With two successful careers ongoing, country musicians and sisters Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer collaborated for the first time on Not Dark Yet, a strong set of covers and one original song. Picking well-known songs from musicians like Bob Dylan (the title track), the Killers (the opening track), the Louvin Brothers, Merle Haggard, Nick Cave, Nirvana, and a few others, Lynne and Moorer deliver exquisite vocal performances and embracing arrangements on the tracks. Altogether the duet album collects their individual nuances into a joyful and reflective album that offers a shockingly powerful message of strength through dark times.
The opening track “My List” and title track “Not Dark Yet” present close similarities to the versions by the Killers and Bob Dylan respectively. By opening the album with these songs, and the Louvin Brothers’ 1960 single “Every Time You Leave” placed between them, Moorer and Lynne explore resilience in loss, amid the songs’ (and artists) theological emphases.
The title track will find attention for how closely it reproduces Dylan’s original from 1997’s Time Out of Mind, and it deserves as much praise, but the nine covers on the album collectively build the message delivered and connect the duets and meanings by the two musicians and sisters. The album presents a longing for someone to return, pairing classic songs like “Lungs” by Townes Van Zandt and “Silver Wings” by Merle Haggard (both 1969) with Amanda Shires’ “The Color of a Cloudy Day” (2016). Jessi Colter’s “I’m Looking for Blue Eyes” (1975) and Nick Cave’s “Into My Arms” (1997) similarly demonstrate shared messages of love and loss across music genre’s and within pop music.
The theme that the pairings of tracks and the album as a whole present is one of timelessness to managing loss in life, illustrated by the opening trilogy of the songs that continue highlighting religious searching and personal longing, all signified by invoking Not Dark Yet as the album’s title. Overcoming life’s difficulties, searching for meaning from God or love, and finding solace in recover and resilience coalesce in a powerful duet by Lynne and Moorer on a faithfully arranged (if somewhat stripped down) cover of “Lithium” by Nirvana. Kurt Cobain’s lyrics treated with reverence and strict adherence provide rebellion but faith as the album comes to a close, together with a striking guitar solo within the stripped track.
The ultimate track is the long original track provided by the duetting musicians and siblings. “Is It Too Much” reflects on shared experiences, connections, and the weight carried following trauma, and provides a measure of closure to the preceding covers on the album. The song is quieter and softer but ends the album strongly and carefully hints at finding support from siblings, as Lynne and Moorer do across the duets on Not Dark Yet.
Not Dark Yet is a cohesive duet album by Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer, but not by the same measure as covers album typically are. The songs selected and covered are arranged close to the original artists, retaining structures and messages, but also in consideration of Moorer and Lynne’s duets and intent on finding strength together and overcoming loss and pain. The most surprising element to this enjoyable and thoughtful album is that this is their first duet album. That the songs are covers is ultimately irrelevant to the care, arrangements, and deliberate duet Lynne and Moorer deliver, the songs finding their strength and shared focus to push ahead after loss.