Twang Nation South-By-Southwest Americana Mix

Circumstances conspired to keep me from attending the music (and tech/film) madness that is South-By-Southwest taking place March 13-18  in  my home state of Texas. In lieu of standing toe-to-toe with strangers an having beer spilled on me I will soldier on from my couch here in the Bay Area to shed light on the Americana and Roots artists tha will be sprinkled in with the indie-darling of the week bands that dominate the scene. Here’s a list of bands/musicians that I’ve collected that are playing the event. Have a listen and check them out live. Then help them out and buy a CD or t-shirt. Guitar strings and gas don’t grown on trees bud!

Twang Nation #SXSW Americana Mix on Spotify

SXSW Americana/Roots list:

Alabama Shakes

Justin Townes Earle
Anais Mitchell
Nikki Lane
Carrie Rodriguez
Hellbound Glory
Rachel Brooke
Ana Egge
Sons Of Fathers
The Trishas
Izzy Cox
Lost and Nameless Orchestra
Warren Hood and The Goods
Treetop Flyers
The Brothers Comatose
Brown Bird
Ghosts Along the Brazos
Joe Pug
Alejandro Escovedo and The Sensitive Boys
The Lumineers
Henry Wagons
Jack Wilson
Have Gun Will Travel
The White Horse
Jon Dee Graham
Shannon McNally
Hurray for the Riff Raff
Greensky Bluegrass
Guns of Navarone
Brett Detar
Owen Temple
Star & Micey
Andra Suchy
Sugar & the Hi Lows
Seth Walker
Carrie Elkin
Lydia Loveless
The Pines
East Cameron Folkcore
the Little Willies
Punch Brothers
Jonny Corndawg
the Gourds
Chuck Meadand His Grassy Knoll Boys
Fallon & The Bandits
Mickey & The Motorcars

Americana Music Association Conference & Festival 2011 Wrap Up

On the night of the 10th annual Americana Music Association Awards, the director of the organization, Jed Hilly, recounted from the stage of the historic Ryman Auditorium a few of the key accomplishment te genre had enjoyed over the last few years. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences included a separate Americana Grammy category and Miriam-Webster added the word Americana to their dictionary: “a genre of American music having roots in early folk and country music.” I was fortunate to be chosen to cover the Grammys as the official Americana blogger this year and so was personally appreciative of that part formal industry recognition and I think the Miriam-Webster definition is imprecise but Hilly’s assessment is correct, movement now feels like progress.

The nearly 50 panels ranged from topics better suited for barroom debates  (Is  Blues Americana?) to tips and insights in booking shows, using Cloud-based, digital distribution,  steaming music services and tips on using social media to expand your fan base.

As great as the America Music Awards program and panels were the real action was around Nashville. A neat definition of Americana was made even more futile by the contemporary variations on display by the 100 bands showcased at five of the city’s best live music clubs throughout the dates of the conference.

Wednesday night started with Austinite power-couple Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison at the Station Inn. I had see their show several months ago at my home in San Francisco and they had honed the songs and patter over the miles. The married pair emanated a presence and rapport that can only be delivered from two people that have been in the thick and thin together. Jokes about marriage counseling followed by numbers laced with classic country was reminiscent of John and June or George and Tammy. Then across town to catch Blind Boys of Alabama and another Austin resident Hayes Carll at the Mercy Lounge. The BBoA are simply one of the most amazing live acts I’ve ever seen. Their version of Amazing Grace performed over the familiar lonesome strains of House of the Rising Sun will give you hope while making you weep. Hayes Carll delivered his learned honky-tonk with spirit and a Texas crooked smile to charged crowd that hung on every word, even when that song was as wordy as KMAG YOYO.

Thursday was all about the 10th annual awards Americana Music Association Honors and Awards held at the Mother Church of Country Music, the Ryman Auditorium. Once again Jim Lauderdale performed MC duties and Buddy Miller led the house band once again and also triumphed by winning two awards, Artist of the Year and Instrumentalist of the Year. Miller showed the utmost humility by stating after the second hand-made folk-art trophy was handed to him  “Well this is just embarrassing. I feel like I get away with murder,” he said. “I’m really, really not that good. … But I get to play with some wonderfully incredibly talented people.” Emmylou Harris quipped that they should just name the hand-made trophies “The Buddy.” I think she’s on to something.

Robert Plant and his Band of Joy took home the trophy for Album of the Year took acceptation to Miller’s assessment. Saying of his Raising Sand and Band of Joy collaborator “I stole a great deal with my old companions, and I was very fortunate, the last few years, to be welcomed by some spectacular people, especially in this town,” Plant said. “”I’m never going anywhere without Buddy Miller. “ Regarding the Band of Joy win, I would argue that a covers album should not be in the running for album of the year, but if one is Gurf Morlix’s album of Blaze Foley covers “Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream” should have been that album.

