Thursday, October 2, 2014

Americana Music Festival 2014

Mike Farris at Grimey's Americanarama.

September 17th – 20th
Nashville, TN

The dates are misleading. The math may say four days, but this Nashville extravaganza has spilled out on both sides, bleeding into pre-festival shows, post-festival concerts and mid-festival lunches and brunches and who knows what else. Nearly two hundred artists and nine venues just don’t seem to be enough. This is not, on the whole, a bad thing.

Adam Klein at the Family Wash.
The awards show, held at the Ryman Auditorium, has stepped it up each year but this time, instead of the red carpet, black tie and bluegrass, I opted something a little more down home on the other side of the Cumberland River at The Family Wash. While Jason Isbell was using a broom on the hallowed planks of the Mother Church to sweep up the three major awards, I was comfortably ensconced in East Nashville where Tommy Womack, Lisa Oliver-Gray, Adam Klein and several other acts played short sets to an appreciative, friendly crowd. This is a reminder that there is wonderful original music everywhere in this town and you don’t have to work hard or go far to find it.

The nightly showcases are the real attraction during the Americana Music Festival, of course. Forty-five minutes to do what you do, then clear the stage. For me, the highlights were the very strong sets in the Mercy Lounge from Billy Joe Shaver (born 1939) and Parker Millsap (born 1993, fifty-four years later), Amy Ray, who played tunes from her excellent new release Goodnight Tender, and the always amazing Willie Sugarcapps at the Basement, where Grayson Capps surprised the rest of the band by playing a song they’d never heard before. And speaking of surprises, on Saturday, Cory Chisel’s Soul Obscura project did it for me. At the City Winery, armed with a set of semi-obscure soul covers, Chisel’s stage presence and command of the songs made this my favorite set of the day.

Cory Chisel's Soul Obscura.

As a visitor to Nashville, I really enjoy the daytime shows, because I can pretend I live here and get to do this stuff all the time. On Saturday afternoon at Grimey’s Americanarama, Kevin Gordon showed no signs of slowing down after his previous night’s gig with the Hard Working Americans and along with the gospel-blues of Mike Farris, they kept the day’s energy crackling. Over in East Nashville, at the Groove, Cory Branan and Matt the Electrician played acoustic sets while the Mas Tacos food truck kept folks fed and, check this, the first tasting of Yazoo Americana Fest Ale, a beer brewed especially for the fest.

The success of Americana, both as a festival and conference and as a genre, has been a fascinating, upward-spiraling, wonderful thing to watch and this year’s edition didn’t disappoint. As the festival continues to expand each year, one has to wonder what’s next. There are high expectations for 2015.

Curtis Lynch
October 2014

Americana Music Honors & Awards 2014 Winners:

Album of the Year: Southeastern, Jason Isbell, Producer Dave Cobb
Artist of the Year:  Jason Isbell
Duo Group of the Year:  The Milk Carton Kids
Song of the Year:  “Cover Me Up,” Jason Isbell
Emerging Artist of the Year:  Sturgill Simpson
Instrumentalist of the year:  Buddy Miller
Spirit of Americana / Free Speech in Music Award co-presented by the Americana Music Association and the First Amendment Center:  Jackson Browne
Lifetime Achievement for Instrumentalist: Flaco Jimenez
Lifetime Achievement for Performance:  Taj Mahal
Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriter: Loretta Lynn
President’s Award:  Jimmie Rodgers / Award Presented to Jimmie Rodgers Museum in Meridian, MS.

No comments: