My friend Nancy LaMott, who died of cancer in 1995, was the best cabaret singer I ever heard–period–as well as one of the dearest people I ever knew. She recorded five CDs during her lifetime, and a sixth was released after her death. They’ve been out of print for several years, but are now available again from her old label, Midder Music. To order them, go here.
I wrote a reminiscence of Nancy a few months after she died (it will be included in A Terry Teachout Reader) in which I described her singing as follows:
What I heard…was a warm, husky mezzo-soprano voice that seemed twice as big as the woman in whom it was housed; a vivid yet unaffected way with lyrics; and a quality at once sensuous and achingly idealistic. Later, after I had met Nancy, I would write that her singing sounded “as if the girl next door had snuck out at two a.m. to make a little whoopee with her steady boyfriend,” a description that delighted her no end.
All of Nancy’s records were good, but if you want to try just one, make it Come Rain or Come Shine: The Songs of Johnny Mercer. I have a sentimental attachment to that particular album–it was my own introduction to Nancy’s singing–but I also think it’s the best of her six CDs, if not by much. I can’t see how anyone could possibly hear her performance of “Moon River,” the first track on the album, without falling in love with her singing. I did, and I was also fortunate enough to spend quite a bit of time with her in the year and a half before she died. It’s nice to know that people who never heard her live will now be able to buy her records. If you didn’t, do.