Americana Music Association Announces Second Round of 2017 Americanafest Showcases

AmericanaFest  Announces Second Round of of 2017 Americanafest Showcases
Photo: (L-R) Top Row: Yola Carter, Drive-By Truckers, Iron & Wine
Bottom Row: Lukas Nelson, The Secret Sisters, Amanda Shires

Following the already stellar first round line-up announcement the Americana Music Association turned the yearly roots music showcase greatness meter firmly to 11.

The second round list of almost 300 artists slated to perform at the 18th Annual Americanafest roots music festival & conference plumbs deeper into the depths of Americana’s excellence than any other shocase of it’s type. Aside from stalwarts like Buddy Miller you get the new tradiitionalist like Elizabeth Cook and Hayes Carll as well as exciting young guns like Jade Jackson and Sammy Brue. Then there are my personal favorites Boo Ray, Angaleena Presley, Doug Seegers, Quaker City Night Hawks, The Secret Sisters, The Texas Gentlemen and don’t miss live performance by Whiskey Shivers. It’s also cool to see legendary folkers Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam on the list for the first time.

Conspicuously missing from the full list isthe most popular representatives of the genre – Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell, though Amanda Shires is on the list and Jason’s been known to show up as a guest.

With the list of the 84 performers announced can be found below, bringing the current line-up to 187 artists, which can be viewed here.

Resister for the full six-day festival here, or get festival showcase wristbands here.

AMERICANAFEST℠ Conference Registrations (currently $299 for members/$399 for non-members) offer priority admission into all showcase venues, sanctioned parties and events, daytime educational panels, and can be purchased here. At this time, only Conference Registrants may purchase Honors & Awards show tickets. If you’re just interested in the nightly showcases, a festival wristband will be your most suitable option at the wallet-friendly price of $75. Available on their website, a festival wristband grants admission into all showcase venues as well as select sanctioned parties and special events.

Second Round of Artists Confirmed to Play AMERICANAFEST℠:
The Accidentals
Amanda Shires
Angaleena Presley
Becky Warren
Ben Smith & Jimmy Brewer
Birdtalker
Bonnie Whitmore and Her Band
Boo Ray
Boy Named Banjo
Buddy Miller
The Cactus Blossoms
Cary Morin
Charly Markwart
Cody Canada & The Departed
Colin Hay
Cory Branan
Cris Jacobs
Dalton Domino
Darling West
Darrin Bradbury
David Ramirez
The Dead South
Dean Owens
Doug Seegers
Drive-by Truckers
Dustbowl Revival
Elijah Ocean
Elizabeth Cook
Emily Barker
Flatland Cavalry
Great American Canyon Band
Hayes Carll
Humming House
Iron & Wine
J.P. Harris
Jade Jackson
Joan Osborne
John Hiatt & the Goners
Joshua Hedley
Kaitlin Butts
The Kernal
Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams
The Last Bandoleros
Lee Roy Parnell
Lilly Hiatt
Lori McKenna
LUCETTE
Lukas Nelson
Marc Broussard
Mark O’Connor featuring the O’Connor Band
Matthew Ryan
The Mavericks & Friends
Michigan Rattlers
Nicole Atkins
Noam Pikelny
Nora Jane Struthers
North Mississippi Allstars
Phoebe Hunt
Quaker City Night Hawks
Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm
Rogue + Jaye
Romantica
Sammy Brue
The Secret Sisters
Shannon McNally
Steelism
The Steel Wheels
Suzanne Santo
SZLACHETKA
The Texas Gentlemen
The Tillers
Timmy The Teeth
Tom Brosseau
Tommy Womack
Travis Linville
Twisted Pine
Whiskey Shivers
Whitney Rose
The Wild Reeds
Willie Nile
The Wood Brothers
Wood & Wire
Woody Pines
Yola Carter

