American Songwriter Records Amateur Songwriters at Merlefest

To help promote, the new music community created by the folks at American Songwriter magazine (that’d be us), we set up shop at the four-day music festival known as Merlefest – named in honor of Doc Watson’s son Merle Watson – in Wilkesboro, North Carolina from April 23-27, 2009. In between stunning performances by Emmylou Harris, Del McCoury, Travis Tritt and Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Tift Merritt, The Steeldrivers, Doc Watson and others we found aspiring songwriters and encouraged them to lay down some live cuts in our makeshift recording booth, amid the surrounding din of passersby and festival noise. From a 7-piece gospel and bluegrass outfit from South Carolina to deft instrumentals, devotional songs and rising singer-songwriters, we found and documented anyone with something to say. We may not be Alan Lomax, but we sure had fun trying. Below are some short profiles of the songwriters we met and recorded, alongside some of the legends we saw at Merlefest.

Videos by American Songwriter

All of the live recordings we made can be heard on the Craft of Music page on American Songspace. Learn more about each individual artist and hear more tracks by clicking their name to visit their American Songspace profile.

Earlier on Friday, Easy Pickins came by the American Songspace recording booth and gave Del and the Boys a run for their money, playing three bluegrass standards including “Holding Up The Ladder,” “Waiting Here,” and “Girl From West Virginia.”

Emmylou Harris played a beautiful headlining set on the main stage Saturday night which included songs written by Gillian Welch (“Orphan Girl”), Gram Parsons (“Return of the Grievous Angel”), and a song about her father she co-wrote with Guy Clark.

Kim McWhirter is a ceramicist who rarely checks her e-mail and lives in the Mitchell Mountain area of North Carolina. She played a song she wrote for her sister called “My Little Byrd.”

Brian Edmonson played three original instrumentals, in various tunings, and a song his father wrote called “Old Carolina.”

Brendan Kelty played two original songs.

Neeley Bridges, from Queens, NY, belting it out.


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