"In the cemetery mist stands a newborn atheist/ even if you do not exist/ you're far from almighty/ flesh and blood's a sissy fist/ death's a gold glove pugilist." - The Duel - Alison Moorer-Butch Primm.

Allison Moorer has good reasons for not wanting to divulge her song sources.

And it's not just because she bared her heart and soul when she wrote songs about her songwriter dad Vernon shooting her mum Laura in a bizarre murder suicide when she was 13.

"I was working with an engineer who had worked with a musician whom I'm a big fan of and they had just put an album out," Moorer told Nu Country in a call from Nashville.

"I was talking to the engineer about a specific song and what I thought it meant and what it meant to me. I was excited about it but the engineer said the artist has written it in the studio with magnetic poetry on the music stand. It totally blew my mind and broke my heart. It's not that the song isn't fabulous and I still love it and want to hear it but I think about that every time I hear it."

The Alabama born singer has ploughed her painful past for a rich catalogue of songs that included Oscar nominated Soft Place To Fall from her 1998 debut disc Alabama Song.

Despite the Oscar nomination it only reached #67 on the country charts.


Moorer was just 25 when she performed her song from Robert Redford movie The Horse Whisperer on the Oscars.

And since then she has landed a brace of her tunes in movies diverse as The Rookie and a new Redford film.

"Tumbling Down from Miss Fortune was in The Rookie and Can't Get There From Here To There which I wrote with Bruce Robison is in the new Redford movie," Moorer, now 31, added.

Moorer, younger sister of Shelby Lynne, plans to tour Australia in 2005 to promote her five-album catalogue of roots country.

Her first four albums were on Universal and tributary Universal South - her new disc is on Sugar Hill.

Moorer wrote The Duel with Oklahoma born husband Butch Primm, whom she wed in 1995.

She recorded eleven songs in twelve days for the disc they produced with R.S. Field who had worked with Billy Joe Shaver, Webb Wilder, Buddy Guy and John Mayall.

Moorer, backed by multi-instrumentalist John Davis of Superdrag and guitarist Adam Landry of Stateside, and Primm weave characters from their collective experience.

The sheriff, who deflowered a 13 year-old girl in a seedy turn of the 20th century brothel in Ruby Jewel Was Here was a fictitious character.

"He had that story in his mind for a long time, that was a product in his mind," Moorer said, "the song is filled with terrible things going on around you and no-one cares."

But the sheriff, wearing a new belle on his arm like a badge in Louise Is In The Blue Moon, is a real life character.

"Everyone in that song is someone I know," Moorer confessed, "those characters are thinly veiled, those who know me know who they are. That's a true story."


"I drink the bottle empty, just like my poor daddy did/ no one grows old in this household, we are a dying breed."

It's 18 years since Moorer and Lynne, now 35, witnessed the murder suicide of their parents late one hot August night at their home in Frankville near Mobile.

Their mother Laura left their songwriter father Vernon 15 times "but she couldn't quite get it done," Moorer recalled.

Allison and Shelby have exorcised their grief in song on their dozen albums since that fateful night.

But Moorer has been more explicit than her elder sister.

Allison Moorer >

So when Moorer wrote Dying Breed she was drawing from her family tragedy.

"Take a chorus like: 'No one grows old in this house/ we are a dyin' breed.' That's not exactly light and fluffy and uplifting," says Moorer, "I can understand why everybody doesn't want to hear that first thing in the morning. It's not like that is not a common condition. I don't see anything wrong with shining a light on that."

Moorer has strong views on the current direction of her rich genre.

"Country music has historically has been darker than pop music," Allison says, "that's one of things I don't like much about mainstream country currently because it's not about the dark side. Country music used to be about sinning on Saturday night and getting saved on Sunday morning. Now it's about going to the grocery store, or it's all nostalgia."


There's no danger of Moorer's music suffering from schmaltz and fashion.

Ironically The Dual was released shortly after the death of an uncle who helped raise her with his wife after her parents' deaths.

"Yes, I was angry about his death, he died of a heart attack, he was only 63," Moorer said, "it absolutely came out of the blue and hit us pretty hard. I'm not at peace with it. I'm probably more mad than sad, I don't understand it, how that works. I was angry he was taken too young, he was probably the best person I've ever met. He was very much a safety net for me and my family. He owned a business near Frankville. I lived there three years. Shelby lived there only a year and then got married and moved to Nashville."

