Allison Moorer and her sister Shelby Lynne at the 18th Annual Americana Music Festival & Conference in Nashville on September 14, 2017. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images for Americana Music)
Photo: For the AJC
Photo: For the AJC

Allison Moorer on the harrowing trauma behind new memoir and album

Allison Moorer speaks about the harrowing trauma behind new memoir and album.

Early on in “Blood: A Memoir” (Da Capo), celebrated Alabama-born singer-songwriter Allison Moorer distills the moment that shattered her young life: “I think it was around 5 a.m. when the gunshots woke me. There were two. They came very close to each other.”

The sound of the .30-06 rifle her estranged father fired to kill her mother before turning it on himself would echo in Moorer’s mind from that time on — and forever alter the way she and older sister, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Shelby Lynne, viewed the world.

But if “Blood” is a harrowing, often dark chronicle of Moorer’s journey to investigate the past and wrestle with the trauma of an unimaginable tragedy, it’s also an artful, beautifully written story that ultimately resolves in the light of love and hope.

“Blood” is the title of the new memoir and companion album by Allison Moorer. Contributed by Allison Moorer.
Photo: For the AJC

What’s more, Moorer just released a new album, “Blood” (Autotelic Records/Thirty Tigers), that’s both a companion piece to “Blood: A Memoir,” and a big part of the book tour she’s embarking on this month.

Moorer will be at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur on Nov. 8, where she’ll read from the book, play songs from the album, and engage the audience during a Q&A moderated by Kyle Tibbs Jones of the Bitter Southerner.

Last week, Moorer phoned from Nashville, where she was getting ready for the tour and busy doing interviews.

“This is new for me to discuss this business in such an in-depth and open way,” Moorer admitted. “But I can’t exactly say, ‘No. I don’t want to talk about it.’ I just wrote an entire book about it. It’s out there so I’m going to have to follow that up now. And that’s fine. It’s not necessarily easy all the time. But I’m figuring it out.”

Asked how the album and the book fit together, Moorer said it was another way to explore the dynamics of her musical parents, Vernon Franklin Moorer and Laura Lynn Smith Moorer, and her bond with Lynne, who contributed “I’m the One to Blame,” a song with a complicated history.

“The one song I did not write is ‘I’m the One to Blame,’ which was a lyric of our father’s that she found after they died, and she put music to it,” Moorer explained. “It was found in his briefcase. And the original handwritten lyric had the date of 1967 on it. So that means he wrote it when he was 25 or 26.”

“But what I tried to do on this record was to have it be a companion piece to the book, but also be a standalone piece of art, which I feel like I did. And I’m kind of covering all of our characters in a way. The record starts with ‘Bad Weather,’ which is sort of the intro. It’s a song about situational depression and about a memory rolling in. Then, after that, ‘Cold Cold Earth’ comes in and starts the song cycle that follows.

“‘Nightlight’ is really about our relationship when we were little girls, and it’s still really relevant to the way we feel about each other now. I sort of imagined my mother’s voice with ‘The Rock and the Hill’ and then it goes on to him in ‘I’m the One to Blame’ and ‘Set My Soul Free.’ So that ends that section. And then it goes on to me and the present day and how I feel now. I just went very much with my gut and what I felt like the record needed and should be.”

Acclaimed singer/songwriter Allison Moorer is the author of the new memoir “Blood” (Decapo Press, $27). Heidi Ross.
Photo: For the AJC

How Moorer feels now is decidedly different from how she felt before writing “Blood.” During a television interview for CBS News she told correspondent Anthony Mason that she felt nothing but love for her father now.

“Well, what’s the option? I think I’ve just come to that point where I don’t want to drag any negativity around,” Moorer said when asked to elaborate. “I don’t want to drag around anger. I don’t want to drag around resentment for anyone. And I work very hard to keep myself in a centered spot, so that I keep all that stuff in perspective. I think it is shocking to some people to hear me say that. And there was even some criticism that came out about me saying that. As if he doesn’t deserve forgiveness. Or I’m some kind of idiot.

“My parents have been gone for 33 years. And I had to do a lot of hard deep work to get to the place that I’m in, and it’s not easy to be in it every day. I still have a lot of conflicted emotions. But the overriding emotion is I love my parents. I miss them. And I do believe that no one is reducible to one act. I don’t know why he did what he did. But he did. Can’t change it. And there’s no need of me being mad about it anymore, because it is what it is. I feel love and sympathy and empathy for both of them.”

Beyond all that, Moorer believes the book may help others deal with trauma, too.

“For it to exist as something that tells our story, and then become something larger, as sort of an invitation for people to investigate their own history, and to dig through their own stuff, and look under their own rocks, makes me very happy,” she said. “And that is already the message I’m getting back from the world. People now want to tell me their stories, and I’m so happy about that. It feels more like an act of service.”

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.