It’s always an extraordinary week of music and one of the best festivals in Nashville each year.
You’ll find conference and wristband information at www.americanamusic.org.
The roster so far:
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn
Billy Bragg & Joe Purdy
Birds of Chicago
The Bros. Landreth
Caleb Klauder Country Band
Christopher Paul Stelling
Dead Winter Carpenters
The Dustbowl Revival
Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen
Guthrie Brown & The Family Tree
The Hello Strangers
Horseshoes & Hand Grenades
Hugh Bob and the Hustle
John Paul Keith
Laney Jones and the Spirits
Lee Ann Womack
Legendary Shack Shakers
Low Cut Connie
Nora Jane Struthers
Packway Handle Band
Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen
Ray Wylie Hubbard
The Show Ponies
The Steel Wheels
The Stray Birds
The Whistles and The Bells
Whitey Morgan and the 78s
The Wild Reeds
William Elliott Whitmore
By Paul T. Mueller
The 10 best lines from artists on the 2015 Cayamo cruise:
- It was sad knowing everyone I knew or loved was going to hell. – Elizabeth Cook on her fundamentalist upbringing (Saturday)
- This has been a very palpable evening. – Jim Lauderdale, during John Fullbright’s “Unlikely Sit-In” show (Saturday)
- I starred in “Shakespeare in the Parking Lot” – Amy Speace on her days as a Shakespearean actress in New York (Monday)
- Thanks, Mom. – John Prine, in response to a female audience member’s shout of “You’re sexy, John Prine!” (Monday)
- The difference between a freeloader and a free spirit is about three chords. – Todd Snider (Wednesday)
- This was No. 1 for about two weeks on the radio in Serbia. Take that, Lyle Lovett! – Amy Speace on the title track of her new CD, “That Kind of Girl” (Thursday)
- Morning, everyone! – Lucinda Williams, at a 1:30 p.m. show (Thursday)
- He doesn’t consider himself an Eagle, but I do. No, I consider you an egret. – Shawn Colvin to guitarist Steuart Smith, who tours with The Eagles (Thursday)
- What we do on Cayamo stays on Cayamo. – Shawn Colvin (Thursday)
- Since you probably played on the original record, play a little guitar right here, good brother. – Rodney Crowell to David Bromberg, during “Like a Rolling Stone” (Friday)
After two days and three nights at sea, the Norwegian Pearl arrived early Tuesday, January 20, at the island of St. Barts in the French West Indies. Many Cayamoans boarded the Pearl’s lifeboats to go ashore and spend a few hours mingling with the well-to-do; others chose to stay aboard and relax. As always on port days, organized music got started later to accommodate the daytrippers, with the first shows beginning at 6:00 p.m.
Guitarist Tim Easton and fiddler Megan Palmer, despite being talented singer-songwriters as well as fine backing musicians for Amy Speace, weren’t given official performing slots of their own. No matter. Tuesday evening found the duo, neighbors in East Nashville, playing the first of three “guerrilla shows” in the Bar City area of the Pearl. Their nine-song set, played acoustically, was heavy on Easton’s songs. These included “Don’t Lie” from his current album, Not Cool, and older material (some by request) such as “Don’t Walk Alone” and “Dear Old Song and Dance.”
Palmer sang her dark tale “Knife Twister,” while Speace joined the two on her own “Strange Boat.” The relatively small audience at the beginning mostly comprised those who were already fans, but as often happens on Cayamo, a fair number of passers-by ended up in the crowd as well, contributing sing-along vocals and improvised percussion on covers of Lucinda Williams’ “People Talking” and the Rolling Stones’ “Factory Girl.”
John Prine’s 8:00 show in the Stardust Theater was an exercise in musical excellence. Highlights included the rousing antiwar anthem “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore”; “Souvenirs,” which Prine dedicated to his brother Doug; the gentle “Hello in There,” performed with heartbreaking beauty, and Prine’s duets with the seemingly omnipresent Brandi Carlile on “In Spite of Ourselves” and “Angel from Montgomery.” Prine took a solo turn on “Lydia” and “Sam Stone” before his band – guitarist Jason Wilber and bassist Dave Jacques – returned for a rousing but slightly muddy rendition of the Carter Family’s “Bear Creek Blues.” The band followed with a nice take on the enigmatic “Lake Marie” before closing, with assistance from singer-songwriter Joe Purdy, with “Paradise.”