(EDIT) –FINAL ROUND ADDITION–

A.J. Croce
Amelia White and The Blue Souvenirs
Amy Black
Belle Plaine
Big Star’s Third Live
Billy Strings
Blackfoot Gypsies
Blair Crimmins and The Hookers
Bonnie Bishop
Brigitte DeMeyer
Caitlyn Smith
Cale Tyson
Carson McHone
Carter Sampson
Cat Clyde
Cereus Bright
Charlie Mars
Christian Lopez
Colin Hay
Colter Wall
Danni Nicholls
Danny Burns
Darling West
Dave Alvin
David Mayfield Parade
David Myles
Don Gallardo
Early James & the Latest
Eddie Berman
Escondido
Falls
Faustina Masigat
Front Country
Gill Landry
Grant-Lee Phillips
Harrow Fair
High Plains Jamboree
India Ramey
Jack Ingram
Jamie Kent
Jamtown
Jason Wilber
Jesse Dayton
Jimmy Lumpkin and the Revival
Joana Serrat
Joey Kneiser
Jon Langford
Joseph Huber
K Phillips
Kaia Kater
Kamara Thomas
Korby Lenker
Kristina Murray
Lee Ann Womack & Friends
Leyla McCalla
Liz Cooper & The Stampede
Lucie Silvas
Mark Erelli
Mary Bragg
Max Gomez
Me And My Brother
Motel Radio
Muddy Ruckus
Natalie Hemby
Old Sea Brigade
Otis Gibbs
Parsonsfield
Rachel Baiman
Rayna Gellert with Kieran Kane
Reckless Kelly
Reuben Bidez
Robby Hecht
Robyn Hitchcock
Ryan Tanner
Sam Outlaw
Sarah Shook & the Disarmers
Shane Nicholson
Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer
Shelly Fairchild
Skyway Man
Taasha Coates
Tattletale Saints
Ted Russell Kamp
The Americans
The Lowest Pair
The Mulligan Brothers
The Steel Woods
The Stray Birds
Tony Joe White
Trout Steak Revival
Vikesh Kapoor
Webb Wilder
Wild Ponies
Will Hoge
Will Kimbrough
Zach Schmidt
Zephaniah O’Hora

Americana Music Association Announces Initial Showcase Line-up

Americana Conference Lineup

Nashville-based Americana Music Association has released an excellent initial artist line-up for showcase portion of the conference, festival and awards show. the selections show a broad range of diversity and excellence the of the genre. Great to see many Casa Twang favorites represented as well.

Artists include: Black Prairie, Billy Bragg, Rosanne Cash, The Devil Makes Three, Frank Fairfield, Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors, John Fullbright, JD McPherson,
The Lone Bellow, Aoife O’ Donovan, Darrell Scott & Tim O’Brien, Richard Thompson, The White Buffalo, Holly Williams and The Wood Brothers

The 14th annual event will take place in Nashville, Sept. 18-22. I’ll be there. hope you are too!

Showcase artists confirmed to perform include:

Black Prairie
Billy Bragg
Rosanne Cash
The Del-Lords
The Devil Makes Three
Sam Doores, Riley Downing & the Tumbleweeds
Frank Fairfield
Field Report
John Fullbright
Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors
Hurray for the Riff Raff
The Infamous Stringdusters
Kruger Brothers
Pokey LaFarge
Nikki Lane
The Lone Bellow
Luella & the Sun
JD McPherson
Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale
Aoife O’Donovan
Old Man Luedecke
Lindi Ortega
Darrell Scott & Tim O’Brien
Shakey Graves
Sturgill Simpson
Sons of Fathers
Spirit Family Reunion
Steelism
The Stray Birds
Richard Thompson
Holly Williams
The White Buffalo
The Wood Brothers

Americana Music Festival and Awards Recap – The Year Americana Goes Legit

Finally winding down from my annual trip and I’m here to say that 2011 is the year the Americana went mainstream.

