The Duel, the most recent release by Nashville singer/songwriter Allison Moorer, is soaked through with early Neil Young and Patsy Cline and rings with a kind of immediacy unique to a woman known for making her own decisions.
"Of course I used to get the 'little darlin'' treatment," says Moorer, referring to unscrupulous Nashville record execs. "When you're a songwriter and you're a woman, the industry isn't too excited to know you have your own ideas."
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At this point in her career—age 32 and with four studio albums under her belt—Moorer speaks about her experiences more casually than she would have seven years ago, when she first arrived in Nashville. Any hint of naivet was obliterated by the time her live album, 2003's Show, was on the shelves long enough to collect dust. Though not quite a commercial failure, it fared poorly by Nashville standards and forced Alabama-born Moorer to seriously weigh her options.
"When I started, I had every intention of contributing to the country-music canon," she says. "But that was before I found out it didn't exist." After her string of major-label releases (on MCA Nashville and Universal South), she signed with North Carolina-based Sugar Hill Records. It was a matter of integrity. And freedom—not only from the "little darlin'" treatment, but also from the rigors of a scene to which she clearly didn't belong. Now, Moorer doesn't regret her stint in Music City—nor does she regret leaving.
"It's a shame because country music—you used to be able to rely on it to get you through the night," she says. "Now it's like going to the mall. It's cheap emotionalism. Any sort of art that's aimed at making money will lack any sort of substance."
ALLISON MOORER OPENs FOR STEVE EARLE AT THE HOUSE OF BLUES, 1530 S. DISNEYLAND DR., ANAHEIM, (714) 778-2583. SAT., 8 P.M. $25-$27.50. ALL AGES (16 AND UNDER MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY AN ADULT).