South Carolina singer-songwriter Edwin McCain’s Tuesday night set in the Spinnaker Lounge turned into a 45th birthday party, complete with a clown, balloons and a cake. That didn’t keep McCain from showcasing his powerful voice and fine guitar playing with a set of intelligent adult pop – dealing, as befits a man in the early stages of middle age, with subjects such as a daughter’s wedding and lasting love. He also threw in some good stories, including one about discovering that Elgie Stover, the purveyor of his favorite barbecue, was in fact a songwriter and producer who co-wrote songs for Marvin Gaye, among others. McCain closed with Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” featuring a nice solo by saxophonist Craig Shields.
The second half of McCain’s show overlapped the first half of The Lone Bellow’s Atrium set, but judging from the last few songs it was a raucous affair. Late selections included a couple of songs from the band’s very successful 2013 album, The Lone Bellow – “You Never Need Nobody” and “The One You Should’ve Let Go.” No sophomore slump here – the band was every bit as good all week as it was last year in its Cayamo debut, and by some accounts even better.
A late-night jam in Bar City featured an all-star cast of artists, along with some talented amateurs. The event was anchored, as it were, by John Fullbright at the piano, along with Tim Easton on mandolin and Birds of Chicago’s Allison Russell on clarinet. Song selections included the Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women,” among others.
Americana Music News – The highlight of the 2014 Americana Music Festival in Nashville may well have been Allison Moorer’s captivating performance at the City Winery. Her new album Down to Believing is due March 17 and she’s headed out to tour in support of the release:
The 2015 Americana Music Festival and Conference has been set for Sept. 15 through 20 in Nashville. Early-bird conference registration is now available. More information is available at the Americana Music Association site.
The Americana Music Association’s Honors and Award show at the Ryman Auditorium is one of our favorite events of the year, and highlights from the September show will be shared with a national audience on a special edition of Austin City Limits that begins airing Nov. 22. Performers include Robert Plant, Taj Mahal, Ry Cooder, Rosanne Cash and Flaco Jimenez.
- Rosanne Cash – “A Feather’s Not A Bird”
- Parker Millsap – “Truck Stop Gospel”
- Loretta Lynn – “Coal Miner’s Daughter”
- The Milk Carton Kids – “Snake Eyes”
- Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale with the McCrary Sisters – “You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover”
- Flaco Jiménez – “Ingrato Amor”
- Jackson Browne – “Long Way Around”
- St. Paul & The Broken Bones – “Call Me”
- Valerie June – “You Can’t Be Told”
- Patty Griffin and Robert Plant – “Ohio”
- Taj Mahal – “Statesboro Blues”
- Jason Isbell – “Cover Me Up”
- Sturgill Simpson – “Life Of Sin”
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By Ken Paulson
We spoke to Carlene briefly backstage, reminiscing about her appearance at the very first Americana Music Association Awards show in 2002 at a nearby hotel ballroom. It was an extraordinary night, with June Carter and the Carter Family – including Carlene and her daughter Tiffany – performing with Johnny Cash.
12 years later, many of us still see that performance as the Big Bang that made the current successful and expansive Americana Music Association Conference and Festival possible.
Carlene has an outstanding new album called Carter Girl, which includes some Carter Family songs and a nod to her heritage.
There’s also a new and very interesting interview with Carlene by Glide Magazine. You’ll find the interview here.
By Ken Paulson
When Loretta Lynn stepped onto the Ryman stage on Wednesday night to accept a Lifetime Achievement Award for songwriting from the Americana Music Association, no one was more excited than the two women who presented the award: Angaleena Presley and Kacey Musgraves.
Tears flowed and they were clearly deeply moved to be able to honor this iconic artist. Then Loretta backed up her
legend with a stirring performance of “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”
We had the chance to visit with Presley at the Mercy Lounge two nights later and she continued to sing Loretta Lynn’s praises, reminding us that she, too, grew up a coal miner’s daughter.
Loretta’s inspiration is clearly evident in both Presley’s live show and on her upcoming album American Middle Class, due from Slate Creek Records on Oct. 14.
While Loretta sang “One’s On the Way,” Angaleena Presley offers the more blunt “Knocked Up.” Loretta cautioned her husband “Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind), while Presley delivers the tough and withering “Drunk.” The songs are four decades apart, but share a refreshing honesty and directness.
Loretta Lynn should be proud.
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By Ken Paulson
There were many special moments at last night’s Americana Music Association Honors and Awards event at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
It would be hard to top songwriting honoree Loretta Lynn’s performance of “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Flaco Jimenez received a lifetime
achievement award for instrumentalist and then performed in tandem with Ry Cooder, who seemed to be having a particularly good time all night long. And I was grateful for the opportunity to present the Spirit of Americana Free Speech in Music Award on behalf of the Americana Music Association and the First Amendment Center.
