AmericanaFest 2017 Wrap

Read about the Americana Music Festival and Conference Just Finished in Nashville

By Rob Dickens


“Watch Your Body Parts!”

On the United flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles, there was a slightly over-zealous hostess whose commands were delivered within a ‘I-haven’t-got-all-day-to-serve-you’ customer ethos.  Somehow the expression is fitting for part of the survival guide for what we have been subject to over the last few days at the 16th annual Americana Music Festival and Conference (AmericanaFest) 2017.



First up, this is my fifth AmricanaFest back-to-back.  I have seen it grow steadily, but not alarmingly so, each year.  This year had its growth features – an extra day on the official schedule (although it did not seem any more stretched out than last year), a little more goings-on on Sunday and more venues (The Anchor, The Country, LA Jackson Rooftop Bar, Music City Roots at the YeeHaw tent, Razor &Tie, the War Memorial Auditorium).  The Conference moved again this year, to the newly-constructed and better-situated Westin Hotel.  All in all, live venue stages stretched to almost 60.  And there were more artists too, over 300 this year.



Unsurpassed. You get a full return for your full registration costs plus the Honors and Award Show ticket.  Wristbands are incredible value but you don’t have access to the Awards Show, Conference Sessions, RSVP’s to some hot off-campus events and your place in line can get bumped by badge holders.


The Honors and Awards Show

Again, a magnificent cornerstone for the festival, held on the Wednesday night.  After five in a row, you can get a little picky (I rate the 2014 Show with Ry Cooder in the All-Star band as my favourite).

Sturgill Simpson took home Album of the Year, for his 2016 release A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, while pretty-well-established Amanda Shires was (a little suprisingly) crowned Emerging Artist of the Year.  Longtime Bob Dylan guitarist Charlie Sexton received his first Americana award, for Instrumentalist of the Year.

Lifetime Achievement honors went to Van Morrison (Songwriter), Robert Cray (Performance), the Hi Rhythm Section (Instrumentalist), Iris Dement (Trailblazer), Graham Nash (Spirit of Americana/Free Speech In Music) and HighTone Records founders Larry Sloven and Bruce Bromberg.

Performers on this star-studded night were:

Old Crow Medicine Show, Jim Lauderdale, Brent Cobb, Lori McKenna,

Iris Dement, John Prine, Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives,

Sam Outlaw, Amanda Shires, Billy Bragg/Joe Henry, Graham Nash with the Milk Carton Kids,

Drive-By Truckers, Aaron Lee Tasjan, The Lumineers, Robert Cray,

Hurray For The Riff Raff, Margo Price, Jason Isbell and Van Morrison.

The Americana All-Star Band was led by 2008 Lifetime Achievement honoree and 2013 Instrumentalist of the Year, Larry Campbell, Robbie Crowell, Jim Hoke, Jerry Pentecost, Chris Wood and the McCrary Sisters backing many of the night’s performers.

The full list of Winners and Honorees is below.

The Show had a few surprises – Buddy Miller, leader of the All-Star Band was sick, Award recipient Rodney Crowell – sick also, no intermission, not much of Jim Lauderdale as host, Van’s reaction to his award was minimalist and the finale was a little fizzer.  In another break from tradition, no photography was allowed.


The Best Shows

Well, I figure I saw outside of the Awards Show about sixty sets over the five days. I didn’t see anything that wasn’t good, which is the trademark of AmericanaFest.  It is all worthwhile no matter where you go, it’s just about what you like more than most. In some sort of temporal order, these were my favourites:

Hurray For The Riff Raff – BMI building

SUSTO – BMI building

Big Star and Friends – Cannery Ballroom (first time I’ve seen seats there)

Rhiannon Giddens – Songwriting Session at The Westin

The Texas Gentlemen (with JP Harris) – The Family Wash

Lori McKenna – 3rd & Lindsley

Drive-By Truckers – Cannery Ballroom

The Dead South – InDo

Off The Record radio show with multiple guests (including Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings), hosted by Brian Wise – Sound Stage Studios

Josh Ritter – Union Station

Jason Eady – Cannery Ballroom

Grace Askew – The Filming Station

Shane Smith and the Saints – The High Watt

Doug Seegers – The Mercy Lounge

The Howlin’ Brothers – Station Inn

Hugh Masterson – Fond Objects

Brian Wright (pictured) – Fond Objects


The Verdict

Every AmericanaFest is different.  Where you go, who you see. I had two friends with me this year and we just ambled around and hit gold most of the time.  Aside from seeing some artists too many times where the bond starts to wear thin, I can go anywhere and sample anything that’s on offer.  The joy of this event, apart from the unabated quality of the artistry, is that each year you can catch dozens on NEW performers.  The showcase format remains a fave of mine.  Generally, they are 30-40 minute sets, with no encore. Bands and soloists therefore give it their best shot, playing as though their lives depended on it.

A six day hubbub of the best music, irrestible.

Watch Your Body Parts indeed!


Next year

3rd & Lindsley last night was the close-out show.  Executive Director of the Americana Music Association Jed Hilly announced the dates of AmericanaFest2018 –

11 to 16 September


Mark the dates, better still, COME JOIN US next year!
#americanafest #totaltennesseetour


What’s Up?

Our Tour has three more nights in the beautiful, friendly and vibrant city of Nashville – the Opry, Music City Roots et al.  Then we’re heading to Hurricane Mills TN, Memphis TN, Clarksdale MS, Chattanooga TN, Bristol TN/VA, Galax VA and looping back to Nashville.

Living and loving the music.


#americanafest #totaltennesseetour


Winners of the 16th AmericanaFest Honors and Awards:

Album of the Year: A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, Sturgill Simpson, Produced by Sturgill Simpson

Artist of the Year: John Prine

Group/Duo of the Year: Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives

Song of the Year: “It Ain’t Over Yet”, Rodney Crowell (feat. Rosanne Cash & John Paul White), Written by Rodney Crowell

Emerging Artist of the Year: Amanda Shires

Instrumentalist of the Year: Charlie Sexton

Spirit of Americana/Free Speech in Music Award co-presented by the Americana Music Association and the First Amendment Center: Graham Nash

Lifetime Achievement Award, Trailblazer: Iris Dement

Lifetime Achievement Award, Songwriting: Van Morrison

Lifetime Achievement Award, Performance: Robert Cray

Lifetime Achievement Award, Instrumentalist: Hi Rhythm Section

Lifetime Achievement Award, Executive: Larry Sloven and Bruce Bromberg




Read about the Americana Music Festival and Conference Just Finished in Nashville

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Author: Rob Dickens

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