Moorer, a public relations graduate from the University Of South Alabama, followed to Nashville when she was 20, began writing songs and met Primm.

The pair hung out with songwriters including Lonesome Bob who cut their song Call My Name on his 1997 debut album, Things Fall Apart.

Lonesome Bob also duetted with Moorer on her song No Next Time on The Hardest Part.

Allison also landed Bring Me All Your Loving on Trisha Yearwood's eighth album Where Your Road Leads.


Moorer doesn't expect widespread airplay for All Aboard - her parody of jingoism and war bandwagon jumping.

"It's about blind patriotism and wrapping yourself up in the flag for your own gain," Moorer said, "my husband and I aren't big fans of people who do that and reaction to band wagon jumping, people doing it because it's popular. I believe in being an individual and being free to say what you want to say."
So is the song even more relevant now that blind patriotism is being blamed for latest torture allegations in Iraq?

"We don't know the full story but my husband was in the military," Moorer revealed, "he said you are not forced to do something that is not right.

It's really a horrible thing and I'm ashamed it has happened and the shifting of blame. I'm very angry and sad when I read about that - the war has been going on for a year and it seems to be getting worse and worse."

Co-writer Bruce Robison suffered when Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines was banned from radio as they topped charts with his song Travellin' Soldier.

Robison's song was dumped from radio but Moorer doesn't expect All Aboard will have a chance to suffer the same fate.

"Country music and radio are traditionally conservative, they showed their true colours when they did that to the Dixie Chicks," says Moorer, "it wasn't the right comment at the right time but it wasn't any different to what anyone else had said. It didn't effect Steve Earle. They haven't played him on country radio for 20 years but they should."

Moorer's characters are often battlers in a different theatre.

"In Believe You Me all the characters in songs are fighters," Moorer revealed, "it's about seeing things going on around you and being told to believe certain things."


Moorer says the theme of the album is love and faith.

"It was after we gathered the batch of songs the album theme became more apparent," Moorer added, "it has nothing to do with religion, I'm not an atheist but when I sing that song I am. I happen to know what that feels like. It questions your faith. Not everything has to be 100% your life, there is poetic licence. Soft Place To Fall was a good example, it's all to do with your emotional state at the time."

So what about the theme of the title track?

"The Duel is actually a love song. And it's about feeling that. When you lose the love of your life, you're going to be pretty pissed off about it. And it's enough to make you lose your faith. The whole record is really about that - the slow, chipping away of faith. And it can be faith in anything - yourself, somebody else, God, country. Whatever you want to believe in."

But not all of Moorer's music is rooted in pain.

"Baby Dreamer
is a reflection of getting up and doing something with your life," says Moorer.


"Melancholy Polly spills her guts on stage/ she can't get her jollies any other way/ safe inside the music and the melody/ Polly gets to lose it and no-one can see."

So does Moorer identify with the characters in One On The House and Melancholy Polly - tales of singers in bars?

"I'm always hesitant to say what songs are about," Moorer says.

Maybe let the final verse answer that question.

"In front of the footlights Polly takes a bow/ waves and says her good night to the drunken crowd/ when she house is clapping she knows what it means/ her life only happens for a song to sing."

Moorer's other characters drown in drink in One On the House and drugs in When Will You Ever Come Down, while the whores hustle in Believe You Me and hustlers whore in Louise Is In The Blue Moon.

In finale Sing Me To Sleep the narrator is on her deathbed begging for one last lullaby.


Moorer, like many peers, was a victim of fate and record company politics when she duetted with Kid Rock on his song The Picture.

"He had originally done the song with Sheryl Crow on his album," Moorer revealed, "he wanted the song released as a single. She and her record company said no. He asked me to replace her part. My label put it out as commercial single and it sold more than 500,000 copies but Sheryl Crow's version got airplay. She was better known."

But Moorer is not bitter with a career that has won her wide acclaim for her writing and music.

"When I was a kid I never dreamt I would do this for a living," says Moorer, "I'm now 31, made five albums and have a nice life through doing this. It's a real privilege to be able to do this for a living."

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