Straight from the heart

<i>Alison Moorer</i> | Dingwalls, London
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The Independent Culture

Alison Moorer's elder sister Shelby Lynne may have got all the publicity for her re-styled relaunch earlier this year but tonight's performance leaves no doubt who got the biggest share of the family talent pool.

Alison Moorer's elder sister Shelby Lynne may have got all the publicity for her re-styled relaunch earlier this year but tonight's performance leaves no doubt who got the biggest share of the family talent pool.

Obviously, both siblings were indelibly marked when, as teenagers, they watched their father shoot dead their mother and then himself. It would be ghoulishly compelling if the slight but striking 28-year-old from Alabama's backwoods - sleeveless black T-shirt, blonde trestles, cool blue eyes, a rich aching contralto - were to wallow in this morbid past.

But, what she does is far more profound and meaningful - using the event as a jumping-off point to view the world at large and discover a release beyond the cold hard truth. She not only has the songs to do this but, unlike Shelby's band ordinaire, a group of unerringly precise Nashville-bred musicians feeding her the healing power on which she thrives.

The opening, "Long Black Train", begins the journey, pre-Elvis rockabilly blues with a punishing backbeat. The cool but haunted delivery marks her territory, and the rich swirl of influences comes through with each successive song.

Will Kimbrough's angry chiming guitar fires up "Bring Me All Your Lovin'" and gives a tearful edge to the ragged rapture sought for in the song. Multi-instrumentalist Michael Webb, whose organ and keyboards add a rich soulful timbre throughout, dons an accordion for the astonishing "Is it Worth It". "This song makes my insides feel like they're on my outsides," she says before delivering a vocal, rising like a Gospel valediction over the sad ruins of a love affair that bears her out.

In her between-song raps Moorer is an infectious and deprecating presence. "If you want to be happy don't come to my shows, it's so bad, the other day I even depressed myself," she offers before the solo "Cold Cold Earth" an almost unbearably open account of her parent's life and death.

Perhaps its no surprise that with such anguish in her formative years Moorer should harbour a full, flaring, rocking soul. The evidence comes when the title track of her current sophomore album The Hardest Part, which segues into The Stones' "Sweet Virginia", played with a veracity and defiance Jagger & Co would be hard pushed to match. She follows it by introducing guitarist Kimbrough to duet on his (musically) ballistic solution to the US domestic firearms problem, "Don't Have A Gun". The polite seated audience comes close to mass cardiac arrest, especially when she gets to the line "You can all go straight to hell." But by then she'd taken them so close to heaven it was hard to take offence.

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