Born on June 21, 1972, in Mobile, AL; married Doyle 'Butch' Primm. Education: Bachelor's degree in public relations, University of South Alabama, 1993. Addresses: Record company--Universal South, 40 Music Square West, Nashville, TN 37203. Management--Big Hassle, 157 Chambers St., 12th Floor, New York, NY 10007. Website--Allison Moorer Official Website: http://www.allisonmoorer.com.
Country-pop singer Allison Moorer released her first album, the traditional country Alabama Song, in 1998 to great critical acclaim. Her introduction to mainstream audiences came when her song "A Soft Place to Fall," which she cowrote with Gwil Owen, was featured on the soundtrack for the film The Horse Whisperer that same year at the behest of its star and director, Robert Redford. The song earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song, and Moorer performed it at the 1999 Academy Awards ceremony. Her subsequent albums, Hardest Part released in 2000 and Miss Fortune released in 2002, marked her as one of the most important new-country artists of the period.
Moorer was a critic's darling from the start, when the alternative newsweekly Nashville Scene online dubbed her "Best Country Star in the Making" in 1998. That same year, following her triumphant performance at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas, the Austin American-Statesman joked she "makes nearly every female singer in Nashville sound as if they had emphysema."
In Nashville, Moorer was distinguished by her devotion to authenticity and country roots in a town where the music industry generally rewards adherence to sleek production values and strict formulas. This gave her more in common with artists like Lucinda Williams, Kim Richey, and Kelly Willis than with mainstream Nashville-pop queens like Faith Hill and Shania Twain.
Moorer, the younger sister of country singer Shelby Lynne, was born in Mobile, Alabama, and raised in and around the city. "I grew up in a musical family, and started singing (harmony) when I was about 3, I'm told," she reminisced in a biography on her official website. She earned a degree from the University of South Alabama in public relations in 1993, but she knew that her future lay in country music. "On the day I took my last exam, I moved to Nashville--they mailed me my diploma."
She found work as a background singer and also was hired by songwriters to sing on demo tapes that were shopped around to some of Nashville's established country singers. "In the process, I met a guy named Doyle 'Butch' Primm, who became my collaborator, co-writer, co-producer and husband," continued Moorer on her official website. The two wrote songs together and shopped their own tunes; in 1997 Moorer was signed to MCA Nashville by renowned label chief Tony Brown.
While traditional country music was initially Moorer's primary focus, she later cast her net a bit wider to include country-rock and roots-pop. Her commitment to rootsy authenticity has caused her to sometimes be labeled "too edgy for country radio, and ... too country for pop radio," as one reviewer on Amazon.com noted. Although the critics love her, Moorer's album sales have been modest; the first two albums sold between 50,000 and 58,000 copies each.
Nashville Scene's Bill Friskics-Warren wrote that "Moorer's debut, Alabama Song, isn't so much a honky-tonk record as a wedding of late-'60s and early-'70s country, rock, and pop sensibilities. Bob Dylan's Nashville sessions, Bobbie Gentry's sultry Delta soul. Gram Parson's stoner country, and the fiery independence of Waylon (Jennings) and Willie (Nelson) all jump to mind on first listen."
Moorer has evidently drunk deeply from the trad-country well and intuitively alchemized her musical influences. Nashville Scene's Friskics-Warren went on to observe that "Long Black Train," from Alabama Song, opens with "the cascading guitar figure from Merle Haggard's 'Mama Tried' ... while the title track is a Southern rewrite of Dylan's "Girl from the North Country" set to the resolute cadence of the Band's 'The Weight.' Those allusions are seductive: It takes a handful or listens to suss them out, at which point one has already succumbed to the longing in Moorer's humid contralto." Rolling Stone's Grant Alden was equally beguiled by Moorer's debut: "The (album's) best moment goes to death; the closing euology, 'Is Heaven Good Enough for You,' is spectacular, full of that rare, elegant intimacy that was once the cornerstone of country music."
Although most critics have been effusive in their praise, not all of them got on board right away. In his review of Moorer's second album, The Hardest Part released in 2000, Rolling Stone's James Hunter wrote that "[o]ccasionally, the album meshes, and the music is transporting.... But more often, as on the slow, wailing, 'Bring Me All Your Lovin,' Moorer concentrates on the power of pronunciation, rhyming 'bring' and 'sang' with the kind of flat-A sound you hear on dusty Faulknerian porches. Many country fans, unimpressed with the pop high jinks of Shania Twain and Faith Hill, favor this approach, and Moorer delivers it with conviction and authority; but for now, she is still a work in progress."
