Nashville Calling: An Intimate And Exhilarating Experience At The Americana Music Festival And Conference

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

billy bragg rosanne cash 14th Annual Americana Music Festival & Conference - Festival - Day 2
(Billy Bragg and Rosanne Cash)

The Sheraton also hosted an afternoon of Australian music, where we had opportunity to catch the revered Bushwackers, whose song “I Am Australian” was tear-wrenching enough to make a grown man (me, mainly) cry. Likewise, a husband-wife duo called The Borderers upped the ante on energy while adding a bit of trepidation due to the fact that the male member of the group fancied a few high kicks while wearing kilts… thus offering the possibility that another male member might make an unexpected appearance.

An equally engaging event took place at the Bootleg BBQ located in that rarest on entities these days, a real live record store. A sterling line-up of Brit artists indulging in Americana allowed a certain amount of catch-up, a one stop opportunity to catch Peter Bruntnell, Blue Rose Code, the Treetop Flyers and My Darling Clementine, the latter, an added bonus for yours truly considering the fact that its ringmaster, Michael Weston King, and I have a history of email correspondence that goes back some seven or eight years. Even Holly Williams showed up to perform, although it ought to be noted that she’s not a Brit but rather the granddaughter of the granddaddy of them of all, Hank himself.

And then there was the Sunday Gospel Brunch, where the magnificent McCrary Sisters, the White Family and a handful of young devotees held court while the crowd chowed down on chicken and waffles and sang songs so rapt with devotion, even a non-believer might be moved to sing the Lord’s praises.

Still, despite the occasional treasure trove of compressed opportunities, it was the unexpected encounters that really made this fest the best. Being able to meet the great Aussie auteur Paul Kelly and gush my admiration was something special, although it was to my continuing regret that I never actually got to see him perform. There was the chance lunch with Michael Martin Murphy, and a hitched ride with John Lomax, of the famous Lomax musical dynasty and the man who singlehandedly managed the late Townes Van Zandt and then went through the same madness when he took on another renegade in the form of Steve Earle. There was the party where I found myself standing next to Buddy Miller and got the chance to chat about his recent work with Richard Thompson and past performances with Robert Plant. (Future plans? “Who knows?”) There was the hello to Jim Lauderdale, and later, the nod of acknowledgement suggesting we had created a bond. There was the Saturday night performance by Scott Miller at 3rd and Lindsley where we reaffirmed our friendship (he’s the only guy I met who’s so damned affectionate he’ll kiss you on the cheek, guy friends included) and where I reaffirmed my belief that he’s one of the most literate, savvy and amazingly talented singer/songwriters of the new millennium. (Don’t scoff. He is!)

Then too, there were my preordained artist chats, with Over the Rhine, up and comer Austin Lucas and the freewheeling Treetop Flyers who, by the way, contributed the most memorable turn of a phrase I heard the entire time. Taking a cue from a question I asked about who they would put on a pedestal, they switched the verbiage and suggested they’d rather put someone on a pedal steel instead. (Pedestal, pedal steel… get it?)

Maybe you had to be there. If you’re smart, you will be next year.


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