The Americana Music Association, the Nashville professional trade organization that puts on the whole shindig, just experienced its biggest year yet: Their membership is up by 45 percent compared to 2006. The festival showcased twice the number of bands it did five years ago; and this year’s overall attendance was around 15,000, as opposed to the roughly 10,000 reported in 2011. Jed Hilly and the good people of the AMA were able to do all this while maintaining the performance intimacy and musical quality I’ve experienced over my 5 years of attending the event. They have also been able to avoid the band-of-the-minute trading bazaar plaguing events like South-By-Southwest .

CMT.com know a good thing when they see it. With the commercial breakout of artists like Mumford & Sons, The Civil Wars and the Avett Brothers the cable music channel, that in many ways embodies everything Americana stands in contrast of,  is setting up a small section of it’s site branded “CMT Edge” focused on showcasing artists outside their usual fare of quasi-“outlaws” and warbling blondes. The venture is focusing on the heart of Americana’s best. The tapping that i attended while attending the AMA conference featured Jason Isbell and justin Townes Earle in performing a solo acoustic set of a few songs in a setting that was more Bluebird Cafe than the hell-raising arenas most SMT artists can be found.

Craig Shelburne, a CMT.com writer and producer is the driving force behind CMT Edge introduced the artists before their performances. I briefly spoke to Shelburne and he seemed to me to be a man doing good that wants to do well. CMT sees that the Americana brand is blowing up  (thanks in large part to the promotional efforts of the AMA and the sheer talent under the genre’s tent.) Sure CMT is a corporation concerned with eyeballs to sell soap, but they offer a much larger stage where deserving artists can make more money and upgrade their instruments and crappy touring vans. or as Jason Isbell told me when i ran into him at the Buddy Miller Lee Ann Womack show “We all need to make money.” Indeed.

The Americana Honors & Awards program was a tightly executed package to showcase exceptional talent for wider public consumption. The new two-year deal with Mark Cuban’s AXS TV to broadcast the event live was added to the already existing live broadcast on radio, satellite and the web via outlets including Nashville’s WSM, SiriusXM’s “Outlaw Country” and NPR.org, respectively. The show’s current TV partner, Austin City Limits, also broadcasts an edited special ACL Presents on November 10.  Voice of America and Bob Harris’ BBC Radio 2 will broadcast overseas in following weeks.

All this spiked with an official hashtag #Americanafest and the youTube videos from the festivals shows cropping up afterward and you have a full-scale media juggernaut.

The inclusion of Bonnie Raitt , Booker T Jones and Richard Thompson for lifetime achievement awards for performance, instrumentalist and songwriting respectively. There’s no denying the legendary status of these great artists and their appeal to an Americana demo that trends towards the Boomer generation, but – to polish an old chestnut – are they “Americana?”

Each of these artists have established themselves as legends in the well defined genres of blues, R&B & soul and folk & rock. Honoring these legends in an Americana awards ceremony undoubtedly allows the AMA to hitch the brand to established and well-repected talent, but at what cost? By seemingly playing a game of “me too” the AMA could be using their crown jewel awards program to further obscure the Americana brand at best. At worst there the risk that the AMA will lead Americana into being a cast as an always derivative genre, riding on the coattails of established genres in order to gain credibility and an audience.

I’m not sure which of these scenarios will play out but I see them both as unnecessary as the above numbers and CMT attention show that Americana is doing just firm staking out it’s own turf heading toward greater brand visibility. How can a genre that has legitimate ties to Steve Earle , Ryan Bingham and The Civil Wars  need to pilfer genre to create awareness?

But maybe I’m wrong. maybe Americana at it’s core crosses so many lines that those lines are the real outlines of what this movement we all  love is really about. Maybe it’s a result of that truly American phenomenon of a society emerging from a diversity of the melting-pot.

Maybe it’s like Jim Lauderdale said from the stage of the Ryman Auditorium the other night. “Boundaries are for cowards.

Maybe.

