My Americana Music Festival and Conference 2016

Read my review of the Americana Music Festival and Conference 2016


The Accidentals

Nashville Tennessee 27 September 2016

It has been another incredible few days.

The Americana Music Conference Festival and Conference (aka AmericanaFest) this year has been crammed with so many highlights that will resonate with me for years to come.

This is my fourth consecutive Americanafest and about my eighth visit to Music City.  The more times I come here the more apt is that Music City badge.  The weather has been hotter this year than I remember and, for me, the festival comes at the end of a five-week tour.  You do need to come here with stamina as the music on offer is both magnificent and plentiful.  My schedule has been such that daily reports on this site have simply not been possible.

The city of Nashville continues to be going through a jaw-dropping building boom.  Massive cranes are in view wherever you go and high-rise apartments sprout continually.  Every year seems to bring a new landscape and I pity the struggling singer-songwriters trying to keep up with escalating rental and house prices.

I recall my first visit to the iconic Station Inn in The Gulch in 2009 seeing Jim Lauderdale.  After the show, you felt the need to walk back to the hotel pretty quickly as the area was dark and relatively deserted.  Now, that world-famous venue is dwarfed by towers and surrounded by new retail and eateries for the relatively well-heeled.  I suspect that by next year, someone will have built OVER it!

The Festival has expanded this year – in days, performers, sponsors and venues.  Places like The Filming Station, InDo, 12th and Porter, to name a few, have hosted some great events. Each year I come here I meet old and new friends and more music business connections.  Combined with some of the best and most diverse music you’ll see, it is simply intoxicating.

Performers and sound engineers do not muck around here.  No encores, extraneous sound checks, elongated set-up times or anything other than the tightest of sets.  Forty minutes is a pretty standard show length, and twenty minutes later the next performer has cranked  up with pristine sound.

The list of who I did not see is long – The Black Lillies, LAU, Robbie Fulks, Bottle Rockets, Dwight Yoakam, Bruce Hornsby, Billy Bragg and Joe Henry, The Steel Wheels, John Paul White, James McMurtry…impossible to fit them all in.


The Bo-Keys

Ok, enough ramblings.  My highlights are many and varied (in some sort of order) and start with probably my constant musical highlight each year:

1. The Americana Honors & Awards Show, on which I reported previously.  In summary then, here are the performers at the Awards Show at The majestic Ryman Auditorium:

Jim Lauderdale (host), Alison Krauss, Buddy Miller, Stuart DuncanJoe HenrySteve EarleBob WeirNathaniel Rateliff and the Night SweatsShawn ColvinBonnie RaittDwight YoakamThe Milk Carton Kids, Emmylou Harris and Rodney CrowellJason Isbell with Amanda ShiresBilly BraggJohn MorelandThe LumineersParker MillsapWilliam BellLucinda WilliamsGeorge Strait, and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

Buddy Miller‘s All-Star Band included Dave Cobb, Stuart Duncan, Fred Eltringham, Matt Rollings, Steve Fishell, Chris Woods and The McCrary Sisters

Steve Earle‘s thunderous rendition of his recently deceased friend Guy Clark’s ‘Desperados Waiting For A Train’ with Miller’s band was breathtaking.

2. John Prine Station Inn.  This was on the Thursday night where choices were ridiculous, but I selected well.  This show was at the end of a bumper bill at this venue – Teddy Thompson and Kelly Jones, Larry Campbell and Theresa Williams and Amanda Shires (with Jason Isbell).  Interest was so high in this show that the organisers instituted a ballot for selected Conference badge-holders to line-up.

John Prine is celebrating his 70th birthday next week with two sold-out shows at The Ryman.  Tonight he graced us with two riveting sets – one which featured his first album front to back with a second set of songs around his new duets release and some of the greatest songs from his extensive catalogue.  A terrific band, with the addition of the sublimely-gifted Fats Kaplin (pedal steel, accordion and violin) and guests Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires.  I will be reviewing the show in more detail soon.

