equal measure; the gently upbeat Silver Wings evokes Merle Haggard’s original, but with the added pathos of a lonely dance floor, Ben Peeler‘s slide guitar, and strong vocal harmonies. Ben’s guitar takes on more wistful tones for the dreamy I’m Looking For Blue Eyes, as the sisters take the song a few more steps from Nashville than Jessi Colter’s original.

Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer

By the late 1990s, both sisters had earned a steady following. Allison was writing country albums of the highest calibre, while Shelby’s more musically mainstream rebellion took her all the way to the West Coast. It’s a move that’s perhaps best reflected in the decision to include their own version of Nick Cave’s Into My Arms, where the bright lights and theatre Cave’s performance are stripped away to reveal a lament for love. By contrast, a soft wail and a Telstar twang of mandolin pervades the lively arrangement for Lungs (Townes Van Zandt), and the simply beautiful sibling harmonies enjoy perhaps their most accomplished outing among the acoustic guitar and brushed snare of The Color Of A Cloudy Day. The gently upbeat pace belies the sadness and loss in Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires‘ lyric, as Hammond organ tugs at the heart and hopes fade with the final ‘I can never find you…’. The glorious dissonance of Nirvana’s Lithium is the album’s strongest nod to the world of rock. Power-laden guitars and garage drum beat pulse behind the minor key harmonies that seem a tribute to Cobain himself.

At the beating heart of the album, though, is the title track, Bob Dylan’s Not Dark Yet. Typical of the album’s low-key approach; percussion leads the way for a guitar and piano led country rock outing. There’s a glimmer of hope in the lyric as a barely perceptible organ seems to gain strength from the power of the vocal harmonies.

In their musical careers Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer have both written songs about the trauma that set the course of their lives; their father taking their mother’s life, then his own, when Lynne was 17 and Moorer 14. The album’s closing track, Is It Too Much, the only song on the album co-written by the sisters, reflects the darkness of their early trauma.

The bond between Allison and Shelby is a strong one and Is It Too Much seems to confirm that although they’ve lead separate musical careers mutual support has always been an important aspect of the separate lives. The extended introduction of soft guitar and piano, and the occasional wash of cymbal seems to be drifting tentatively towards something fragile and insubstantial. Again, alternating the vocal for the verses, the song gains strength and power as those harmonies come into play; mutual strength and understanding is confirmed in an intimate acknowledgement of their shared burden…

No one else bears this heavy load
Don’t you know you ain’t by yourself?
I’m right here to help you lay it down.

Not Dark Yet would never have been the confident, assertive exploration of their music, or be the long awaited affirmation of their combined talent that it is, without the years spent realising their own individual musical ambitions. Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer have recognised the precarious unpredictability of our lives, embraced the fact that opportunities must be seized. Not Dark Yet makes the most of those opportunities in an album that goes much further than anyone could have predicted. Rather than collaborate on self-written material, Moorer and Lynne have come together to share the music that’s been the backdrop to their lives. In sharing with their audience the songs that each has held dear, they bring their music to new levels that an even wider audience can enjoy. Not Dark Yet was well worth the wait.

Not Dark Yet is Out Now www.folkradio.co.uk for the words

Shelby Lynne and her younger sister, Allison Moorer, have released a slew of solo records between them since the late 1980s, but Not Dark Yet marks their first joint effort. In one sense, it’s not surprising the siblings didn’t collaborate sooner.

Critically acclaimed artists and sisters Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer will release “Not Dark Yet” via Silver Cross Records / Thirty Tigers. Produced by Teddy Thompson, their first and highly anticipated album together is an extraordinary debut of the pair’s transcendent musical bond. Not Dark Yet was recorded in Los Angeles in the summer of 2016. The album provides a potent look at the sisters’ individual and collective artistry through eclectic song choices from writers ranging from the Louvin Brothers, Nick Cave, Kurt Cobain, and back to Jessie Colter. Shelby and Allison wrap their arms around the past, plant their feet in the present, and nod toward what’s around the bend with a co-written “Is It Too Much,” to close out the ten-song set. 1st ever collaboration between acclaimed sisters –Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer .