In this economy we all gave to pick and choose where our money goes, so for the first time in three years I’m skipping the Americana Festival and Conference. Though I have aired my issues with the panels in the conference there is no doubt that the music and venues that host them are stellar and get better each year. If I were in Nashville for the event here’s what would be on my to-do list.
First the touristy must see places: See the Ryman Green Room AKA Tootsies Orchid Lounge where legends have played and drank. Drool over rows of gear at Gruhn Guitars. See where the Ryan and countless other have their event posters hand printed at Hatch Show Print. See the Country Music Hall of Fame, host a cold local brew at Big River Brewery and try the brisket sweet tea at Jack’s Barbecue. And these are all withing walking distance of the Convention Center where the conference is taking place.
There are so many great acts that Wednesday night is already tough call, but here goes – I would start out my night at The Basement to catch Hayes Carll at 8pm. Why someone of Hayes caliber is on as the opening act on the bill I have no idea, but it’s sure to be a great one. 9pm has me torn, I know Elizabeth Cook will put on a great show at The Station Inn and showcase songs off her excellent Don Was produced new release Welder. Ray Wylie Hubbard is on opposite her at the Mercy Lounge and , well, Ray Wylie is a Texas legend. And I never forgo a chance to sing Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother. Plus he and Hayes Carll are buddies so there’s a chance Hayes will head over to the Mercy after his gig at The Basement to sit in for a closing rendition of the Americana Award nominated song of the year Drunken Poet’s Dream. Advantage Ray Wylie. At 10:30 head downstairs to the Cannery Ballroom to see the Exile on Main Street Tribute featuring performances by Dan Baird, Warner Hodges, Mike Farris, Jesse Dayton, Grace Potter, Jimmy Hall, Paul Thorn & more. If you do find yourself at the Station Inn to catch Ms. Cook, stay for the 11pm performance of another Texas legend – Guy Clark.
Thursday evening is the Americana Awards show at the Ryman – you can’t miss this. Not only do you get the privilege of sitting in the pews of the Mother Church of Country Music, the performances are extraordinary and there is always a surprise or two. After an evening in church it’ll be time for a little sin. If you like your country cut with a healthy dose of punk you’ll want to be at The Basement to catch the 11pm peformance of X/The Knitters singer Exene Cervenka and Mekons/ Waco Brothers singer-guitarist Jon Langford. Toronto, Canada’s The Beauties opens the show at 10. The excellent Mary Gauthier will perform at the Station Inn at 11pm. For curiosities sake you might want to stick around after her show to see John Oats (the shorter, darker half of Hall & Oats) do a Bluegrass version of Maneater. The Rutledge is a new addition to venues this year and on Thursday you could settle in for three great performers – David Olney at 10pm, Tommy Emmanuel at 11pm and Will Kimbrough at 12am. As tempting as these previous bills are I would have to settle into the Mercy Lounge to catch another Texas legend (seeing a theme from this Dallas native?) Dale Watson do his unique version of honky-tonk gems. After Dale is a treat – she was billed the “female Elvis” and even opned for The King on one of his tours. Wanda Jackson will perform and she might have a special guest – the producer of her forthcoming studio album, and Nashville resident, Jack White.
Friday night I would start off the night with the hillbilly beat-poetry of Minton Sparks at the Basement.The rest of the evening is sold as well – Todd Thibaud (9pm), Chip Taylor (10pm), who might be joined by one of his prodigies – Carrie Rodriguez or Kendel Carson, Peter Case (11pm) and Otis Gibbs (12am) Or you could head over to the Mercy Lounge see songwriter/multi-instrumentalist and Band of Joy member Darrell Scott show why he’s the only singer that could steal the spotlight from Robert Plant. .After Scott settle in for a great show by Jim Lauderdale (10pm) and Shelby Lynne (11pm), who might just have her recent duo partner Peter Wolf sit in for a song or two, and Langhorne Slim (12am.) If you haven’t see his you need to head over the The Rutledge at 10pm to catch the legendary Charlie Louvin, . There’s no telling who’ll show up for a chance to share the stage with this man.
Okay, so it’s Saturday and if you have any endurance (and liver) left head over the The Basement for the sweet sounds of the Sweetback Sisters (8pm) the over to the Rutledge for the hot sounds of Peter Karp & Sue Foley (9pm.) After Karp & Foley is John Carter Cash. With half-sister Rosanne in town and his recent release of Carter Family III there is potential for some great moments. The Cannery Ballroom features the blue-eyes soul of Mike Ferris (9pm) who has blown me away every time I see him. After Ferris is Todd Snider’s Rock and Roll review featuring Jason D. Williams, Dan Baird and Friends (10pm) This will be a great end to what is sure to be a great festival.
This is the way I’d plan it, but truth be told I usually fly by the seat of my pants and see where the night takes me. It doesn’t musch mater where you go on these nights, you’re bound to see some great music. If you get to Nashville sooner than the 8th you have to check out the The Doyle And Debbie Show at the Station In on the 7th.
Anyway, have fun, spend money (the city needs to pay for flooding repairs), be safe and leave things the way you found them.