Americana Music Festival & Conference Rolls On In Nashville

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Words and Images by: James Martin

Americana Music Festival & Conference :: 9.17.15 :: Nashville, TN

Read James’s review after the photo gallery.

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On Thursday, the Americana Conference and Festival started around noon with a special “Americana’s Most Wanted” session hosted by SiriusXM Outlaw Country featuring Warren Haynes, Ashley Monroe and Whitey Morgan with Donnie Fritts rounding it off on the Wurlitzer piano. The SiriusXM Theatre is an intimate venue that seats about 60 people and overlooks Broadway and The Ryman. Each artist performed one of their songs solo and then the second round came with the artists sitting in with one another. To close off the hour the group finished with an audience sing-along of The Band’s “I Shall Be Released.”

Fast-forward to the evening showcases as The Legendary Shack Shakers kicked off the action at The Cannery’s High Watt. Fronted by Colonel JD Wilkes, the Shack Shakers put on an intense 45-minute set which featured songs off their just released album, The Southern Surreal, their first LP in five years. They wowed the attentive crowd with their driving sound and Wilkes’ energetic gestures and unique performance. It is truly an experience to witness this band live.

Afterwards, all you had to do was walk downstairs to the Cannery Ballroom to see Ray Wylie Hubbard. The crowd was made up of Ray Wylie’s faithful fans as you could hear the crowd sing along to just about every song, including the ever-popular “Snake Farm.” Ray was joined by the Trishas for “Blessings” and Aaron Lee Tasjan came out to help out on guitar for “Wanna Rock and Roll.” To close out the set, Ray paid honor to James McMurtry with a cover of “Choctaw Bingo” which was a perfect way to end the performance.

Heading back up to the High Watt, Canadian Country Music Association Roots Artist of the Year Lindi Ortega put on an amazing show. Starting off with a lively “Run Down Neighborhood,” Lindi pulled out all the stops right off the bat. She even covered the Bee-Gees as on her version of “To Love Somebody,” Ortega showed her eclectic range. Picking up her guitar she talked about the next song, “Cigarettes & Truckstops,” which she wrote as she was missing someone while they were in California and she was in Canada. Ortega closed out her set with a song that was more rock n roll than country, “All These Cats,” off her previous album Tin Star.

They say after midnight is when it all goes down and this was true for the last act of the evening. Though there was plenty still going on at The Cannery, it was time to head over to The Station Inn – a cozy little dive bar legendary for its bluegrass lineups and bar food. Hot Rize brought the house down with some good ol’ bluegrass music. Tim O’Brien and Nick Forster took turns leading the band into some frenzied, talented picking. Pete Wernick makes playing a 5- string banjo look like a cake walk, it comes with such ease for him. It seems wherever Hot Rize goes they are stalked by Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers, who always happen to play in the middle of Hot Rize’s sets. The Trailblazer’s set and coinciding goofball antics brought an element of humor to an otherwise smoking set, a crowd-pleaser to the end. Hot Rize took back the stage for a couple more numbers, including the audience-requested “High on the Mountaintop.” Thursday was a real representation of Americana music: from young emerging artists to established long- time musicians, there is never a shortage of music to select from at the showcases.

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