This year legendary songwriter J.D. Souther joined me in presenting the award to Jackson Browne. Souther, a decades-long friend of Browne’s, spoke eloquently about his respect for the man and his craft, noting that he first heard some of his earliest and greatest compositions through an apartment floor – over and over again.
Browne, who joins such past honorees as Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Mavis Staples and Charlie Daniels, has never hesitated to use his music to make a point. He has fought for safe energy, stood with America’s farmers and has never hesitated to raise hell in speech or song, demanding that this nation truly lives up to its ideals.
Souther also took part in an earlier tribute to Browne, a 2-CD collection called Looking Into You, released 6 months ago. Souther closes out that album with a moving verion of “My Opening Farewell.”
Otter highlights include Paul Thorn’s take on “Doctor My Eyes,” Lucinda William’s slow and spare version of “The Pretender,” Don Henley’s “These Days,” the Indigo Girls’ “Fountain of Sorrow” (performed by Browne and Souther at the awards show), and Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa’s “Linda Paloma.”
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By Ken Paulson
It’s the rare music awards show that peaks ten minutes in, but that was the case tonight at the Ryman Auditorium for the 13th Annual Americana Music Association Honors and Awards Show. That was when Loretta Lynn, winner of a lifetime achievement award as a songwriter, took the stage and performed “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” It was thrilling and historic at the same time.
Jason Isbell made a bit of history himself, dominating the awards with wins for artist of the year, album of the year and song of the year.
The least surprising win of this year or any other: Buddy Miller was named instrumentalist of the year.
The full list of honorees:
Album of the Year: “Southeastern,” Jason Isbell, produced by Dave Cobb
Artist of the Year: Jason Isbell
Duo or Group of the Year: The Milk Carton Kids
Song of the Year: “Cover Me Up” by Jason Isbell
Emerging Artist of the Year: Sturgill Simpson
Instrumentalist of the year: Buddy Miller
Lifetime Achievement for Instrumentalist: Flaco Jimenez
Lifetime Achievement for Performance: Taj Mahal
Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriter: Loretta Lynn
President’s Award: Jimmie Rodgers
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By Rich Gordon
What’s Americana music?
Or “music that honors and is derived from the traditions of American roots music”? That was the association’s definition in 2007.
Or “contemporary music that incorporates elements of various American roots music styles, including country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B and blues”? That’s the core of the definition today on the association’s website.
The definition keeps getting longer, and the emphasis on country music keeps being diluted. Instead of being recognized as the key ancestral homeland for Americana music, country is now listed as one of five different genres “incorporated” into Americana music. I think this is a mistake.
On the eve of the Americana Music Festival in Nashville, why does this matter to me? I’m a member of a Chicago-based band (Twangdogs) that plays country-rock music — cover songs, mostly. When someone asks me what kind of music my band plays and I say, “Americana,” the overwhelming response is “What’s that?”
Maybe part of the problem is that the “official” definition keeps changing.
When you think of a kind of music — say, “country” or “classic rock” or “hip hop” — what comes to mind? A few possibilities: radio station formats, music-festival motifs, the musical genres associated with certain concert venues, the answer to the question “What kind of music do you like?” And, of course, the type of music that a cover band plays.
“Americana” music, as a term, was born in 1995 when the Gavin Report made used the name for the 12th radio format the publication was tracking — meaning, what songs were being played on what stations. At the time, Americana referred to a blend of two different musical strains:
- “alternative country” music by artists like Gillian Welch, Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams, and Steve Earle,
- new music from more senior country artists like Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard — who, the Gavin Report’s Rob Bleetstein said at the time, “are too left field for Nashville, too twangy for AAA [adult album alternative].”
Americana never really caught on as a radio format — there were 90 reporting radio stations, mostly operated by colleges, non-profits and public radio stations — before Gavin shut down its Americana chart in 2000. By that time, the Americana Music Association had been formed, and it now oversees the official Americana radio chart.
Because the association is tightly linked to the music industry — record labels, promoters, radio station programmers — it understandably emphasizes “contemporary” music. But in an article for NoDepression.com earlier this month, I argued that in expanding beyond country-music influences, the association has diluted the focus for “Americana.”
Instead, I argued that Americana should encompass country-rock music over a longer span of time: “country rock generations,” taking in all of the periods when country music intersected, influenced and blended with rock music. That can encompass everything from:
- “Rockabilly” like Buddy Holly, Bill Haley and early Elvis Presley
- 1960s-70s country-rock, from Bob Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline” to the Byrds’ “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” to Creedence Clearwater Revival, New Riders of the Purple Sage, the Eagles and Jackson Browne.
