Ask the Moore Brothers band about its influences, and 16-year-old Jacob Moore cites names you’d expect for a bluegrass multi-instrumental ace: Sam Bush, Mark O’Connor, Bela Fleck, Chris Thile and Noam Pikelny from Punch Brothers. But when it’s 12-year-old Isaac Moore’s turn to answer, the reference points become a little less typical.
“Let’s see,” says Isaac, who mostly plays guitar onstage. “Stevie Ray Vaughan and a lot of other guitar players. Albert King, Tommy Emmanuel, Dire Straits ”
At that last name, Jacob and their mother, Patti Moore, interrupt him with a laugh.
“Wait a minute,” Patti says. “Who in Dire Straits?”
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“You know, he plays guitar and sings ‘Money for Nothing,’” Isaac says, unperturbed.
“Come on,” Jacob chides, “you’ve got to know his name if you’re gonna call him an influence.”
Told this story later, Kim Fox laughs. Fox has been watching the Moore Brothers for years, since drafting the group into the International Bluegrass Music Association’s “Kids on Bluegrass” program before Isaac was 7 years old.
“Isaac’s kept his same personality since he was 6 years old,” says Fox. “He’s the same outgoing and completely unafraid kid, like an old soul, and very, very funny. And his brother is just an incredible musician. They both are, really great. I think they’re very intense and awesome.”
The bluegrass audience has been graying for years, and if the style is to survive then young people will have to get interested in not just listening to it, but playing it. IBMA has had several youth-outreach programs over the years, including Kids on Bluegrass.
Members of the Moore Brothers, who have served as Kids on Bluegrass ambassadors for five years, are among the youngest, best and brightest. The trio of Jacob and Isaac Moore and 20-year-old bassist Daniel Perry (onstage line: “They’re the Moore Brothers and I’m The Band Perry”) has released three albums and played as far north as Pennsylvania, as far south as Mississippi and as far west as Nashville, Tenn.
“Telluride’s on the wish list,” Jacob says, referring to the prestigious festival in Colorado.
Their father started Jacob playing different instruments at age 6, and he took up violin at 7 and studied the Suzuki method. Jacob was already an old hand on multiple instruments by the time Isaac came along and also started playing at a very young age.
The Moores’ parents home-school the boys, which gives them the flexibility to play about 50 shows a year. Both brothers also teach various instruments to their peers, which puts them front and center on taking the music to younger folks.
“We do hear that ‘future of bluegrass’ talk now and then,” says Jacob. “We’ve got our own sound you’ve not exactly heard before, in presentation and the way we arrange songs. We’ll take an old Bill Monroe song, change the chord progression or the beat and make it our own.”
They’re not exactly puritanical about bluegrass, either. Bluegrass versions of “The Weight,” “Magic Carpet Ride,” “After Midnight” and other classic-rock chestnuts are regulars in the Moore Brothers’ set-list. And they’re jam-friendly.
“I started on bluegrass and kind of pushed myself over to New Grass Revival,” says Isaac. “Bluegrass is a great root to have because it teaches a lot of speed and flatpicking. Most bluegrass is upbeat flatpicking, so it’s a good way to learn other things. If you’re in a jam session, you can play every style somebody wants you to play. Then there won’t be any jaded listeners in the crowd because there’s something for everybody.”