Americanafest kicked off with Nashville native Sheryl Crow playing an intimate gig hosted by Spotify at the Canerey Ballroom. She wasn’t alone either, joined on stage by British up and comer Jade Bird and roots legend Bonnie Rait.
Tuesday evening it was over to the Basement East for Better Together : that Memphis groove n’ grind featuring a host of stars each playing a song recorded in Memphis. Will Hoge growled through The Boxtops “The Letter”, soul singer Mike Farris delivered a stunning performance on William Bell’s “Everyday will be like a holiday” and Bobby Womack’s “A woman’s gotta have it”.
Nicki Bluhm killed it with Anne Peebles “ How strong is a woman”. The four hour marathon leanded heavily on soul and R’n’B but Liz Brasher and Aaron Beavers rocked it up in fine style. The Nashville rocker even lead an all-star rendition of three six Mafia’s hop hop classic “ its hard out here for a pimp”. A magnificent way to get the festival up and running.
Wednesday evening was the centrepiece of Americanafest, the awards ceremony at ‘The Mother church of country music’ the Ryman auditorium, led by The Buddy Miller all-star band featuring Don Was on bass and gospel vocalists The Mccrary sisters. Highlights included Brandi Carlile, artist of the year, who performed songs from her latest album. Emerging act, War and Treaty, lifetime achievement award winner Delbert Mcclinton, inspirational award winner Mavis Staples and lifetime songwriting award winner Elvis Costello. Elvis and Mavis were joined onstage by all the acts for a rousing rendition of the gospel classic, “I’ll fly away”.
Following on from the awards it was off to Third and Lindsey for country music legend Tanya Tucker who has found a new home in Americana with her latest Brandi Carlile produced album “ While I’m livin’”. Tanya was joined onstage by producer, Brandi (who had hotfooted it from the awards show) and twins, Tim and Phil Hanseroth. Tucker proved her resurgence with some nifty hip shaking and her throaty roar. The evening ended in spectacular fashion with her classic debut hit (recorded at just 13 years of age) “ Delta Dawn”
Thursday afternoon it was off to The Westin Hotel for a talk entitled Soulshake: The legacy of music city soul. Soulshake told the story of music city known for country but just as much an R’n’B city. Legendary Jefferson Street had The Del Morocco where a young Jimi Hendrix learnt his chops.
Frank Howard from The Commanders and Lorenzo Washington who owned legendary Soul Shack records in Jefferson Street told stories of playing with Jimi and performing on the R’nB show Nightrain. Lorenzo also discussed his friendship with the mythical transgender singer Jackie Shane. Following Soulshake it was a short walk in 105f temperature (yes it was hot) to The Broadway Institution and the worlds finest honky tonk, Roberts Western World for DJ Mojo Nixon’s Music City Mayhem. Sarah Gayle Meech and the Meech boys provided backing for a host of luminaries including Corb Lund, Jonny Cash’s daughter Carleen Carter, Dale Watson and celebrating their 30th anniversary, The Mavericks, full band crammed onto Roberts tiny stage. Singer Raul Malo leading the band through their hits and a spirited version of Bruce Springsteen’s “ Hungry Heart”. Thursday’s highlight was The big velvet review curated by Paul Cauthen at The Basement East featuring Aubrie Sellers singing her new single “Drag you down”, The Banditos storming through tracks from their Visionland album. Chris Shiflett, podcaster and Foo Fighter was up next with his southern rock styling’ s from wonderful second album released in June, “ Hard lessons”. Other highlights included Elizabeth Cook, Jesse Malin, Judy Blank and King Corduroy. The show though was stolen by Chuck Meade with his rockabilly twang. Mid set he was joined by Jerry Phillips, son of Sun records legend, Sam Philips, bringing it all full circle.
Friday morning started in fine fashion with Canadian Blast event at Indo Nashville featuring fantastic performances from Les Hay Babies, William Prince, Mo Kenney and Terra Lightfoot. Terra brought the house down with a snarling version of Leadbelly’s “Black girl”. Friday evening was the absolute highlight of the festival, ‘To The Moon and Beyond, a tribute to 1969’ at The Basement East. The sky was no longer the limit in 1969. From man’s first landing on the moon to the birth of what would become the internet, this significant year of change catapulted America into the next decade. Seismic political and cultural shifts resulted in a combination of many tumultuous events, such as the Charles Manson murders, Stonewall riots igniting the ongoing plight,of the LGBTQ community and their fight for equality and acceptance, and 400,000 rock’n’roll music fans congregating at Woodstock. With the 70’s just around the corner artists from this time maintained a progressive mind and an open heart with their music. Whiskey Wolves of the West (multi instrumentalists) aided by a horn section and 5 female backing singers played for 5 hours, 50 songs. 50 acts from the festival each performing a song from 1969. Quite simply, one of the most amazing nights of my life!!
Saturday morning began with The North Carolina day party featuring, Jim Lauderdale, Michaela Anne and the riotous R&B of Daddy Long legs! After Fridays exertions you might think there would be a come down, but none of it as it was off to The 5 spot for ‘We’ve only just begun a tribute to the Carpenters and more’. Erin Rae compared and help a curate a set much like 1969 of Carpenters classics and 70s AM radio fave raves from amongst others, Bread, Jim Croce, Glen Campbell, The Monkees and Scott Walker. Singers such as Catlin Rose, Andrew Combs, Logan Ledger, Natalie Prass and lily Hyatt each performing a song each. The band of multi instrumentalists were tight and played it pretty close to the records. Another unforgeable evening!
Sunday’s schedule was dominated by Nashville’s finest current songwriter and performer JP Harris and his now annual ‘Sunday morning coming down’ event. Another fabulous daywith JP Harris and his friends Erin Rae, Molly Tuttle, and JD McPherson’s band The Mid Ten 3 amongst others.
Gotta give a mention to Joshua ‘Mr Jukebox’ Headley and the Headliners at their Monday night Roberts western world residency. Named Mr Jukebox because of his encyclopedic knowledge of country songs and his bands ability to play almost anything from the country genre. Joshua’s set had the whole house boppin’ and Two steppin’ to country classics.
Now in it’s twentieth year Americanafest keeps going from strength to strength, astonishing collaborations, astonishing music and astonishly good value. Couple that with Nashville’s famed Southern hospitality and you’re set. “Its time to switch to Whiskey we’ve been drinking beer all night”.