You might not know who Allison Moorer is but you probably know her ex-husband.
Last year she got a divorce from the guy she’d been married to for ten years and when I found out, all I cared about was him.
You see, her ex-husband is Steve Earle and I feel like I know Steve Earle. I know I don’t, but I feel like I do. So, when the marriage broke up, he was the one I felt bad for. I also felt dumb for thinking this one would stick. That he would grow older and die at the age of 85 with Allison Moorer, only 17 years his junior, crying by his gravesite.
They were in it for the long haul, I could tell.
Sure, by the time I first heard Steve Earle’s music in 1988, he had already been married five times, twice to the same woman, but that was back when he was using. That was back when he was fucked up and self-destructive, five o’ clock shadowed and burly. That was back when he looked like a long shoreman back from a bender. That was then.
In 2005 the 33 year old Allison Moorer married a different guy. She married the 50 year old bearded poet who had relocated to Greenwich village. The reformed womanizer. The elder statesman of country/rock/folk. That guy was too busy speaking truth to power on his protest records, showing up in David Simon shows, and stopping by Democracy Now! to kvetch about oligarchs with Amy Goodman than to wreck a marriage. Wasn’t he?
When I found out they were divorcing, I only felt bad for him. I didn’t know anything about her and I didn’t care. I felt this way because I am a bit of a misogynist, I guess.
And then I heard “Down to Believing.”
It’s hard on me because listening to this song lets me know a little bit about her too.
It’s like staying up all night drinking with a buddy, listening to him complain about his ex only to run into her in the juice aisle of the local grocery store and speak with her long enough to realize that the whole thing was his fault. Or at least more his fault than you had previously given him credit for.
And it’s shitty that this whole article is about him because the song is great and Moorer is great. It’s hard for me to separate the song though, from the knowledge that it’s about Steve Earle. It’s hard not to see his craggy, busted face when she says “Now you look so surprised cause there ain’t none left / And you’re just empty-hearted and sad.” It isn’t even the best song on the record. It doesn’t have the doomy rumble of “Thunderstorm Hurricane” or the serrated swamp of “Mama Let the Wolf In.” It’s not the best song, it’s just the one stuck in my head.
Why is it stuck in my head? It probably has something to do with the fact that it’s a sad and bitter waltz. Or maybe it has something to do with how the guitar part blooms wildly and unexpectedly the way black ink does when it hits water. Or it could be the lyrics.
We found it hanging from a cloud that time we went up there
It looked like diamonds and pearls
It was so much of it I wore a little in my hair
Everyone said silly girl
I get where she is coming from. We are all coming from that same place. We all thought that what we found was made up of diamonds and pearls. We all wore it in our hair. We all thought things were going to work out. What else would we be doing here if we didn’t think what we had was special. We are all silly little girls.
But she’ll be allright. After all she’s the one who says “life’s too long to wake up everyday without someone /Who likes all your scratches and scars.” Anyone who says stuff like that is going to be just fine. Then again, what do I know? I thought those two kids were gonna stick together till the end. Just take what you can from her doleful music and be happy that they made a kid who is, by all accounts, pretty dope, plus we got a couple good records out of the deal.
But whatever you do, stop calling her Steve Earle’s ex, god damn it. Don’t be such a misogynist.
One thought on “Stuck in My Head #19: Allison Moorer “Down to Believing””
I met Steve Earle at, of all places, a lifeboat drill on my third Cayamo music cruise. I was starstruck and dumbfounded, and all I could think was that my late brother-in-law, a rabid fan of Steve Earle, arranged the whole thing from above. Earle is great live, and I have really come to love his music over the last ten years or so. The next year he brought Allison on the cruise with their one year old, John Henry. I had never heard Allison but she was absolutely wonderful. I remember watching them on stage and thinking that Steve was a little too controlling with how her mic was arranged and where she was standing. Sure enough, fast forward a couple of years, and wife number seven (or is it eight?) is gone, gone. They both make great music, separately and together. They should just keep doing that. What Steve Earle should NOT do, in my opinion, is ever get married again. Ever. And the best part about Matthew’s post is the last line.