Hip-Hop And Americana At Friday’s SoundLand

Videos by American Songwriter

With Wednesday and Thursday already fading memories from this year’s SoundLand, Friday promised to kickstart the midpoint of the fest with headlining sets by Justin Townes Earle at The Cannery and Yelawolf at the 12th Avenue Block Party.

The scenes at each hub showed an interesting cross-section of the folk and Americana contingent and Nashville’s growing hip-hop and electronic community.

While aurally Earle and Yelawolf couldn’t have been further apart, taking a step back, maybe there’s really not so much separating a young white rapper who spent his formative years in Antioch, Tennessee, and the Nashville-raised Earle.

Yelawolf struck me almost as a weird rap analog to Earle: a punkish, tattooed, skinny, brown-haired white boy from Middle Tennessee with immense lyrical gifts who seems to buy completely into his own self-mythology.

Yela is a protégé of Eminem and clearly indebted stylistically to the Detroit rapper’s nasally pitch and rapid-fire flow. But Yela, a skater punk kid who’s traveled the country but is now based in Alabama, also brings his own energy to hip-hop. He’s wilier, and not as stoic or dark, as Eminem.

Robert Ellis, the young Houston country singer-songwriter, warmed up The Cannery for Jason Isbell’s and Earle’s sets. Ellis and his band were on the slow-jam tip on Friday, offering easy versions of “What’s In It For Me” and Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years.” The set highlight, although it was a bit overlong, was Ellis’ solo version of a new song, which found him on stage alone playing chunky R&B riffs on a Gibson ES-335.

Across the street from The Cannery, Third Man Records hosted a night of SoundLand artists, including punk wunderkind – a recent Saddle Creek signee – Pujol and Detroit oddballs Human Eye, who played a tight, rhythmic hardcore-indebted style of garage rock. Hollywood weirdo Neil Hamburger headlined the venue (which does not serve alcohol), doing a sort of Walter Cronkite-on-ecstasy stand-up routine with hilarious riffs on Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, and Domino’s Pizza.

Up the street at The Station Inn, a first-year venue of Next BIG Nashville and SoundLand, Columbus, Ohio’s Lydia Loveless played hard country honky-tonk to a small group of fans. Other sets at the American Songwriter-sponsored evening at Station Inn included Heidi Feek’s Painted Desert project, Natalie Prass, and the Apache Relay-hosted “super jam.”

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