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Yesterday, I took a photograph on my iPhone of a stack of polaroids I’ve taken recently and posted it on Instagram. It struck me immediately as an exercise in some sort of redundancy, a picture of some pictures, but I humored myself and let my Sunday morning dalliance in art monsterism slide. I captioned my post by saying I was thinking of all sorts of new formats for 2018. I do love the polaroid as a format — it is immediate, but cool in a way that a digital image isn’t and just can’t be, no matter the filter applied. I am no photographer and don’t know the science, but I have eyes and I see that the light is captured differently. And I do think of the polaroid as a harbinger to the instant gratification that is at our fingertips now — except — the images are not deletable. We cannot say that the captured moment didn’t exist just because we may not like it. We can throw away an image we find undesirable, but it will still exist somewhere, even in the trash.

This isn’t about digital versus analog. But what I am thinking of this morning is change, and how much we have to do with deciding what is kept and what is thrown away. I’ve changed so many times in my life I’ve spun my own head around, and not always by choice. It’s ultimately been a good practice, though, and I appreciate having honed the skill, because at this point, I find that I am able to adapt, to pivot, to make it work, whatever it is, most of the time. However, I am no shapeshifter. I am also blessed because there are parts of me that have been so forged in fire, they are as solid as steel. I think about what those things are. The things I like — such as my capacity for love, my curiosity and tendency to ask why, my strength — I hold close. The things that I consider less desirable — my sharp tongue, my impatience, my tendency to isolate in a bid for self-protection — I try to work on losing. But like the polaroid, even if I try to trash an undesirable image of some feature of my personality, it will still exist, somewhere, even if it’s been bagged up and ferried out to a waste dump barge.

Joan Didion said in her famous essay, On Keeping a Notebook, that, “I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not.” I suppose that has something to do with staying honest with yourself, not getting above your raising, keeping it real. Sometimes it’s interesting to go back to read an old journal or letter, just to remind yourself who you were, where you’ve been, and who you’ve become. Are we not all moving forward, whether we want to or not? It helps to keep perspective, to sometimes take in the broader picture while we do it.

In my constant quest for improving this or trying to keep up with that, I sometimes forget to keep perspective. So my desired format change for now is, as I realize I am looking at the end of what has been yet another rollicking year, to take things in as more of a whole, to consider every experience and every facet valuable, to quit trying so hard just to get to the next thing and make it all look like I planned it. Even if I don’t like something about where I’ve been, what I’ve done, or who I’ve become, those things can’t be discarded and shouldn’t be. A format is how something is arranged, how something is presented, or made available, right? So ultimately, I have to think that how I feel about something is all about the light in which I see it.

Not Dark Yet coming August 18 on Silver Cross Records/Thirty Tigers

The best relationships between singers are symbiotic yet mystical. They bear the demands of the song and revolve around what it needs without discussion. Whether it’s a shared sixth sense or finely tuned intuition, no one has to ask who takes what part. It doesn’t matter anyway — they are of equal importance when two voices nestle seamlessly into a melody, almost imperceptibly gliding across each other when it’s time to switch. It’s not a trick but a sacred dance.

Sisters Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer, now with twenty-four albums and Grammy, Oscar, and many other kinds of awards and nominations between them, share that kind of transcendent musical bond. It’s as deep, haunting, knowing, and beautiful as the Alabama woods they once called home. Both sang as soon as they could form words, but music is the only language they have ever needed to communicate with and understand each other. “Not Dark Yet,” offers a glimpse into that understanding for the first time and finally, after years of trying to get it made, at the right time. Produced by Teddy Thompson and recorded in Los Angeles during the summer of 2016, the album provides a potent look at their individual and collective artistry through eclectic song choices from writers ranging from the Louvin Brothers, Nick Cave, Kurt Cobain, and back to Jessie Colter. Shelby and Allison wrap their arms around the past, plant their feet in the present, and nod toward what’s around the bend with a co-written “Is it too much,” to close out the ten-song set.

“Not Dark Yet,” is not a duet record. It is no ordinary collaboration. It is not a creation, but rather a celebration of something that has always been, two voices becoming one and finding home within each other.

THE SISSY RECORD IS COMING IN 2017

Allison and her sister, Shelby Lynne, have finally recorded the album they’ve been talking about for so many years. Stay tuned for more details!

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photo by Sarah Ellison Lewis