RECORD REVIEW: Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer

At long last, the Moorer sisters convene for 'Not Dark Yet,' a contemporary country classic

"Everything that rises must converge" - Flannery O'Connor

At long last, after rising separately in the music business to a mutually respectable level of success, the Moorer sisters have converged onto a full album of carefully chosen songs that capture their rich familial harmonies. Shelby Lynne has over a quarter century's experience, and has witnessed the good and bad sides of the business. Her decision to break away and do her own thing has proven to be fruitful, as her post-major label records are serious keepers. Allison Moorer, following a Nashville stint on the alt-country friendly MCA label, hit her own creative stride on indie labels such as Sugar Hill and Rykodisc. With only one live recording of the sisters ever released, the anticipation for Not Dark Yet was palpable among fans.

And what a payoff. Recorded mostly live in the studio with Teddy Thompson at the helm, Moorer and Lynne turn in career-defining performances. The richly blended harmonies are the quintessential family sound, their honey smooth Alabama accents wrapping each track in love and reverence. Thompson's production gives the album a warm and comfortable sound, and with some of the best "studio musicians" you can find such as Benmont Tench (Tom Petty) and Taras Prodaniuk (Dwight Yoakam) on board, the instrumentation perfectly complements the voices and the material.

Moorer and Lynne are both quite accomplished songwriters, but only the closing track "Is It Too Much," is self-penned. Reflecting on their own relationship, bonded forever not just as sisters, but as survivors, the song is an emotionally charged declaration of their need for each other, and their strength together. The cover tunes are odd bits and pieces from a vast range of writers, each one given the unique Moorer/Lynne magic. While there is not a weak cut, standouts include the Nick Cave composition "Into My Arms," which is transformed into a mellow country love song. Their near-dissonant harmonies bring new life to Kurt Cobain's melodically challenging "Lithium." With nods to Alabama's own Louvin Brothers, songstress Jessi Colter, and the late Merle Haggard, Moorer and Lynne maintain their country credibility. Not Dark Yet is long overdue, but well worth the wait. ★★★★☆

Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer with Kelly Hogan. City Winery. Saturday Sept. 2. 8 p.m. $30-45 (SOLD OUT-Waiting list available). 650 North Ave. 404-WINERY1. www/citywinery.com/atlanta.