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Allison Moorer covers bases

By Dan MacInotsh, February 2008

Page 2...

"The feedback that you hear on it is from me having an open mic and not taking the time to go back and fix it, and the weird noise that you hear is the fan in my laptop because I put a bunch of tracks on."

"If you've ever done any recording on a laptop, sometimes if you start putting things on, the fan will start to go. I'm really happy with that version of the song. I think it's really different, but I also think it captures sort of the drug-like feeling of being in love, when you first fall in love."

You may recall how June Carter Cash's portrayal in "Walk the Line" suggests she focused on developing her sense of humor because she didn't think she could sing as well as her Carter Family sisters.

"I think that's a very female thing to do, to downplay your abilities a lot," Moorer notes. "Especially when, you're from...I have nothing really to compare it to because she was from a very famous family. I'm not. But she was a very powerful entertainer and certainly found ways to communicate, and at the end of the day, that's what we're all trying to do."

Moorer had excellent studio help in recording these favorite songs because Buddy Miller was her producer. Moorer, like a lot of artists in Nashville, knows Miller is underrated for all the musical things he does well.

"The thought that Buddy Miller isn't really famous is just one of those things that you shake your head about it," Moorer says. "To list his talents would take a while. He's an amazing singer. He's an amazing guitar player. He's a songwriter and producer, and he's just one of the best people I've ever met."

"I'm still somewhat in awe of him because he's just one of those people, that when you're around them, they somehow make you better. One of the reasons why I like to be around Buddy is because I do truly feel that he makes me a better person. I would really hate to slip and say something or do something in front of him that would make him think less of me, if that makes any sense."

Moorer's evaluation of Miller makes prefect sense; she not only respects him, but also feels comfortable leaving her musical vision with his sure instincts. And such trust is essential to a good producer/artist relationship.

"Working with him, I just felt really at ease," she recalls. "I felt I could trust...I felt like I could just put the whole record in his hands. And I did, and he did a great job. I couldn't be happier with it, and I hope we get to work together again. It was wonderful."

Finding a producer you can trust is like discovering an honest car mechanic.

"I've done records where I haven't felt at ease," Moorer relays. "And it's been a tense situation, and I've tried to over-control the process as a result of that. But part of it is getting older, and part of it is just deciding that if you're not having any fun doing what you're doing, then you should probably do something else. It's deciding that, you know, it's just music. It oughta be fun."

"And it should be a process that isn't painful. And not every record I've made has been that way, but some have. So, with this one I just decided I didn't write these songs. I've got a different job to do as an interpreter. I just wanted someone where I could say, 'Hey, we already know how these songs go. Let's see if we can put our stamp on 'em and make a cool record. And I knew that Buddy would do great. And he did."

Had this been a CD by one of countless other high profile female country vocalists, covering Patti Smith and Joni Mitchell songs would have amounted to a calculated risk. And even though much of country radio sounds just like pop radio, country listeners aren't usually eclectic enough to appreciate songs composed by female punk rockers like Smith, or jazz-leaning folk-sters such as Mitchell.

But for Moorer, who has always marched to the beat of her own drum, the risk factor was extremely low.

"Believe it or not, I have never felt any pressure to conform to any style," Moorer stays emphatically. "Just because I was signed to a country label at first, I didn't ever really consider myself being confined to one thing. I've somehow never made two records that sounded alike."

"And that's been to my detriment in some cases. People that like the first record didn't necessarily like the second or vice versa. Or people that like my second record were taken aback by my fourth record just because I've always done different things."

"I've always changed course. I've always just followed my path. I guess it could be said that because I've never really had a big hit, that I didn't get a stamp put on my head. I feel very fortunate for that. I've had a lot of freedom. I've always been able to do what I wanted to do. I never felt like I had to stick within any sort of boundaries."

Many times, when an artist records a covers album, he or she is then nearly immediately itching to do another album of all original material - and soon. Moorer, however, doesn't feel any such pressure - at least not right now.

"I see no need to hurry," says Moorer, who is touring with her husband. "I've have felt rushed at times in my career and I don't want to feel that way anymore, if I don't have to. Steve (Earle) told me something one time that really stuck with me. He said, "No one's waiting on the next Allison Moorer album. They're just waiting on the next great Allison Moorer record. I think that stuck with me, you know. I want to take my time. I don't want to rush into another record until I'm ready to do it."

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