Americana Music Festival & Conference Concludes In Nashville

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Words and Images by: James Martin

Americana Music Festival & Conference :: 9.19-20.15 :: Nashville, TN

Read James’s review after the photo gallery.

What a week it has been in Nashville for the Americana Music Association’s Festival and Conference. Saturday was officially the last day of the festival with numerous BBQs and free showcases going on during the day. There was no mistake that it was the last weekend of summer in Nashville, as it was the hottest it had been all week. That didn’t stop people from packing in over at The British Underground’s Bootleg BBQ at the Groove Record Store.

Lewis & Leigh, a U.K.-based duo made up of Mississippi-born Alva Leigh and Welsh-born Al Leigh, made the trip to the Americana Festival. The first thing that caught my ear when listening to them was how they harmonize. I don’t like making comparisons to other bands as each band has a unique sound, but they remind me of The Everly Brothers or even a more upbeat The Civil Wars. Their set included songs off their new EP Hidden Truths which comes out next month. Their set felt like a tease since it was only 35 minutes and left me wanting more. Keep your eyes out for these two as they were had quite the buzz around the festival.

Next up was country rocker Whitey Morgan & The 78’s. Out of Flint, Michigan, Whitey and the boys have been touring their heavy-hitting outlaw sound throughout the country and made the stop in Nashville for the festival. Whitey & The 78’s played from all ends of his catalog, starting his set with the classic “Bad News” and playing newer hits from his latest album Sonic Ranch, such as “Me and the Whiskey.” Having blown away the crowd the previous night at 3rd & Lindsley, Whitey didn’t hesitate to drop another performance in a short set on a hot Saturday afternoon.

The McCrary Sisters have been a staple at the Americana Festival for the last few years. With their high-energy gospel sets it is no question they are a fan favorite. When they started off singing about “going to have a mighty good time” I knew it was going to be one! Even though City Winery is a seated venue you couldn’t help but move around in your seat. The McCrary Sisters invited their brother Allen McCrary out for a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” which seems as much relevant of a song now as when it was released. They urged the crowd to release all that was bothering them with “Let It Go” and closed out their set with “Fire.”

Nominee for 2015 AMA’s Emerging Artist of the Year Doug Seegers followed The McCrary Sisters with a more traditional take on country music, twang and all. Seegers played several tracks off his album Going Down to the River including “Angie’s Song,” a soulful ballad about a lover in jail. Seegers, who was discovered busking on the streets of Nashville after a bout of rough luck, is the real deal. He finished his set with his LP’s title track, “Going Down to the River,” the Hank Williams-esque tune that gained him the opportunity to cut his album and make it big.

To end the festival on Sunday there was a special show at 3rd & Lindsley put on by the Americana Music Association and local Nashville radio station Lightning 100. Jay Farrar was the main feature, performing songs from Son Volt’s first monumental album Trace. Oklahoman soulful singer Parker Millsap opened the show with his gospel style crooning with a short set, largely consisting of new songs to be featured on his new album. Son Volt’s Trace came out 20 years ago and was a fine example of Americana before the term “Americana” was used to define and popularize this genre of music. For this show, original Son Volt member Eric Haywood accompanied Jay on pedal steel as well as Gary Hunt who held down the strings with his guitar, mandolin and fiddle. While Farrar focused mainly on Trace, the night did include other tracks spanning the Son Volt catalog. To end the set, Farrar closed out with Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & #35.” Farrar’s version was a dark twist that was unrecognizable until he started to sing the lyrics, refreshing for a song so widely covered.

Head here for James Martin’s take on Wednesday’s action and here for Thursday.