Every fall, The Americana Music Association gathers members, artists and music fans together in Nashville for its annual conference. Starting with the annual Americana Music Awards and continuing through four days of showcases and panel discussions, it is a tremendous celebration of Americana music.
Here are my highlights among the many live performances I saw over the 4 days I was there. You can also check out Mayer’s favorites.
Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives. I’ve written about how good Stuart is in a live show before. But he’d kind of drifted off my radar the past few years. Then I scored a ticket to a taping with Stuart and his band for Mojo Nixon’s SiriusXM radio show. What an incredible hour of entertainment. From trading jabs with Nixon, “stand up Mojo…if you still can”, to country rapping about the weekend, to playing along note for note with every song on Outlaw Country while waiting for the show to start, Marty entertained us at every point. Oh, then there was his actual set of music. Drawn mostly from his new album, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, it covered everything from rock and roll to gospel a cappella. Along the way we also were reminded just how fine a guitar player Stuart is.
Carlene Carter. I also caught a taping Carlene Carter did for SiriusXM. With a career that stretches from her early teens in the 60’s to present day, she has a rich heritage of just her own musical path. Then throw in the Carter family experiences and it’s a microcosm of country/Americana music. The highlight was when Jeff Hanna, of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and half a dozen other musicians who had gathered in the XM studios reprised 1972’s seminal Will the Circle Be Unbroken.
Trigger Hippy. Joan Osborne and Jackie Greene. You don’t really have to say anything more to know it’s going to be a good show. And yet that generates expectations with many that would be hard to meet. Yet they and the other band members put together a potent combination of virtually every style of music you can imagine and blasted right through those expectations. The worst thing for me is realizing this might be a one-time-only project.
Cory Chisel’s Soul Obscura. I was leaving a venue with a vague plan for the evening when I ran into a couple of friends just coming in. When I told them I was leaving because I hadn’t heard about Cory Chisel, they gave me that are-you-really-that-stupid look. So I turned around and went back in and got the surprise of the week from Cory Chisel’s Soul Obscura. In case you’re like me and not familiar with this project, Cory and his band do covers of obscure 60’s soul songs. And dare I say improve on them all.
Bradford Lee Folk. Another fortuitous decision on my part. Without a particular next destination in mind I stuck around for a set from Folk and his Bluegrass Playboys. With a brain full of heavy lyrics and indie sounds from earlier in the day, the old school bluegrass from these guys was a breathe of fresh air. Flawlessly executed and with a focused sound, I have no doubt they replicate that experience regardless of your frame of mind.
Joe Fletcher. Without his band on his latest album and tour, Fletcher underscores his songwriting ability. His gravelly voice and almost laconic stage presence somehow work in combination to pump excitement into the room. His was the last set I saw of the weekend, and put a proper exclamation point on all the great music I heard the previous 4 days.