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Moorer, Gauthier pull for each other

Club Passim, Cambridge, Mass., March 22, 2015

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Other recent concert reviews
In their own right, Allison Moorer and Mary Gauthier did not really need the other because each is most capable of headlining.

But in one of those geniuses of booking, fans had the chance to see the two in a most enjoyable and alternative setting - a good, old-fashioned guitar pull.

That meant that the two were seated in comfortable chairs on stage with acoustic guitars at the ready, taking turns singing their songs. The format also afforded each the chance to explain where songs may have emanated from and interaction between the two (and sometimes the audience). In the case of Moorer, sometimes quiz Gauthier about the songs as well.

Moorer reached way back into her catalogue while also staying au courant. She commented that she released her first album some 17 years ago and paid self-homage with the opening "Alabama Song" and her Academy Award-nominated song "A Soft Place to Fall," which was in Robert Redford's "The Horse Whisperer." Moorer still wears the songs well years later. "I don't always play it," said Moorer of the latter. "It always feels like home to me." In Moorer's hands, it sounded that way also.

Moorer's new disc, "Down to Believing," streeted last week, causing Moorer to play four songs from the well-critiqued album, "Thunderstorm/Hurricane," "Wish I, the title track and encoring with "I Lost My Crystal Ball." Smart move in pushing the new material because the songs are of quality.

Moorer has a warm, firm, sultry voice. There is believability to her delivery, and one felt the pain in some of the recent songs as she went through a split from Steve Earle last year after almost 10 years of marriage and one son.

Moorer's came through loud and clear in strong deliveries of whatever song she played, sounding especially precious on "Thunderstorm/Hurricane."

Gauthier's style is very different. She's more folk-oriented, although these days, she's certainly grouped in the country/Americana field. And the songs tend to be very story-oriented, sometimes with long introductions as she did on her opening number, "The Last of the Hobo Kings," based on a true story. Gauthier's delivery is more of the singsong variety ("Between The Daylight and The Dark").

Gauthier released the excellent 'Trouble & Love" last year and played several songs from that with "How You Learn to Live Alone," which will appear on the "Nashville" TV show next week, and "Another Train."

Gauthier also made the songs come alive with her story telling as she has a good wit about her. Smart move because her songs tend to be on the depressing side subject wise.

Moorer and Gauthier would seem to make unlikely bedfellows. Their singing styles have nothing to do with each other with Moorer clearly a far superior singer. Nor do the songs given Gauthier's penchant for story telling.

Perhaps the only thing that is overtly similar - something that Gauthier pointed out after the show - was that both are from the south. Gauthier, who put in her time in Boston as a budding singer while owning a New Orleans-style restaurant, is from the Crescent City, while Moorer is an Alabama native.

Yet, the pairing made far more sense on stage as they had a good rapport and camaraderie. It may have taken awhile for some reason, but eventually Moorer contributed when Gauthier took the spotlight with pretty backing vocals and guitar strumming. Gauthier tended to keep quiet when Moorer took her turn.

The laid-back quality of the nearly 90 minutes together contributed to the warmth and enjoyment of the night. Yes, Gauthier and Moorer may not have seemed like the most obvious combo, but credit them for doing so because it proffered the chance to see two fine performers up close and personal.