AmericanaFest 2019 Wrap

We review the week of music in Nashville

Site of one of the many unofficial shows – Photo: LTTL

AmericanaFest 2019

Nashville 10 – 15 September

GrassRoots Music Tour

Images: Jim Jacob

Words: Rob Dickens

We review the week of music in Nashville

This year The Americana Music Association was celebrating the twentieth anniversary of AmericanaFest. This was my seventh.

In 2019 the event again stretched for six days, Tuesday through to Sunday, with Tuesday and Sunday ‘shoulder days’. The Awards Show on Wednesday night again formed the keystone of proceedings, providing a glamorous tent pole for an otherwise pretty casual week.

The weather was hot – every day – which meant more ride sharing for me than normal and plenty of water required. Once again I forwent the Conference. I figure I have attended only one or two panel sessions in the past four years. Not they are not interesting or informative. In fact, this scribe would like to inculcate himself with fervor into these proceedings (it might very well improve my messaging on this site, in fact), but when choosing between talking about music and listening to it, I choose the latter!

Colin Linden – Photo: LTTL

By my calculations, I observed over sixty performances during the week, not counting the Awards Show nor innumerable guest spots. At some places, there were more artists in the audience than on that session’s roster, making you feel like you have found a true listening place. It also indicates the strength and supportive artist network that prevails here in this captivating city. In fact, it’s hard to progress here unless you have that mutual support and creative collaboration outlet.

Venues-wise, every festival is vastly different, hence much of the appeal that keeps this event fresh – the line-up is revamped, as are the locations. Last year, I spent many hours between The Local and The Filming Station – this year, they weren’t used. In 2018, I somehow didn’t get to The Station Inn once but this time around I saw just about the best music of the week over two long nights. Last year, I didn’t make it across The Cumberland River to East Nashville, this year I did it twice (one sojourn coincided with the Tennessee Titans playing their first home game at the sold-out Nissan Stadium – did I hear someone say delays and Uber surge pricing?!)

The Highlights

The Mavericks – Photo: LTTL

OK, The Mavericks are one of the great live bands on the planet for sure. But to see them squeeze onto the Station Inn stage and have the ability to watch them up close was unforgettable. How many times have I seen Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley play? – many indeed but nothing like their Station Inn show – new, fuller sound and a jamming frenzy which was breathtaking.

Photo: LTTL

The Bobby Rush/Gary Nicholson/Sean Ardoin/Jon Cleary sessions at 3rd & Lindsley were a blues/funk blast. Two friends during the week told me that Brian Wise’s Off The Record live radio show were their favourite part of the week – they are not exaggerating – interesting discussions and plenty of live music from Molly Tuttle, Dee White, Corb Lund, Steve Poltz and many more meant three hours in the cool time very well spent.

Lost Buffalo and Market Monkeys put on a house concert with Sarah Siskind, Mark Erelli and others – intimate venue, plenty of new music and Bloody Marys an inspired combination. Hillbillies and Hotdogs at Compass Records is always a joy and Molly Tuttle with a A-grade band was a tour de force. Although beset with sound issues, Billy Strings at the BMI rooftop left no doubt as to his and his band’s prowess and power.

Photo: LTTL

The intimate and revealing interview with Waylon Payne was memorable, as was the incomparable Jason D Williams at the Atomic Music Group‘s Landing Party – my head is still spinning from that one!

Now, to the Americana Honors and Awards Show. Rating my seven so far, this ranks just about up there with the 2014 show which had Ry Cooder in the House Band and performances by Loretta Lynn and Jackson Browne.

Again, hosted by The Milk Carton Kids and with stalwart Buddy Miller in charge of musical direction and an All-Star Band featuring Brady Blade, Ian Fitchuk, Jim Hoke, Shannon McNally, Dirk Powell, Don Was and the McCrary Sisters.

Sublime performances from Rhiannon Giddens, a duet between John Prine and Bonnie Raitt, J.S. Ondara, Our Native Daughters, Mark Erelli (with heavyweight friends), Brandi Carlile, The War and Treaty and Yola. T Bone Burnett presenting and Elvis Costello accepting an award was wonderful and the presentation to Mavis Staples from an original civil rights activist Freedom Rider left not a dry eye in the house. The price of this event seems to rise every year (this time I opted for the premium $225 seat and got second row on the balcony) but it remains the musical highlight of my year.

Jimmy Sutton – Photo: LTTL

JP Harris’s Sunday Morning Coming Down with JD McPherson and John R Miller and plenty of guests I suspect is going to become a permanent part of my AmericanaFest diet.

The Disappointments – My Bad

Not seeing Yola in a full set (just the one song at the Awards Show) but her star has shone at this event and its build-up. A future assured following on from her supreme Dan-Auerbach-produced album Walk Through Fire. I missed Mike and the Moonpies playing highlights from their past two albums at a packed High Watt. Will Kimbrough continues to elude me (my fault not his). Maybe next year?

In Summary

That’s it – I cannot think of another single reason to justify why AmericanaFest is the favourite event in my musical calendar.

If you don’t believe me, come join me in 2020 – 15 to 20 September.




We review the week of music in Nashville

We review the week of music in Nashville

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Author: Rob Dickens

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  1. I believe we will see you there–IF our busy paths cross–in 2020. Headed to RBBBQ next week, Folk in January. Enjoy the rest of your trip, loving reading your take on bands. JD’s back here 12/17!

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    • That’d be great Sara! You’d love it. Hope you have a super time at RBBQ – let me know of any new great finds. I’m aiming for Folk Alliance when it goes back to Kansas City in 2021. Thanks for reading, as always

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