- 1970s Southern rock like the Allman Brothers and Marshall Tucker Band.
- 1970s-80s country-punk like the Blasters, X and Lone Justice.
- 1980s-90s alt-country (aka “insurgent country,” “No Depression,” etc.) such as Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, Son Volt and Whiskeytown.
- Country-influenced acts on the “jam band” circuit, including old names (Allman Brothers and Little Feat) and newer ones like Old Crow Medicine Show and the Black Crowes.
- Veteran but still vibrant country-centered performers like Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Rosanne Cash and Jim Lauderdale.
- Country artists who have revived their careers — and created compelling contemporary sounds — through inter-generational collaborations (Johnny Cash and Rick Rubin, Loretta Lynn and Jack White, Alison Krauss and Robert Plant).
- The kinds of young performers who now show up prominently on the Americana chart: Shovels and Rope, Justin Townes Earle, Jamestown Revival, Sturgill Simpson and of course, the Avett Brothers.
This definition is certainly broad enough to stock a festival — and in fact, this year’s AmericanaFest (put on by the Americana Music Association) is presenting a mix of music that’s consistent with this approach. Jackson Browne and Loretta Lynn are receiving lifetime achievement awards, the Avett Brothers are headlining the Saturday night outdoor concert, and the festival features performers from multiple generations — from Lee Ann Womack to Jim Lauderdale to Rodney Crowell to Angaleena Presley to Cale Tyson.
The “country-rock generations” model also makes for a great setlist for a cover band — one that can appeal to many generations of music fans. As I wrote for NoDepression.com,
A 1970s Eagles or Jackson Browne fan would like the Avett Brothers or Jamestown Revival. Fans of Old Crow Medicine Show would appreciate Buddy Holly. All of them might enjoy Whiskeytown or Uncle Tupelo. And music from these performers — and many others — can fit together nicely on a setlist or a playlist.
To demonstrate the power of a “country-rock generations” model, let me use as an example the working setlist for Twangdogs’ upcoming show on Saturday afternoon (Sept. 20) at the 12th and Porter club in Nashville. We’ll be playing songs that cover 57 years of country-rock history, including examples from six decades of music. Here they are listed in chronological order based on their first release:
- “Oh Boy” (Buddy Holly, 1957) – also recorded or performed by many others, including the Everly Brtohers, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and the Grateful Dead.
- “Gone Gone Gone” (Everly Brothers, 1964) – also released in 2007 by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.
- “Dead Flowers” (Rolling Stones, 1971) — from the period when the Stones were hanging out with Gram Parsons, also recorded by Townes Van Zandt, New Riders of the Purple Sage and played live by Steve Earle and Jerry Lee Lewis.
- “I Know You Rider” — our version of this old blues song is modeled after the Grateful Dead’s 1972 recording, but the song has been recorded by many others, including Janis Joplin, the Seldom Scene and the Byrds.
- “Best of My Love” (Eagles, 1974)
- “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me” (Warren Zevon, 1976; Linda Ronstadt, 1977) – also recorded by country star Terri Clark (1996)
- “Running on Empty” (Jackson Browne, 1977)
- “Wall of Death” (Richard and Linda Thompson, 1982)
- “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet” (the Canadian band Blue Rodeo, 1993)
- “You’re Still Standing There” (Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams, 1996)
- “Your Life is Now” (John Mellencamp, 1998)
- “The Captain” (Kasey Chambers, 1999)
- “Wagon Wheel” (Old Crow Medicine Show, 2004)
- “In State” (Kathleen Edwards, 2005)
- “I’m With the Band” (Little Big Town, 2007)
- “Down by the Water” (Decemberists, 2011)
- “Hell on Heels” (Pistol Annies, 2011)
- “Ho Hey” (Lumineers, 2012)
- “California (Cast Iron Soul)” (Jamestown Revival, 2014)
These songs will be packaged into a set we’re calling “Love, Americana Style: A Song Cycle of Romance, Relationships and the Road.” Based on our experience playing songs like these in the Midwest — and in Scotland, where we played the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year — there’s something in the set to appeal to every different musical generation. Which is exactly what a cover band needs to play.
Rich Gordon is a college journalism professor, long-time country-rock fan, subscriber to the late, lamented No Depression magazine — and member of Twangdogs, a Chicago country-rock cover band.
The Americana Music Association has announced a third wave of artists for its upcoming festival and conference in Nashville, including Aaron Lee Tasjan, BR5-49, Holly Williams, Joe Fletcher & the Wrong Reasons, Luther Dickinson, Michaela Anne, Paul Burch, Sharde Thomas and the Rising Star Fife & Drum Band.