Musical highlights included the Civil Wars’ Barton Hollow, the Avett Brothers’ The Once and Future Carpenter and soul singer Candi Staton’s tribute to Rick Hall, founder of Fame Recording Studio in Muscle Shoals, Ala. with Heart on a String.

Song of the Year winner Justin Townes Earle delivered on an up-tempo Harlem River Blues, the Secret Sisters represented country tradition with Hank Williams’ Why Don’t You Love Me and Scott and Seth Avett of the Avett Brothers provided background vocals during Jessica Lea Mayfield’s For Today.  Other performers included Lucinda Williams (Blessed), Amos Lee (Cup of Sorrow), Elizabeth Cook (El Camino), Buddy Miller (Gasoline and Matches), and Jim Lauderdale (Life by Numbers).

The show closed out with Greg Allman on Hammond B-3 organ leading Plant, Griffin, Miller, Lee, Cook,  and others on an extended version of the gospel standard, “Glory, Glory Hallelujah.”

Post awards activities too place primarily in the Basement under Grimey’s Record Store. I walked in on the winsome Amanda Shires mid-set, decked in a lovely dress and monogrammed boots her fluttering vibrato held the packed house in silence. Malcolm Holcombe followed with a two-piece accompaniment that in no way fenced in his frenetic guitar picking as he strolled the stage and growled songs of love and hope. On advice of a friend I stuck around for Pokey LaFarge & the South City Three. Their country-swing-blues sound was a perfect to close a late night.

Friday I was fortunate enough to catch the great Henry Wagons at the Second Fiddle Australian/Americana lunch showcase. Wagons is one of these guys that was born to perform, and it works to his favor that he’s cool to be around. Later that night I headed over to the Mercy Lounge to catch Robert Ellis playing the opening bill at the Mercy Lounge, “I thought I had gotten the shitty slot.” Ellis said grinning at the nearly packed room. He and his band then proved why they are the one to watch in the coming. years. It reminded me of when I first saw Ryan Bingham in New York City in 2007, great things to come. Amy LaVere followed playing her jazzy folk renditions  with winsome charm and playing, and seeming waltzing, with her stand-up bass. I then spent time catching Elizabeth Cook doing her always excellent set and heading downstairs to the Cannery Ballroom to see Jim Lauderdale & Buddy Miller show how it’s done. Did I mention this is the best Americana conference/festival in the world? Then across to catch the Bottle Rockets do an acoustic show at the Rutledge, where the band proved that even unplugged they are one of the best live acts in America.

Saturday I decided to hit the the Americanarama in the parking lot of Grimey’s Preloved Music Record Store to see a current favorite, Nikki Lane,  perform her blend of 60’s surf rock and country noir. Lane charmed the crowd and then wowed them. She also won extra style points from me for sporing a Waylon Jennings logo tattoo on her forearm. I was suprised by the band Hymn For Her that I judged by their name to be a wispy folk duo. They were anything but as they tore through their set of hillbilly garage-rock with Lucy Tight on cigar-box guitar & Wayne Waxing on guitar, kick drum and harmonica. They blew me away with their cover of Morphine’s Thursday.

Overall this year’s conference seems like the community has come into their own with old friends and new mingling to laugh , argue and celebrate the thing that brings us together. Great music.


Lucinda Williams, Gregg Allman, Jerry Douglas, Rick Hall and Bob Harris To Be Honored by Americana Music Association

The Americana Music Association conference  and Awards Show is shaping up to be the best so far.  Legendary rocker Gregg Allman, Dobro master Jerry Douglas, Fame Studios producer Rick Hall, BBC radio host Bob Harris and Grammy-winning queen of Lucinda Williams will be recognized with Lifetime Achievement awards at the Americana Honors and Awards show on Oct. 13. The ceremony will take place at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Allman will be honored in the performer category, Douglas will receive his honor as an instrumentalist and Hall will be recognized as a music executive. Also, Harris will receive the Trailblazer award and Williams will be honored for her songwriting. Tickets are available at the Ryman box office and website. The Americana Festival and Conference will take place Oct. 12-15 in Nashville.

Grammy Wrap-Up – Americana Represents

Now that I’ve had a few days to recover from the whirlwind Grammy event in L.A. I ma going to try and make some sense of it all to determine what I saw and what I saw, what I learned and what I’d like to see changed.

