Americana Music Festival – What I Heard

In addition to the awards ceremony, the AMA puts on a pretty hot music festival for the 3 days following the ceremony.  It’s a great chance to see some old favorites and hear some up & coming artists.  Grouped by the “how” I heard them versus the “where” or “when” here are some of the highlights I caught of the festival.

Showcase Performances.  This a code name for hearing music at one of the local bars.  The festival kicked off on a high note with Corb Lund performing at the Mercy Lounge right after the awards show.  For a lone singer-songwriter, he really had the crowd worked up and capped it with a performance of Bible On the Dash with co-writer Hayes Carll. Thursday night,  Twangville favorite Lydia Loveless turned in a great performance at The Basement.  Later that evening Sons of Fathers converted a venue full of people who were hearing them for the first time into hardcore fans.  And while I seemed to be the only one in the room who wasn’t already on the bandwagon, The Deep Dark Woods followed that with a performance that blew me away.  On Friday, in a larger venue, The Dunwells played Public Square Park for a free show as the openers for the BoDeans.  Nashville music fans, a discerning lot, got some insight into why the mix of rock and twang from this group has turned the band into a must-see act.

Richard Thompson & Sara Watkins at XM Studio, photo by Krissie Gregory

Radio Tapings.  Satellite and Internet radio channels used the opportunity of all the great musicians in town to tape some single songs and multi-artist segments for later playback, and in some cases live broadcast.  My favorite was an XM broadcast featuring Steve Forbert, Jason Isbell, Richard Thompson, and Sara Watkins.  Although no one in the group is a slouch, Thompson had the audience and the artists on the stage in awe of his guitar playing.  Perhaps it was best summed up when Watkins switched from guitar to fiddle with the comment, “I hope he can’t play one of these.”  And you can never have too much ’52 Vincent Black Lightning.  An honorable mention goes to Corb Lund and Hayes Carll doing a taping for CMT Edge of the aforementioned Bible On the Dash.  The duo have clearly spent a lot of time together, finishing each other’s sentences in the interview questions that followed.  More than anything, though, you just know there was some autobiographical content in the song about being pulled over for speeding.  Officer, “my foot was heavy with redemption…”

Admission Sign, photo by Tacy Judd

Registration Bag.  When you checked in for Festival credentials, you got a bag full of magazines and flyers, and buried down at the bottom several recently released, or soon to be released CDs.  The Wood Brothers doubled our pleasure with 2 discs, Volumes 1 & 2 from live performances.  The recordings are part Creedence Clearwater Revival, part New Orleans second line, and a sprinkling of insights on the relationship between bars and heaven.  Amy Black caught my attention with a disc that’s a musical variety show that I’m still finding new sounds on.  And Trevor Alguire dropped one in that even on first listen is like an old favorite sweater.  His voice wraps around his songs delivering warmth and sincerity and wry observation.  And his guitar on Darknessreally conveys an anxiety that makes it my favorite on the album.

That’s just a quick take from me.  Mayer is going to paint a more detailed picture with multiple posts over the next few days that will have you lined up to go to Nashville for next year’s event.

Click here for more Americana Music Conference coverage.

About the author:  Support new music. Listen to a band or singer you've never heard of this week. I've been doing that for over 30 years.

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