The Duel

The Duel

by Allison Moorer
3.5 4


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The Duel

Unsettling and irresistible, Allison Moorer's melancholy meditation, The Duel, sinks so deep into existential despair that it emerges as a cathartic experience. Backed by a small combo of redoubtable multi-instrumentalists, Moorer doesn't allow a lot of light in. The music is almost unrelentingly turgid, even when it kicks into a more driving groove, as on the choruses of the album-opening declaration of commitment, "I Ain't Giving Up on You," a positive sentiment delivered with all the gravity of an obituary. Moorer's stories aren't tailored for those seeking happy endings. "Melancholy Polly" breaks out of its torpor on the strength of some stinging, soaring lead guitar lines, but in the end Moorer is still ruminating on the plight of an artist trapped by her own muse ("Her words are a curse / every rhyme every line and verse") and barely able to find a reason to plod on. Churning and roiling, "Believe You Me" finds Moorer declaiming her need to believe in someone, even as she notes others' failed attempts at meaningful lives (a man jumps into a river to cleanse his sins, only to drown because he can't swim). On the title song, her cries of lost faith rise out of a murky soundscape sculpted solely by Steve Conn's piano and Sonny Red's bleak harmonica lines. Ah, but Moorer never espouses bowing out, nearly shouting, "Believe you me / I want to believe in you," to anyone within earshot, God included. With its compelling music and provocative philosophical musings, The Duel is a singular and enveloping journey inward.

Product Details

Release Date: 04/13/2004
Label: Sugarhill
UPC: 0015891398426
catalogNumber: 3984


  1. I Ain’t Giving Up On You
  2. Baby Dreamer
  3. Melancholy Polly
  4. Believe You Me
  5. One On the House
  6. All Aboard
  7. The Duel
  8. When Will You Ever Come Down
  9. Louise Is In the Blue Moon
  10. Once Upon a Time She Said
  11. Sing Me to Sleep

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The Duel 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although this album is very different from Moorer’s last album, I feel that “The Duel” is a real breakout album for her that shows her versatility and true artistry. I feel that is only the exceptionally talented that have the ability to find their own voice and own style in different genres of music, and Moorer falls into this category of the exceptionally talented. This album is a little less country and a little more rock but all Allison Moorer. Her smoky vocals and blunt songwriting blend in perfectly with the gritty roots rock sound (with a hint of twang). Her powerful and complex lyrics back by the rawness of her voice makes for one explosive song after another. My personal favorite is the gut wrenching “Believe You Me”. Her voice is so penetrating and the guitar sound in this song is so powerful that it forces you to take the song in with your entire being. Moorer’s songwriting is complex and questioning, and what songwriting should be. An incredible album by an incredible artist.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There comes a time, even the most talented and pretty slender ladies of country music can get the dark despair derived from the existential suffering. In her last studio album, the alternative country/folk songstress-songwriter Mrs.Allison Moorer deals with distress of not being believed and heard. Like every sensitive and clever artist, she tries to dissolve the chaotic moments of being by creating a fulfilling and enduring career. Her meaningful homesickness for a saving faith in someone or something makes “The Duel” a beautifully crafted, disturbing album. Though her sharp lyrics cannot be accepted easily by each country music fan, her tunes fueled by rock/blues/country/folk are of a premium quality as usual. With an appreciable support from the Mr.R.S.Field & Mr.John Davis rhythm section, her soulful voice (shuttling between that of Mrs.Tammy Wynette's and Mrs.Kelly Willis') is very effective in songs like “I Ain’t Giving Up On You”, “All Aboard” ant the instant classic “Believe You Me”. Highly Neil Young influenced,“The Duel” is not Mrs.Allison Moorer’s most accessible album but it is definitely her most honest and defiant work to date.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Allison Moorer's the duel is a dark and redemptive album which searches for light in the darkest corners, rarely finding it and often giving up. Much like Beth Hart’s Leave the Light On, it deals with the quest for that elusive something that might bring peace amongst characters who have seen far too little peace in their life to recognize the substance. It shies away from the easier, more restful solutions Hart finds in songs like “Sky Full of Clover” and instead winds up walking the knife’s edge between heaven and hell that winds up being life. The album stars with it’s two hopeful songs. “I Ain’t Giving Up On You” finds her asserting “The tin horn’s jumping off of the deep end/betting on a million to one shot.” But she tempers the optimism with “All I want to do is break even.” This is followed by “Baby Dreamer,” a plea to a loved one stuck so far in the dark that they can never see the beauty. Moorer twists this around to herself on “Melancholy Polly” about a singer with the question of whether or not her dark songs are a self fulfilling prophesy because “her life only happens for a song to sing.” “She tears into “Believe You Me,” a song about desperate searches for faith in anything or anyone, with the fervor of a street corner bible thumper. Then she sinks into the quiet desperation of an alcoholic trying to talk a bartender into a single drink, just to keep going. Next comes the ferocious rant of “All About,” a dark rant about the current fervor of patriotism, with military undercurrents that bring to mind images of Nazi goose-stepping. “The Duel” is a haunting, ironically hymn like ballad which finds the protagonist not so much denying God as finding faults with him, “Faithfulness was my excuse/now tell me what was yours.” “When Will You Ever Come Down” has a deceptively bright melody which underscores the moral of how crutches of escapism become barriers, “joyrides for the pain/sparkling in your brain/nothing’s there just a haze/Swallowing up your days/When will you ever come down.” Next she takes off down the trail of four hapless men taken to the edge of their varied existences and Louise, who “is in the Blue Moon/putting up her dukes.” This segues into the stunning beauty of “Once Upon A Time She Said.” The title itself rings of broken fairy tales and this song shatters the biggest one of all--that if you work hard enough you can change the world. This song finds the protagonist not so much at the crossroad, but rather at the end of the road and realizing that she is without the strength to go any further. “Sing Me To Sleep” is a quiet lullaby, almost a punctuation that refuses to allow the listener to comfort themselves with the idea that somehow the characters we heard about got their lives together and lived happily ever after. Quite the contrary, it all stops here. Janet Turner Hospital opens The Last Magician with the lines, “In the middle of the journey, I came to myself in a dark wood where the straight way was lost. No. That is not the way to put it. In the middle of the darkness I came to the black fact that there was no straight way--no way on, no way out.” This album is about the moment when a persons realizes the difference between those two things--the difference between the way out being lost and the way out not being there at all. Moorer doesn’t offer easy outs, or even difficult ones--she doesn’t have to. To pretend that any of the clichés about time healing or life getting better apply here would be to render the whole album false. If you think this album is too dark and depressing to be real, go find an alcoholic, talk to a homeless person, meet the man or woman screaming bible verses on the street corner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago