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Moorer gets "Down to Believing"

By Bill Caruthers, May 2015

Allison Moorer packed a lot of living in the past five years leading up to the recently released "Down To Believing."

The results are evident throughout the effort, like a light at the end of a tunnel. Writing or co-writing 12 of the 13 tracks, Moorer is fearlessly open and autobiographical. "Even when I try to make them about something or someone else, they always end up being about me. I am the subject that I know best."

There is a pervasive calm demeanor, although the first two single releases (along with "Mama Let the Wolf In") belie this a little. The first single and video release, "Like It Used to Be," is a rocker that sent the message that, for whatever the reason, things are going to be different, and different isn't necessarily bad.

The current single, "Tear Me Apart," is a rocker too, with a Kimberly Perry "Better Dig Two" sort of vibe. "It's pretty angry;" says Moorer.

With a resolute and intriguingly hopeful voice on the disc, Moorer surveys the surface and character of her life and intensely personal relationships as a fine sculptor might survey a block of marble; looking for the art within.

Moorer sings

"These songs are personal, I was going through a lot in my life, but actually I can't remember a time when I wasn't. When it comes to music and art, we do art to communicate with each other. It's not about saying; ‘This is what happened to me and you should care!' It's about holding up a mirror to the world. That's my job as an artist - to reflect the world around me so that I can make a connection. I feel like it is my job to find commonality and hold it up and say ‘This is my experience and quite likely yours as well.' I'm always looking for the common ground."

Moorer reunites with producer Kenny Greenberg, who produced her first two albums, "Alabama Song" and "The Hardest Part." "It was not so much a conscious return to anything, but it was definitely where I wanted to go. I knew what kind of songs I was writing, and I knew the sound that we make. I certainly knew that the project would be well-served by his presence. He's not only one of the best guitar players in town, Kenny is one of the best guys I know. I can't say enough good things about him as a person and a player. He takes good care of me.""

"I was also sort of obsessed at the time with Picasso's line drawings, and I began to think that if he could make a perfect representation of something with just one line or a just a few, why should I need so many words? So, since I had a good idea for a song and I knew where it could go musically, I thought that I could conjure up some strong imagery if I put myself through my paces and challenged myself to tell the story in as few lines as possible."

Sometimes criticized as hard to categorize, Moorer bristles a bit. "I'm not interested in doing one thing or the same thing, I'm many things. When people say; Why can't she decide what she is? My question is; Why do you care? I'm gonna do what I'm gonna do, and if you want to come with me, come with me; and if you don't, that's fine too! I'm not really doing this to fit into the marketplace. That's not what art is…, and I want to make art. I don't want to make widgets."

Alabama native Moorer calls New York City home these days and has built a happy life there for herself and young son, John Henry, who has just turned five years old. Morer says she has to limit her road time to be with her son, who has autism.

Parenthood is foremost in her life right now, new album notwithstanding, and the struggles and conundrums that it presents are summed up quite nicely in the track, "Gonna Get It Wrong."

"It's about parenting really and the ability to accept our faults and do our best for our kids. We're all struggling. We're all falling down and pulling ourselves up and, hopefully, we can do that with some grace."

In keeping with this sentiment, along with ex-husband Steve Earle and artist friends like Hayes Carll, Moorer gives a thank you to Rosanne Cash. "She lives here in NYC too, and Rose is a really great friend to me. She has provided a great example of how to be a mother and an artist at the same time. I can't thank her enough for that."

The beautiful ballad "Blood" a nod to sisterhood and her own sibling Shelby Lynne, is a quiet, lovely, little masterpiece. "Wish I" shines as a tune of loss and acceptance of an ending love, but with an undeniable hopefulness, even in its regret.

Still, the hidden treasure among all of these gems is "If I Were Stronger," a tune of knowing your own limits and realizing when to throw in the towel. There is little doubt that this song could become an anthem in the hands of a Martina McBride or Carrie Underwood, but in the hands of Moorer it is a gut-wrenchingly honest confession of a broken heart that still has the will and desire to not only mend, but the determination to be better for the experience.

"I'm excited to have something to say and that people want to hear it. I want to do the best work that I can do and be conscious and intentional in the things that I do. I am a forward-looking creature. I'm proud of my past work, I'm proud to say I wouldn't change a note of it, but I think I am a better singer and songwriter now, I should be. I don't dwell on the past, I dwell on what I'm doing now and what I'll be doing next. I don't know exactly what is coming next for me, but I know that I am happy."