2011 marked the third year that the GRAMMYs (branding, people) have organized a formal social media initiative to allow a bottom-up perspective, mostly-unvarnished perspective from bloggers that have established their own brand credibility in various genres. The cool thing is that it’s not just the major genres – pop , hip-hop and rock being asked to participate. Other pre-telecast awarded genres like my own Americana/folk participating were country (still a bridesmaid after all this time),  jazz , classical , soul , gospel were represented as well as social media strategy and fashion.

I believe the GRAMMYs are looking at the seismic changes in the music industry and are being proactive in addressing their own relevance and consumers changing relationship with music. I believe our efforts in coordination with ‘s wider social channels via Twitter, Facebook and YouTube led to a successful outcome I hope continues to grow and expand.

Case in point was the Social Media Summet. This was a Grammy-week event, which was open to the public and streamed live on the Grammy website, explored how the industry engages fans and consumers in sharing new music and what impact it has had on the business.
.  Held at the beautiful Conga Room the event former MTV News anchor John Norris hosted the panel which featured Facebook director of platform product marketing Ethan Beard, Foursquare co-founder Naveen Selvadurai and Pandora founder Tim Westergren as well as American Idol runner-up phenom Adam Lambert and rapper Chamillionaire won a Grammy in 2007 for his No. 1 song, “Ridin’ , which went on to become the top selling ringtone of that year with 3.2 million in sales, and the first to gross $1 million.

Quick take-aways from the panel were that social media is a double edged sword for muscians who want to make themselves available to their fans but are scrutinized by the media for any single misstep (“Don’t drunk tweet.” Advised Adam Lambert) and not all fans you hear from are, well, sane.

Lambert also said that while he loves when fans take pictures and recording video footage at his concerts, he feels like they’re cheating themselves by not being present at the moment of the experience. It’s like pre-mediation and self-inflicted removal from an experience thats most powerful attribute is immediacy.

Rapper Chamillionaire said he engages in social media because unlike the major labels “There’s not a suit standing there telling me I can’t do something. I stand or fall on my own action and my fans let me know what they think really fast.”

The panel bemoaned the demise of the record store and Ethan Beard  hoped that Facebook could take up some of the slack to connect fans to musicians. “Music is social activity … and buying music on iTunes is different than in CD stores,” Beard said. “(But) using social media makes it more social.”

I would like to see the Americana field get more cred for using social media to expand the fan-base and scout out touring destinations. And I defy anyone to find a more active community site that No Depression.

In the end I was glade to be asked to the party and able to witness the Best Americana Album GRAMMY awarded to Mavis Staples (her first !)  for You Are Not Alone, her collaboration with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, and see the Carolina Chocolate Drops claim the GRAMMY in the category of Best Traditional Folk Album for Genuine Negro Jig. Meeting Cajun-music legend D. L. Menard, Hank Williams’ daughter Jett and the fine people at Time -Life that helped her release the fantastic The Hank Williams Complete Mother Best Recordings….Plus! box set, Margaret and Arthur Warwick – proprietors of the legendary Louisiana Hayride.

Then there was that whole Avett, Mumford, Dylan thing..that was pretty cool as well.


11th Annual Americana Music Association Conference/Festival Must Sees

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.

News Round Up: Kris Kristofferson Cruises

  • Chico California’s features a brief interview with local resident Merle Haggard.
  • Whitney Self at the blog details the story behind Kris Kristofferson’s most famous hit and its Italian cinematic motivation.See him perform this and more on Studio 330 Sessions.
  • More on Kristofferson – ABC’s Good Morning America’s Weekend Drive cruises around Nashville with the man as he reminisces about his long illustrious career. Kristofferson, 73, is releasing “Closer to the Bone,” his 24th album, this week.
  • The Bay Area’s own premier Southern Gothic band the Pine Box Boys’ upcoming album is entitled The Emancipated Head and will be released sometime next Spring.
  • The Tin Whisker offers a nice interview with neo-traditionalist J. B. Beverley. Beverley discusses his move from punk rock to honky-tonk.
  • The annual IBMA World of Bluegrass begings today in Nashville(9/28-10/4). The World of Bluegrass events includes the IBMA Business Conference,,the 20th Annual International Bluegrass Music Awards Show at the Ryman Auditorium and Bluegrass Fan Fest.
  • After seeing Amanda Shires performance at the Basement during the Americana Music Association conference and festival I have to say, I am smitten. The Native Texan’s newest release, West Cross Timbers, is one of the best releases I’ve heard this year. Music Fog has a clip of her and a guy that looks a lot like TV’s House (but who is really her music partner Rod Picott) doing I Kept Watch Like Doves (aka Murder Ballad) from the album.