3. William Bell 3rd & Lindsley.  Bell received an Americana song-writing award two nights earlier – he released great songs when the Stax label ruled Southern soul.  His songs include ‘You Don’t Miss Your Water’, ‘Born Under a Bad Sign’ and ‘Everybody Loves a Winner’ and have been covered by Albert King, Linda Ronstadt, Billy Idol, Jimi Hendrix, Etta James and Warren Haynes.  In 2016 he released This Is Where I Live (produced by John Levanthal, on a revitalised Stax label.  Here he had a twelve-piece band, the sound was brilliant, his voice amazing and the new material stands up very well eg ‘Mississippi Arkansas Bridge’.  Stax is back and Southern soul reigns again.

4. Kaia Kater @ InDo

Her sound is stripped back and measured, but Kaia Kater has a lot to say.  Her new album Nine Pin delves into issues faced by African-Americans today and reflects on her own heritage duality.   Born of African-Caribbean descent in Québec, she has deep ties both to Canadian folk and Appalachian music through her time spent in West Virginia.  Only twenty-three years of age, her voice is rich and low, part Rhiannon Giddens and part Nina Simone and, armed with just a banjo, she speaks with quiet authority.

5. Deering & Down @ The Filming Station

Canadian born chanteuse Lahna Deering met and befriended rock and roll journeyman Rev Neil Down and the mix is unusual and compelling.  The merging of Deering’s strong belt-it-out voice, and Down’s quirky guitar playing is a creative joy.  I had their CD while the set was on, but could not guess one song they were playing.  Nor could I tell when the song was going to finish.  I like that.

6. Bob Weir (Grateful Dead) Interview with Buddy Miller @ Country Music Hall of Fame

Somehow, I missed the whole Grateful Dead thing.  Not by design, but back in the day things were not as easily accessible and information travelled by word-of-mouth more than anything else.  This was a music education, talking about Weir’s new cowboy songs album Blue Mountain (some of which he played) his guitar styles and Dead history.  Oh, and of course Buddy knew which questions to ask.

7. River Whyless @ 12th & Porter

Chanting, jaunty, great harmonies, some Eastern mysticism and just about anything else goes into this band’s heady mix.  This Asheville, North Carolina outfit really impresses – Ryan O’Keefe (vocals, guitar), Halli Anderson (vocals, violin), Daniel Shearin (bass, vocals) and Alex McWalters (drums).  They have released two full length albums A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door (2012) and 2016’s We All the Light.  They jumped into the middle of the crowd at the end and performed a beautiful rendition (sans mikes) of Dylan’s ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’.

8. Jim Lauderdale @ 3rd & Lindsley

I’ve seen Lauderdale a few times over the years but this set was special.  His tribute to the musical histories of Memphis and Nashville, which also draws influence from Texas for his 28th album This Changes Everything is great to absorb.  Brass, country r’n’b and his emotive vocals were a treat.


The Americana Music Festival and Conference is highly addictive and I cannot imagine not being here next year.


Kaia Kater



Read my review of the Americana Music Festival and Conference 2016

Read my review of the Americana Music Festival and Conference 2016

Read my review of the Americana Music Festival and Conference 2016

Read my review of the Americana Music Festival and Conference 2016

Read my review of the Americana Music Festival and Conference 2016



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Author: Rob Dickens

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  1. Thanks for the great report. Did you get to the (our) Aus BBQ showcase? I’m interested to know which artists really got the audience excited…

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  2. Yes, I did. I was there for the whole bash at The Filming Station on the Friday (and then at Brian Wise’s Show at Southern Ground Studio that same day and Kasey’s showcase that night, and a little bit of the Sunday Twin Cities show). Kasey blew a few people away with her new song, CW Stoneking was great and Russell Morris with a band rocked the place. Liam Gerner playing with Robbie Fulks on Off The Record a treat. I’ll be doing a more detailed report at Addicted To Noise as soon as I get over my jet lag!

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