Allison Moorer (left) and Shelby Lynne | Photo by Carolyn Logsdon; Joe Henry | Photo by Trish Luna
There’s something about sisters.
Through fight or flight, fame or ill fortune, misunderstandings and misgivings, in sickness and in health, there’s a bond of everlasting love. You mess with my sissy, you mess with me.
In the case of Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer, regardless of their sometimes rocky relationship off stage, we’re talking the smoothest lock-step of harmonies onstage, as only siblings can pull off. Their voices blend more in the way of Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart — Shelby, like Ann Wilson being the more powerful vocal instrument of the two; indeed one of the most sublime of her generation — than Phil and Don Everly, the gold standard of sibling vocal pairings.
Fresh off a well-received first-ever collaborative album “Not Dark Yet,” Lynne and Moorer walked hand in hand to the stage arising from the main floor of history-rich Downtown Presbyterian Church for their much-anticipated early evening AmericanaFest showcase Thursday.
Among the 300 or so in the crowd were Americana Music Association director Jed Hilly, Thirty Tigers entertainment company chief David Macias, and, in the front row, a beaming Traci Thomas, manager of Lynne and Moorer as well as Jason Isbell, and also a co-founder of the Americana Music Association.
Given the sisters’ oft-told back story, you could call this the Soul Survivors tour.
High points abounded, the sisters trading off lead vocals from both their award-winning back catalogs and their recent album, which included the set-opening “My List.”
That was followed by “Every Time You Leave,” the Bob Dylan cover and title track “Not Dark Yet” with Moorer accompanying on piano, their take on Isbell and wife Amanda Shires’ “The Color of a Cloudy Day,” and a particularly lovely version of Nick Cave’s “Into My Arms,” also featuring Moorer on lead vocals and piano.
The set shot into overdrive with their version of Nirvana’s “Lithium,” with lyric sheets procured on the fly and their three-piece band taking a bit off time to get just the right minor chord vamp going.
“I’m so horny … but that’s OK,” sang the sisters, entwined and on the same mic, as they slid through Kurt Cobain’s lyrics.
“My will is GOOD!” cried Moorer, her voice rising into a joyous shriek.
The sisters headed for home with Moorer’s “Alabama Song” — “You know when you grow up in the woods,” quipped Lynne … “you gotta talk about it.” They kept on the autobiographical path with “All of a Sudden You Disappeared,” “Miss You Sissy,” and “I’ll Hold Your Head.”
The concert closed with the sisters, cheek to cheek again, singing the well-known refrain of the American Songbook classic “Side by Side” — “Oh, we ain’t got a barrel of money … maybe we’re ragged and funny.. but we’ll travel along, singin’ a song.
Can I get an Amen?
An AmericanaFest Swiss Army Knife this week both solo and with touring mate Billy Bragg, a solo Joe Henry opened the show with his usual thoughtful, well-crafted songs, delivered with powerful acoustic guitar playing and self-assured stage presence. Highlights included “Believer,” from his new album “Thrum” due Oct. 27, and his back catalogue “Our Song,” as he took a turn on the piano.
The 18th annual AmericanaFest continues through Sunday at various sites throughout Nashville. For an up-to-date schedule, go to http://americanamusic.org/2017-schedule.