News Round Up: Americana Gets Some Love

  • You know Americana as a genre has arrived when not only do they have their own Grammy category (or is that the death knell?) but also the Americana Music Conference is written up in the Wall Street Journal, Paste Magazine and With great power…
  • When in Nashville I always find time to visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The place displays and represents the historic roots of country music in a tasteful and engaging way that I never get tired of. Where else can you see Mother Maybelle Carter’s 1028 Gibson and Elvis’ Gold Cadillac? But the place seems to be at capacity for a genre that is still making history. Now it seems that there’s a possibility that the Hall could double its size in the near future.
  • San Francisco’s free (!) Americana and Roots festival, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, has published a down-loadable daily schedule, as well as a map of the Golden Gate Park festival grounds and artist’s bios.

News Round Up: Kanye and Swift Give MTV Some Press

  • Scottish-Canadian country singer Johnny Reid was in the running for six awards, including Album of the Year for his latest release Dance With Me.The singer took home five trophies including Album, Songwriter, Video and Male Artist of the Year from the Canadian Country Music Awards. Dean Brody won Single of the Year for Brothers, Crystal Shawanda won Female Artist of the Year and Corb Lund won Roots Artist or Group of the Year
  • Son Volt’s Jay Farrar & Death Cab for Cutie’s Benjamin Gibbard are set to perform four special concerts to support their collaberation on the album One Fast Move Or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur.  Other surprise material will be performed at four concerts in October, underscoring the influential author’s enduring legacy 40 years after his death on October 21, 1969. The band features Jay Farrar (Son Volt), Benjamin Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie, Postal Service), Nick Harmer (Death Cab for Cutie), Mark Spencer (Son Volt) and Jon Wurster (Superchunk, Bob Mould, The Mountain Goats).

Tour dates:
10/23 – El Rey Theatre – Los Angeles, CA (on sale 9/16)
10/24 – Bimbo’s 365 Club – San Francisco, CA (on sale 9/16)
10/26 – Lincoln Hall – Chicago, IL (on sale 9/25)
10/28 – Webster Hall – New York, NY (on sale 9/1Cool

  • has a nice feature on the Avett Brothers and their upcoming major label debut I and Love and You.
  • After fuming with the multitudes on twitter about the whole Kanye West / Taylor Swift Female Video of the Year diss dust-up at the MTV Awards, I’m convinced the whole thing was staged for media controversy. Kanye seems to be willing to do this every time he needs ink. He shot his mouth off at the the 2006 MTV Europe Music Awards in Denmark, when Touch The Sky lost out to Justice Vs Simian’s We Are Your Friends, Swift  has a repackaged Fearless coming out soon and more press couldn’t hurt, and MTV  gets press (and tweets) from any controversy. Remember the infamous 2003 Madonna/Britney Spears kiss?
  • Happy birthday to Bill Monroe is (98)!
  • Starting tomorrow I will be posting intermittently from the Americana Music Association conference and festival in Nashville. For more constant (and dubiously sober) posts check out my twitter profile.
Roots Artist or Group of the Year

News Round Up: Willie Nelson Works with T Bone Burnett

  • For a man in his 70s Willie Nelson is showing no signs of slowing down. The Texas Yoda is reportedly working with producer T Bone Burnett (O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Walk the Line soundtracks, Alison Krauss and Robert Plant – Raising Sand, Elvis Costello’ s -  Secret, Profane and Sugarcane and much more) in Nashville on his very first bluegrass album. Some of the songs being considered are Sixteen Tons, Dark as a Dungeon, and the oft covered Joe “Red” Hayes and Jack Rhodes classic Satisfied Mind. (via
  • Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut Whip It is about roller derby in Austin, Texas. Sound like boxoffice gold to me! Ms. Barrymore was also instrumental in choosing the music for the soundtrack which includes Dolly Parton’s Jolene and .38 Special’s Caught Up in You as well as less twangy work by the Ramones, Peaches and Go Team! (
  • The Americana Music festival and conference is next week in Nashville TN (Sept 16-19) and the early bird registration price has been extended to Sept. 14th. Get in on what is sure to be a great conference and excellent showcases all over the city.
  • Congratulation to Patterson Hood from the Drive By Truckers and his wife Rebecca on the birth of their son Emmett Hood!
Willie Nelson

Americana Music Association Partners with the Nashville Film Festival

The Americana Music Association (AMA) will partner with the Nashville Film Festival (NaFF) to present two premiere screenings during the 10th Annual Americana Music Festival and Conference, September 16-19, 2009 in Nashville.

“Americana on Film” will take place at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Ford Theatre and include screenings of Behind the Confessions: Radney Foster’s Revival on Thursday September 17 from 12:00-2 p.m. with Foster in attendance and the Southeast Premier of 35 Years of Austin City Limits: Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel, Saturday, September 19, 1:30-3:00 p.m. with Austin City Limits producer Terry Lickona in attendance. (Thanks to Cybergrass)