In the spring of 2002, Moorer went on a six-week tour with the Chieftains, lending her supple voice to the Irish band's Celtic interpretations of country and bluegrass tunes. The tour included a performance on the David Letterman show. That same year, Moorer landed a part on the Showtime network's Chris Isaak Show. But she said she was not seriously considering a shift to an acting career. "No, I've got plenty on my plate," she told Nashville Scene. "But if the part is something fun, why not?"
Moorer also told that publication that she was a Stanely Kubrick fan, a serious homebody who would rather cook than dine out, and that she preferred working out in her home gym to being outdoors. She also confided that she was "an admitted furniture freak. I'm constantly pressing my face up to the glass at Carissa's Armoires," she said, referring to a Nashville-area shop.
While her first two discs were released on MCA Nashville, she shifted to the independent Universal South label for her third disc, Miss Fortune. Coproduced by her husband and R.S. Field (a versatile knob-twiddler who has also produced bluesmaster Buddy Guy and Louisiana slide guitarist Sonny Landreth), Miss Fortune broadened Moorer's sonic palette a bit further, employing strings on the opening track, "Tumbling Down." Jim Caliguiri of the Austin Chronicle noted that Miss Fortune added "a healthy dose of Southern soul to the mix, and the effect is extraordinary. Where before she has only hinted at the Dusty Springfield in her, now it's in full blossom."
"Miss Fortune was born in a place where hit singles, formats and abdominizers don't matter," says Moorer on her website, taking a playful swipe at Shania Twain's celebrated bare midriff. "Making it was easy, hard, fun, a pain in the butt, and altogether one of the best times in my life. It introduced me to a new way of making records, and I'm never looking back. When you listen to Miss Fortune, listen to it just for the music," she says. "And don't worry about what bin it's gonna go in at the record store."
by Kevin Ransom
Allison Moorer's Career
Signed with MCA Nashville, 1997; released debut album, Alabama Song, 1998; released Hardest Part, 2000; signed with Universal South, 2001; released Miss Fortune, toured with the Chieftains, and landed acting role on Showtime's Chris Isaak Show, 2002.
- Selected discography
- Alabama Song , MCA, 1998.
- (Contributor) The Horse Whisperer : Songs From and Inspired by the Motion Picture (soundtrack), MCA, 1998.
- The Hardest Part , MCA, 2000.
- Miss Fortune , Universal South, 2002.
- Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 9, 2002.
- Cosmopolitan, April 2001.
- Harper's Bazaar, October 2000.
- Independent (London, England), July 5, 2002.
- People, September 16, 2002.
- Rolling Stone, September 17, 1998.
- Time, October 19, 1998.
- "Allison Moorer," Nashville Scene, http://www.nashvillescene.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?story=Back_Issues:2002:April_11-17_2002:Special_Section:Best_of_Nashville_2002:Sound_and_Fury:Allison_Moorer (December 2, 2002).
- "Allison Moorer: Alabama Song," Rolling Stone, http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews/cd/review.asp?aid=19400&cf=6172 (December 2, 2002).
- "Allison Moorer: The Hardest Part," Rolling Stone, http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews/cd/review.asp?aid=12797&cf=6172 (December 2, 2002).
- "Allison Moorer: Miss Fortune," Rolling Stone, http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews/cd/review.asp?aid=2044583&cf=6172 (December 2, 2002).
- "Allison Moorer: Miss Fortune (Universal South)," Austin Chronicle, http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2002-09-20/music_phases4.html (December 2, 2002).
- Allison Moorer Official Website, http://www.allisonmoorer.com (December 2, 2002).
- "Biography: Allison Moorer," Rolling Stone, http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/bio.asp?oid=6172&cf=6172 (December 2, 2002).
- "Going Soft: Is There a Place for Hard Country on Music Row These Days?" Nashville Scene, http://www.nashvillescene.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?story=Back_Issues:1998:November_12_1998:Music&version=1 (December 2, 2002).
- Additional materials were provided by Girlie Action Marketing & Media, 2002.