Nancy Moore – A voice in the Hall way
“Being so new in the business means every day is a learning experience,” says Nancy Moore. “I’m really just trying to catch up with myself,” she adds, and though it might sound disingenuous coming from many musicians, it’s an almost painfully obvious truth for the young Floridian.
A year ago she was working as a medical assistant; “I was floundering around, I always wanted to do music but I didn’t know how,” she says. Today she has an album, an agent and a healthy head-start on a career. The difference between then and now? Tom T. Hall and his wife, universally known as Miss Dixie.
“Friends gave us a tape of her doing one of my songs,” Miss Dixie recalls, “and we were taken with her delivery. Nancy’s singing paints a picture. She can make the listener see the story — she’s got a little bit of Dolly in her voice, a little bit of Tammy Wynette, it’s that storytelling ability — and that’s what we care about.” She proceeds to illustrate the point by reproducing Moore’s phrasing on the opening line of “The Farm”, one of seven songs she wrote on the album (Tom T. shares credit on the remainder).
“Tom T. told me that if I’d write a dozen songs, then we’d do a CD,” Miss Dixie continues. “I think he was just trying to get me off his back, because I’d been trying to get him back into the writing, even though he’d been saying he was retired.”
The Halls have a vacation home near Moore’s hometown of Medart, just south of Tallahassee. “So we invited Nancy over, and she started doing demos of songs for us, and we finally went ahead and made the album with her,” Miss Dixie explains.
Though Moore has been singing since she was a child, it was only recently that she took an interest in bluegrass. “I started out singing in church when I was about four,” she says, “but it’s just been in the last couple of years that I’ve gotten into bluegrass. The sound is so great, and there are so many nice people involved.”
Among them, she adds, are the musicians who backed her on the album, including Ronnie McCoury, Mike Bub, Rob Ickes, Scott Vestal, Bobby and Denise All, and Charlie McCoy. All of them were selected by Miss Dixie, except one, she notes: “Tom T. picked Scott Vestal to play the banjo. We went to all the picking that we could go to, and heard lots of great banjo players, but his tone really stood out.”
The Halls can lay claim to some serious familiarity with banjo pickers. Both had cuts with Flatt & Scruggs in their early writing years, and Tom T. logged time with the Kentucky Travelers, an early ’50s outfit that went on to record for Starday. Then there was Tom T.’s bluegrass album of the 1970s, The Magnificent Music Machine, and his Home Grown of 1997, which netted him a genuine hit on the bluegrass charts.
Now, Miss Dixie says, “bluegrass is our sole interest. In bluegrass, you can write from your heart, and it’s real, it’s how we really feel. Our ideas come from real life, like with ‘Picture Of Jesus’ [a song on Moore’s album]. That came from a story Janette Carter told us about a man who came into A.P.’s museum one day.”
The Carter Family Fold (in Maces Springs, Virginia) is important to Miss Dixie, and it’s become important to Nancy Moore as well. “They took me up there, and I sang, and I got to stay in Maybelle’s house,” Moore says. “It was almost spooky to be there, there was such a powerful feeling of the people and music in it.”
Under the circumstances, it’s not surprising that Moore comes off a bit overwhelmed by the turn her career has taken. “I’ve just recently started trying to do a little writing,” she says, “and if something comes of it, that would be great, but with Tom T. and Miss Dixie giving you songs…”
Still, she’s moving ahead with getting a touring band together, and if she sounds a bit diffident, underneath it there’s the same streak of self-possessed strength that gives depth to her sweetness of voice and phrasing on the album — especially on the title track, “Local Flowers”. first recorded on Tom T.’s Home Grown.
“There’s something about that song,” Miss Dixie says. “We’ve gotten all kinds of mail from people about how much it means to them. Even the most commercial of Music City hearts has warmed to that song.”