BR5-49 has widely been credited as the musical catalyst that helped turn around Nashville’s once-decaying Lower Broadway in the ’90s, and paved the way for the city’s current vibrant music scene.
Holly Williams, another Nashville resident, is the granddaughter of Hank Williams and daughter of Hank Jr.
You’ll find the full schedule for the Sept. 17-21 festival here.
Americana Music News – Jackson Browne has been named the 2014 recipient of the “Spirit of Americana” award for free speech in music, presented by the Americana Music Association and the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center.
The annual award, which recognizes artists who have used their music to raise awareness and make a difference, has been presented to a wide range of performers, including Johnny Cash, Charlie Daniels, Stephen Stills, Kris Kristofferson, Joan Baez, Mavis Staples, Judy Collins and Mary Chapin Carpenter.
“Jackson Browne has long embraced the power of music to engage and inform,” said Ken Paulson, president of the First Amendment Center. “From his founding of Musicians United for Safe Energy to his work on behalf of Amnesty International, Farm Aid and environmental causes, Browne has never hesitated to say – or sing – what he believes.”
The award will be presented at the Americana Music 13th Annual Honors and Awards ceremony on Wednesday, September 17 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. The show will be recorded for distribution to PBS stations and a special Austin City Limits presentation.
Americana Music News – The ever-growing American Music Association announced today that its annual Nashville festival will feature an outdoor concert on the city’s riverfront on Sept. 20 with the Avett Brothers as headliners.
The concert will anchor the Americana Music Festival and Conference, scheduled to take place Sept. 12-21. Tickets go on sale June 27 for the riverfront concert. Admission is free to conference registrants.
The Americana Music Association also released this list of 2014 festival acts, with more to come:
Allison Moorer • Amy Ray • Angaleena Presley • The Barefoot Movement • Ben Miller Band • Billy Joe Shaver • Black Prairie • Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay • Buddy Miller • The Cactus Blossoms • Carlene Carter • Caroline Rose • Chatham County Line • Chuck Mead • Danny & The Champions of the World • The Deadly Gentlemen • Del Barber • The Deslondes • Doug Seegers • The Duhks • The Dustbowl Revival • Emily Barker & the Red Clay Halo • Ethan Johns • The Fairfield Four • The Grahams • Grant-Lee Phillips • Green River Ordinance • Greensky Bluegrass • Gregory Alan Isakov • Greyhounds • The Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer • Hayes Carll • Howlin’ Brothers • Immigrant Union • Israel Nash • Jamestown Revival • Jason Eady • J.D. Wilkes & the Dirt Daubers • Joe Henry • Joe Pug • Joe Purdy • John Moreland • Jonah Tolchin • Jonny Two Bags • Josh Ritter • Joshua James • Lake Street Dive • Lee Ann Womack • Leo “Bud” Welch • Lera Lynn • Marah Presents: Mountain Minstrelsy • Marty Stuart • Matthew Ryan • McCrary Sisters • Nathaniel Rateliff • New Country Rehab • Oh Susanna • Otis Gibbs • Parker Millsap • Paul Thorn • Pete Molinari • Quebe Sisters Band • Rhett Miller • Robbie Fulks • Robyn Hitchcock • Rodney Crowell • Ruthie Foster • Ryan Montbleau • Sam Outlaw • Sarah Jarosz • Sean Rowe • Shakey Graves • Suzy Bogguss • Todd Snider & Friends • Tom Freund • Tony Joe White • Trigger Hippy (featuring Jackie Greene, Joan Osborne, Steve Gorman, Tom Bukovac & Nick Govrik) • Whiskey Shivers • Willie Watson
Americana Music News — We caught up with Eric Brace at the Americana Music Conference in Nashville and he told us about a new video featuring Tom T. Hall’s “Mad” and a slew of really cool guest stars, including Marty Stuart, Duane Eddy and Mac Wiseman. The video promotes The Comeback Album, the most recent album from Brace and Peter Cooper. Here’s Brace talking about how “The World’s Greatest Video” came together: listen to ‘Eric Brace’ on Audioboo
And here’s the finished project:
By Ken Paulson
Americana Music News — Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott have teamed up again for an impressive new album called Memories and Moments.
This is their second studio album, with songwriting duties split between the pair, and a powerful new collaboration on “Keep Your Dirty Lights On,” a powerful environmental message.
We had the chance to talk to Tim about the new album at the American Music Festival in Nashville.
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