Lorrie Morgan is no stranger to the limelight, demonstrating incredible talent as a vocalist -- she began her singing career in her teens at the Grand Ole Opry, was a session vocalist for years, and finally emerged as an artist and star in her own right. Since 1989 she's scored three number one singles, charted with 25 more, and has recorded nine studio albums. Morgan also has a knack for landing in the spotlight in her dramatic personal life, but that's of no concern here. What is, however, is A Moment in Time, a 2009 gem of an album recorded for the Country Crossing imprint. There are literally dozens of records that have been recorded in the 21st century where artists cover classic country songs. (In fact, the trend is so commonplace in country that it nearly rivals the one in jazz and pop, with vocalists covering tunes from the Great American Songbook ad nauseam.) That disclaimer aside, Lorrie Morgan's take on the same thing is VERY different and therefore not only worth hearing, but worth seeking out at any cost because it leaves others in the dust. For starters, these 14 songs were cut in two absolutely live-to-tape studio sessions. There are no overdubs of any kind and all the participants, from the band to the vocal chorus to the string section, were in the room, recording from the floor simultaneously -- in other words, STRICTLY old school. You hear Morgan's voice exactly as she performed these tunes without punchouts and splices in the final mix. Just as importantly, she chose (mostly) material that wasn't necessarily obvious. She cut songs such as "Are You Lonesome Tonight" by Lou Handman, and "After the Fire Is Gone" as a stellar duet with Tracy Lawrence. Also included are amazing takes on Mel Tillis' "Alright I'll Sign the Papers," Freddie Hart's "Easy Lovin'," another killer duet with Raul Malo, and even Faron Young's "Wine Me Up" -- songs unrecognizable to listeners of contemporary country music but treasured by fans of the music's golden age.
Morgan claims she wanted to make a record of songs that inspired her to sing in the first place -- and with the passion, elegance, and discipline she puts into this effort, she's succeeded in spades. Check the slippery gracefulness in her reading of Webb Pierce's "Leaving on Your Mind"; the shimmering late-night cheating song that isMel Street's "Borrowed Angel"; and the sheer commitment in capturing the essence of Bob Montgomery's "Misty Blue," Jimmy Webb's "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," and Chuck Howard's "I'm Always on a Mountain When I Fall" -- she is jaw-droppingly sincere, and her interpretations of these songs make them her own because of their originality, without sacrificing reverence for the standard versions. The performances of the backing vocalists and musicians are equally inspiring in an age when bland rock music posing as country pours out of Nash Vegas studios like wastewater. The production team of Wally Wilson and Chip Voorhis is stellar -- they let nothing get in the way of that voice. The recording process, handled by Niko Bolas and Ben Terry, is equally expert, making A Moment in Time a recording that is singular. Records like this are very rare -- and were even n the classic country era. It demands attention from listeners by the sheer passion of the artful performances of all concerned. Given the state of country radio in 2009, it feels like this stands as a record Lorrie Morgan made to satisfy her own heart's desire. But is there any better reason?