A capacity audience in the classy surroundings of Glasgow City Halls provided the perfect setting for Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer at Celtic Connections on 27th January. The sisters from Alabama are both pioneers in the territory between country music and what has come to be called Americana and they have long been celebrated for their exceptional strength and vision as both songwriters and singers. Surprisingly, given their extremely close bond as sisters (both of their parents died in tragic circumstances when the girls were still in their teens), last year’s critically-acclaimed Not Dark Yet was the first-ever album they had made together, consisting of an eclectic range of covers and a new song from Shelby.
The first part of the show was used to showcase the ten songs from the collaborative album and, with the help of their tight and versatile band, Shelby and Allison (who refer to each other as ‘Sissy’) completely nailed each one, producing wonderful individual vocals and breathtaking harmonies and stretching with ease from country and bluegrass to grunge and rock. Each song was a highlight, but I was particularly impressed by the sisters’ beautifully-judged and original takes on the covers of the wistful My List (The Killers); the quietly impassioned Not Dark Yet (Bob Dylan); the freewheeling country blues of Lungs (Townes Van Zandt); the majestic The Colour Of A Cloudy Day (written by fellow Alabamian, Jason Isbell); the elegance of the anthemic Nick Cave favourite, Into My Arms; and the deliciously woozy and spaced-out Lithium, this Nirvana classic allowing the band to really rock out, with Shelby and Allison feeding off this energy and treating us to a raunchy, rock-chick performance. However, the most emotionally-charged song in this part of the set was the spine-tingling and heart-breaking Shelby Lynne original, Is It Too Much, in which Shelby tries to finally come to terms with the tragic loss of her parents (“…is it too much to carry in your heart…”).
The remainder of the gig consisted of a number of songs written by Allison and Shelby over the years in celebration of Alabama, with recurring themes of homesickness and often harking back to special moments in their childhood. The most striking examples were Allison Moorer’s poignant Alabama Song (…”are you going to Alabama, where the trees grow tall and green, I’d like to see the Gulf of Mexico, if you’re going, won’t you take me…”) and, from her breakthrough album (1998’s I Am), Shelby Lynne’s evocative Where I’m From, partly sung in Cajun French ( “…elegamment les batos passant, ben on la flota vec du van, all I’m trying to say is I’m never far away from Alabama frame of mind…”). The special bond between the sisters was particularly apparent during these songs and this warm vibe added to the intimacy and enjoyment of these songs.
Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer are seasoned performers who retain a real passion for their art. This was some of the finest Americana music you could possibly hear, infused with large measures of Southern soul and delivered with real warmth and style.
For more information on Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer, click here (https://www.shelbyandallison.com)