Saturday, September 28, 2013

The House of Americana

The House of Americana
 
by S. Parks for Country Music News International

The music genre sheltering multiple styles, diverse musicians and songwriters of all ages, notorieties, backgrounds and geographic locations that has been slowly creeping into international status is blossoming like the magnolias that line Music Row in Nashville.  At last, recognition with its own Grammy category and an annual festival that welcomes artists from around the world, now has Americana locked in and the artists are on their way to shake up the industry.  But actually, was this folksy, bluesy, jazzy, rocking roots style not just as relevant in the sixties when it was best described as skiffle and inspired British bands such as The Rolling Stones and the Beatles?  As Jim Croce, a true Americana artist before the name was born, would have said - “I’ve Got a Name”, and the name is Americana.  

Through the long search for its identity, it has seemed in recent years that Americana had fallen into the cracks, but a new duo dug down with their shovels and pulled it up out of those cracks with their rope;  Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, of Shovels and Rope, were the spark of the 12th Annual American Awards presentation, winning Emerging Artist and Song of the Year honors for “Birmingham” at the sold-out Ryman Auditorium.  

After a group performance of “Hey Good Lookin’” from the songbook of the Hillbilly Shakespeare Hank Williams, host Jim Lauderdale explained, “We in Americana take our history seriously….the past matters, traditions matter“.  Hank’s daughter, Jett Williams, accepted his President’s Award and noted that after sixty years, his music lives on and is still relevant as it continues to influence artists today. 

Stephen Stills proudly savored the Spirit of Americana award.  The traditionally elegant ceremony recognized Rodney Crowell and Emmy Lou Harris with Duo/Group honors and the Album of the Year for “Old Yellow Moon”.  Duane Eddy, Dr. John and Robert Hunter earned Lifetime Achievement Awards while Dwight Yoakum was named Artist of the Year.  The Old Crow Medicine Show, fresh from their induction into the Grand Ole Opry, took home the Trailblazer Award and ignited the fans with their original rendition of “Wagon Wheel”, which is nearly a Music City anthem.  Written by Bob Dylan, it can be heard nightly in any honky tonk by musicians from The Mulch Brothers to Darius Rucker.  

Stunning performances by the nominees and winners rounded out the evening with such luminaries as the McCrary Sisters, the Milk Carton Kids, Lennon and Maisy Stella from the TV show Nashville, Rosanne Cash, JD  McPherson and Dan Auerbach.  Delbert McClinton filled in the blues aspect of Americana as Buddy Miller kept it true to its roots.   All were backed by Buddy’s All-Star Band with renowned producer Don Was on bass, Jim Lauderdale and Larry Campbell, who took home Instrumentalist of the Year honors.  

After opening the Festival with more than twenty Australian artists at the historic Bluebird Cafe, the Americana Music Festival was underway.  Like a marathon, an increased number of visitors, artists, industry folks and writers collected their info and were off in the race to experience as much as possible during the five day event.  The days began with numerous panel discussions on music business issues, social media, radio, television, licensing, litigation, live performance and marketing, each led by a group of several distinguished representatives in their fields.  With various songwriter showcases in between, additional panels discussed the global reach of Americana, New Orleans and Nashville’s sister city connection to Tamworth in Australia.  

Spreading out over Music City, Bob Harris of the BBC was on hand to present British roots artists at the Hard Rock Café.  Grimey’s New and Pre-Loved Music gave us the sixth all-day Americanarama showcase featuring the UK’s Billy Bragg, Amanda Shires, High Cotton, and Willie Sugercapps with Nashville hit songwriter Will Kimbrough.  Just out of town, the Loveless Café featured Americana artists in its weekly Music City Roots program, hosted by Jim Lauderdale. 

Donna the Buffalo and Shelby Lynne appeared at Centennial Park across town in the Musicians’ Corner series.  The historic Downtown Presbyterian Church welcomed Justin Townes Earl and the “Communion” event, founded by Mumford and Sons.  The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum hosted interviews of Dr. John and Rodney Crowell.  Maton Guitars presented Australians once again at the Second Fiddle downtown for a lunch time extravaganza of talent and an all-day Aussie BBQ rocked the Basement with dozens of participating artists including Paul Kelly, the Weeping Willows, Michael Muchow, Tamara Stewart, Emma Swift, and a visit from international hitmakers, Mark and Jay O’Shea. 
 
The evenings belonged to the performances.  Attendance records were broken as the shuttles transported attendees to seven venues including Mercy Lounge, the Rutledge and the Cannery Ballroom.  At 3rd and Lindsley, Lisa Marie Presley gave us treats from her latest album and ended her set with a surprising and short drum solo as her mother, Priscilla, looked on. It was surely a day for offspring of music icons who have found their home in Americana as Holly Williams, Hank Williams’ granddaughter, followed.  

Ashley Monroe, enjoying her time at the top of the charts as a soloist and a member of Miranda Lambert’s Pistol Annies, closed her set with a Graham Parsons acoustic gem.  Mike Farris shared one of the most amazing voices in the industry today as his Roseland Rhythm Revue soul band and Paul Brown on the B3 took us to another inspirational level all together.  That level rose to continue to the Station Inn where The McCrary Sisters and Grand Ole Opry veterans, The Whites, led us in a Sunday morning Gospel Brunch.  The evening brought a special concert with Lucinda Williams, also at 3rd and Lindsley, to say thank you and begin our anticipation for next year, when Jed Hilly, Executive Director of the Americana Music Association, will once again work tirelessly to fill Music City with the rootsy sounds of Americana………by S. Parks

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