Nancy K. Dillon
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Nancy K. Dillon

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The best kept secret in music


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Still working on that hot first release.


Feeling a bit camera shy


Nancy K. Dillon is making a name for herself. This gifted singer, songwriter and recording artist from Seattle weaves the textures and rhythms of American folk and country music into her songs and those songs fit very comfortably in today's genres of alt-this and Americana-that. But her sound is painted from a much broader palette.

"I grew up in an extraordinary musical environment. My composer/professor/church choir directing/big band jazz-playing father was the most influential. His life centered around his music and his family. My mother sang hymns around the house. Both my sisters loved to sing and play. I also benefited from hearing and being around some of the best songwriters arising from Oklahoma's deep and rich music tradition—folks like Kevin Welch, Jimmy Webb, Phil Sampson and Roger Tillotson."

There is a subtle sweetness in Nancy's voice that makes it instantly appealing. It's a disarming sweetness, somehow, because her voice is also very direct and precise like a sharpened knife. And after you listen for a while you realize that her work is fueled by a deep appreciation for music that glows like a bed of embers beneath a strong musical sensibility.

Nancy sings about escaping her native red dirt Oklahoma on the opening track of her 2004 release Just Let Me Dream. She may have left town but she is clearly a product of that great musical cauldron that bubbles and boils in the American Southwest. You can hear the wind in her voice. Sometimes you can taste the dust, too, and feel the hot summer sun. “You can leave Oklahoma” she says, “but Oklahoma never leaves you. I go there as often as I can because the land and people so inspire me. Most vividly, I remember the sky and the wind. I think of the endless clear blue days and infinite star-marked nights. My hope is to infuse my songs and sound with a feeling of that red earth, spaciousness and the simplicity and drama of the elements."

Just Let Me Dream has generated a definite buzz. The album has a very open and engaging sound that was captured by the capable hands—and ears—of engineer Garey Shelton in Seattle. It has been hailed by many critics as a wonderfully honest and soulful album. Nancy and her frequent musical collaborator Michael Hill co-produced.

"I rounded up the best players I could find and turned them loose. We wanted to make a record that would breathe and come alive." The album features some virtuoso performances on mandolin (John Reischman), fiddle (Paul Elliott) and dobro (Stacy Phillips)—just listen to "Almost to Idaho" and try not to grin—as well as a cameo appearance by Brit-folk rocker, Clive Gregson. But the overall focus of the production is squarely on the songs. Dillon appreciates the magic and mystery of the songwriter's muse. "Songs come to me in all sorts of ways. For example, I don't know what made me think of singing the phrase, 'O Susanna, night is coming on.' But it stuck in my head. I don't even know exactly what that song is about but people respond to it. I play it and the room goes dead quiet... what kind of voodoo is that?"

Both “The Ballad of Mabel Dodge” and “Almost To Idaho” were chosen as finalists in the Tumbleweed Song Contest. Upon its release Just Let Me Dream was selected as Best NW Release by KBCS 91.3FM and #6 on the American Roots Radio Top 10. It has received international airplay and has been extensively reviewed.

Dillon lives in the Pacific Northwest and has contributed to the Northwest music scene as a musician and a DJ. She was a founding member of the renowned Western swing band Ranch Romance. But it's those Southwestern roots that continue to nurture her—and her soulful voice polishes the music until it gleams and sparkles like fine jewelry. Listen to her perform sometime and see if you don't agree.