Allison Moorer - Biography
By J Poet
Alison Moorer’s national television debut was an auspicious and somewhat intimidating way to begin a career. In 1998, “A Soft Place to Fall,” a tune she wrote with Gwil Owen, was included on The Horse Whisperer: Songs From and Inspired by the Motion Picture (1998 MCA) and nominated for an Academy Award. Moorer performed the song for the 1999 Oscar broadcast, thus marking her fist gig outside of local Nashville clubs. The national appearance launched the popularity of her debut album Alabama Song (1998 MCA). Her debut’s country rock sound was a bit ahead of its time, and while the country/soul of 2000’s The Hardest Part (2000 MCA) drew favorable comparisons to Dusty Springfield, the label soon dropped her.
Moorer loves country music but, like her older sister Shelby Lynne, she has her own ideas about where country should be going in the 21st Century. Lynne and Moorer were born in Alabama and suffered an early trauma when in 1985 their father murdered their mother, then shot himself. They were raised by relatives and when Lynne moved to Nashville, Moorer followed. She sang in her sister’s band for a while and then returned to Alabama to attend college. With a business degree in public relations in hand, Moorer returned to Nashville, married her songwriting partner Doyle “Butch” Primm, signed to MCA, made Alabama Song and The Hardest Part, and then was dropped.
When former president of MCA Records/Nashville Tony Brown started Universal South, he signed Moorer. In 2002 she cut the torchy Miss Fortune (2002 Universal South), a dark, late-night jazzy approach to country music. The album didn’t fare well and she moved to Los Angeles to write her own kind of country music. Her first L.A.-based album was 2004’s The Duel (2004 Sugar Hill), a collection that sounds like a bar band’s take on mountain music. Think Gillian Welch as produced by Neil Young.
Moorer toured with Steve Earle to support The Duel and afterwards divorced Primm to marry Earle. Earle produced her 2006 album Getting Somewhere (2006 Sugar Hill) and backed Moorer with a hard rockin’ honky tonk band that gives the songs a fierce, rowdy vibe. Moorer wrote all the songs and delivers them with a relentless emotional honesty.
Moorer and Earle moved to New York City in 2006. She was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Country Collaboration with Vocals category for the song “Days Aren't Long Enough” from Earle’s album Washington Square Serenade (2007 New West), a celebration of their new home town. In 2008, she released Mockingbird (2008 New Line), which was produced by Buddy Miller and features covers of songs by Moorer’s favorite female songwriters including Shelby Lynne, Nina Simone, June Carter Cash, Jesse Colter, and Chan Marshall of Cat Power.