On her eighth studio album, Allison Moorer reunites with producer Kenny Greenberg. He helmed her first two MCA albums, 1998's Alabama Song and 2000's The Hardest Part. They spent two years recording Down to Believing at various Nashville studios. Life-changing circumstances -- living in New York, being the mother of a young son with autism, going through a divorce, the availability of musicians -- dictated the pace.
In the album’s powerhouse rock opener “Like It Used to Be”, Allison Moorer uses her Alabama-accented vocal to create a don’t-mess-with-me vibe, singing, “It ain’t ever gonna be like it used to be / Don’t want to say goodbye but it’ll set me free.” This declaration of freedom announces only the beginning of a difficult process that we see worked out through her art. Unlike the majority of albums these days that are structured as collections of songs, Down to Believing is a thematic full-length album that creates a narrative and emotional arc. These songs are birthed out of loss and hardship, guilt and grieving, as they were birthed from the dissolution of her marriage to Steve Earle.
Despite Allison Moorer having been married and just a couple months away from giving birth to her first child at the time of its release, Crows was haunted by the specters of death and heartbreak. Musically, the album suggested less domestic bliss than an intriguing simulacrum of it, and lyrically ….
Despite Allison Moorer having been married and just a couple months away from giving birth to her first child at the time of its release, Crows was haunted by the specters of death and heartbreak. Musically, the album suggested less domestic bliss than an intriguing simulacrum of it, and lyrically even hedging that interpretation. Five years later, the country singer is separated from rock-star husband Steve Earle, pending a long-in-the-works divorce, and faces an autism diagnosis for her four-year-old son.
“Change comes in like the rising tide,” sings Allison Moorer on the opening track to her first album in five years. And she should know. In the interim between releases, she had a child later diagnosed with autism and watched her marriage to Steve Earle dissolve. But, like the best songwriters, she transforms those painful events into songs with themes we can all relate to.
To say that the five years since the release of Allison Moorer's last album — 2010's Crows — have been eventful would be a bit of an understatement: the singer became a mother, then was faced with both the diagnosis of her son John Henry's autism and the collapse of her marriage to Steve Earle. Down to Believing, Moorer's eighth studio LP, is a powerful and at times cathartic expression of heartbreak and doubt shaped by adversity and the aftermath of a separation. Recorded over two years in Nashville with Kenny Greenberg, who produced Moorer's first two full-lengths, Down to Believing trades its predecessor's softer folk arrangements for crisp layers of electric and acoustic guitars and a thoroughly contemporary radio-friendly country rock sound.
Nashville albums with raunchy rock guitars usually belong to the knucklehead genre of bro-country; all pick-up trucks, beer and girls. Allison Moorer’s ninth album is the precise opposite, a measured reflection on marital break-up (to fellow muso Steve Earle) and the diagnosis of her son with autism. It’s a brave album, at times raw with anger – Tear Me Apart is a showdown song, Mama Let the Wolf In is about the challenge of motherhood – at others pensive, as on Blood, about the bonds of family.