Allison Moorer and Shelby Lynne talk or text every day. What these sisters haven’t been able to do over the years as much as they want is record together. It’s something their fans have wanted to hear as well.
Not Dark Yet is the hotly anticipated album-length collaboration out Friday Aug. 18 between two of roots music’s most respected artists. Lynne is a flinty country soul singer who’s been loosely compared to a modern day Dusty Springfield. Moorer’s limpid country lyricism and songwriting landed her a place on the prestigious MCA Records in the late 90s and made her central to the growth of the Americana format. They’ve sung together since girlhood, but struggled to make studio plans.
“We tried to get it together years ago, but it wasn’t the right timing. And now it finally is.”
Reached at her New York home, Moorer says time wasn’t on their side when it came to hopes of co-writing an album. They did compose one song, the slow and airy album closer “Is It Too Much.” Otherwise, the project’s nine cover songs, more by accident than design, say a lot about the artists and their relationship.
“There are some directly from our childhood - “Every Time You Leave,” “Silver Wings,” “Looking For Blue Eyes” - those tunes that we know like the back of our hand. But when it came to choosing other songs, it sort of ended up taking the shape of where we come from, where we’ve been and where we’re going.”
The title track is a 1990s Bob Dylan song. Moorer and Lynne cover Nick Cave and the Killers and they wind through the difficult, dissonant intervals of Nirvana’s “Lithium.” They premiere a moody song by Moorer’s long time friend Jason Isbell, “Color of a Cloudy Day.”
“It’s so spare and melancholy, and I knew it was something that Sissy and I could sink our teeth into. And I knew it would fit with the tone of this record as well.”
To achieve that tone, and to let themselves focus on each other and the interpretation of the songs instead of the mechanics of the studio, Moorer and Lynne turned to English folk pop artist Teddy Thompson, son of icon Richard Thompson, to produce the album.
“He somehow pulled off making a record with his own family. We really wanted someone who could navigate a family dynamic. He understands harmony and family singing and that was a must. He’s obviously got good taste in songs and how to do them. We just wanted him to be our guide and he definitely was.”
Not Dark Yet is a stirring vocal pairing, with harmonies and phrasing that are indeed joined by blood. It also serves as a window into the complex and private world of a high intensity sisterhood.