- - Monday, August 21, 2017

Choosing a collaborator is a tricky business. You want someone who will enhance and add to your record without overpowering your talents. That delicate balance can either make or break a project. So when it came time to record her latest CD, “Not Dark Yet,” Americana/country chanteuse Allison Moorer wanted to work with someone she had hoped to record with all her life. Her pick? The equally adored and respected singer/songwriter Shelby Lynne.

Makes sense. Both have had solid careers without ever selling out to the mainstream. And one more thing makes the pairing perfect: Miss Lynne happens to be Miss Moorer’s sister.

The siblings’ album is a powerful as it is fragile, and as close to perfect as it is flawed. “Not Dark Yet” is a collection of covers (with one original) by everyone from Bob Dylan to Nick Cave to Townes Van Zandt and Nirvana.

In support of its release, the sisters are hitting the road for a string of dates that includes Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis, Maryland, Saturday and The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, Sunday. Miss Moorer and I spoke about the connection she shares with her sister and how “Not Dark Yet” came to be.

Question: How long have you and Shelby wanted to make a record together?

Answer: Forever. (Laughs) We always talked about it, but there never seemed to be a right time to do it.

Q: What made right now the right time?

A: Our schedules finally lined up, and we decided, “Hey, we can do this now?”

Q: The album is mostly covers. How did you decide what songs to do?

A: These are all songs we just loved. 

Q: Were there more tracks that were recorded for the album that didn’t make in on?

A: There were a couple. And I’m not telling you what they are. (Laughs)

Q: Do you think it will take another couple of decades for a follow-up?

A: We’re actually talking about following it up already. We want to keep it going. We hope to be able to start writing it soon. We want to write the next one, or at least the bulk of it. We want to start doing that next year.

Q: Which song did you record first?

A: The first song we recorded was one that didn’t go on the record. The second one was “Every Time You Leave,” and the last one was “Color of a Cloudy Day.”

Q: With the splitting of vocal duties, how did you decide who sings what?

A: It was pretty simple. We just looked at the lyric sheet and said, “You take this, I’ll take that.” There was lot of head-nodding and facial expression [of] knowing when to switch and having that familiar communication.

We don’t have to talk about it that much. We just kind of make a sketch and figure out what works.

Q: A lot of the songs you covered were by male artists. Do they take on a different meaning when song by a woman?

A: I think a great song is a great song. Doesn’t really matter. Most great songs are universal.

Q: Are there any songs on the record you wish you had written?

A: I wish I’d written every one of them. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have recorded them. I have to wish I had written something in order to record it. I have to be really jealous of it.

Q: Speaking of jealousy, were you and your sister ever jealous or competitive in your careers?

A: No. What would be the point in being competitive? We just support each other and love each other, cheer each other on. It’s a hard business.

Q: What can people expect when they come see you and Shelby play live?

A: Well, we will represent the record, but in true form, as it always is, the show will be different from the record. It just can’t help but be that way.

We’re going to tour with a guitar player, and then I’ll be playing some piano. It will just be the three of us mostly. We will pull in rhythm sections here and there on certain shows in cities where we know people, so we don’t have to drag them around the country with us.

Q: Will you mix in solo material from each of your careers into the set list?

A: I think we are going to do a few. We each picked two songs from our catalogs. I keep telling sissy that we need to learn this other one song that shall not be named. She’s resistant to it. (Laughs) But I keep telling her.

Q: What is the one thing you need with you on the road?

A: I like to take my dog with me. I like to take my son, but he’s not going with me this time. He’ll be with his dad since it’s only two weeks. I’m a good traveler.

Clothing-wise I don’t need that much. I can get by with one suitcase and a couple pairs of shoes, makeup kit [and] a couple guitars. Maybe some books.

Q: Have you and Shelby traveled together before?

A: Oh yes. I started singing backup for sissy when I was 17. We’ve had a lot of travels together. I’m looking forward to us being together and us being able to play music together. It’s just fun. It’s more rewarding than anything else right now. We want to be together and be close. We’ve waited a long time for it.

Q: And the fans have waited a long time too.

A: They’re being so kind and so encouraging. It’s tough when you get to be old in the music business. (Laughs) When you’ve been around for 20-plus years, you start to wonder if anybody cares at all. It’s nice to know that people do care and that they haven’t forgotten you.

Tickets to Allison Moorer and Shelby Lynne’s show at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis, Maryland, Saturday are available at Ticketfly.com. Tickets to their show at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, Sunday are available at Ticketmaster.com.


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