Americana Music Festival Unveils Schedule

It’s undeniable that The Americana Music Festival is the premier showcase for the Americana genre. The showcases, award show and panels spans 4 days of some of the best music the genre has to offer. All in beautiful downtown Nashville, near the heart of Music City pop confectionery

Building on last year’s increase in attendance the good people at the AMA are making this 10th anniversary of the yearly event the best yet.

The already rich lineup for the event has now been sweetened with the addition of Corb Lund, Richard Thompson, Jill Andrews , Punch Brothers. Paul Thorn and, making the transition from mainstream country to the richer pastures of Americana, Lee Ann Womack.

This year’s tribute showcase performance will honor the recently deceased pioneer of the genre, Levon Helm. The winner of the 2010 and 2012’s Best Americana Album GRAMMY Helm will be honored by an as-yet unannounced bill in a performance titled “This Wheel’s on Fire: A Tribute to Levon Helm.”

Here is the full schedule of artists and venues for the Americana Music Conference 2012. Print it out and star highlighting your favorites!

Wednesday, September 12

The Basement

10:00 Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside
11:00 Blue Mountain
12:00 Shovels and Rope

The Station Inn

10:30 Carper Family Band
11:30 Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson

The Rutledge

10:00 Gretchen Peters
11:00 Bearfoot
12:00 Delta Rae

Mercy Lounge

10:00 Corb Lund
11:00 This Wheel’s On Fire: A Tribute to Levon Helm

The High Watt

10:30 Whitehorse
11:30 Chris Stamey

Cannery Ballroom

10:00 Star Anna
11:00 Brandi Carlile

Thursday, September 13

The Basement

8:00 Lydia Loveless
9:00 Angel Snow
10:00 Sons of Fathers
11:00 The Deep Dark Woods
12:00 Black Lillies

The Station Inn

8:00 The Amy Helm Band
8:45 Teresa Williams and Larry Campbell
9:20 The Dirt Farmers
10:00 Mary Gauthier
11:00 Richard Thompson

The Rutledge

The Music of Memphis
8:00 Star and Micey
9:00 Luther Dickinson Solo
10:00 TBA
11:00 The Bo-Keys
12:00 Songs of Big Star

Mercy Lounge
8:00 Turnpike Troubadours
9:00 Billy Joe Shaver
10:00 Steve Forbert
11:00 John Fullbright
12:00 Jason Boland & The Stragglers

The High Watt

8:30 The Mastersons
9:30 Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers
10:30 Eilen Jewell
11:30 Julie Lee

Cannery Ballroom

8:00 Blue Highway
9:00 Sara Watkins
10:00 Paul Thorn
11:00 Punch Brothers (with a Sara Watkins cameo?)

Live on the Green

6:30 The Dunwells
7:15 Delta Spirit
9:00 The Wallflowers

Friday, September 14

The Basement

8:00 Caitlin Harnett
9:00 American Aquarium
10:00 Cory Branan
11:00 Chuck Mead and His Grassy Knoll Boys
12:00 Buxton

The Station Inn

8:00 TBA
9:00 Della Mae
10:00 McCrary Sisters
11:00 Steep Canyon Rangers
12:00 Humming House

The Rutledge

8:00 Mandolin Orange
9:00 Mindy Smith
10:00 The World Famous Headliners
11:00 Belle Starr
12:00 BoDeans

Mercy Lounge

8:00 Jimbo Mathus & The Tri-State Coalition
9:00 Holy Ghost Tent Revival
10:00 TBA
11:00 Darrell Scott
12:00 Reckless Kelly

The High Watt

8:30 Max Gomez
9:30 Two Gallants
10:30 Sons of Bill
11:30 Andrew Combs

Cannery Ballroom

8:00 TBA
9:00 TBA
10:00 Robert Ellis
11:00 John Hiatt

Saturday, September 15

The Basement

8:00 Anthony da Costa
9:00 Chastity Brown
10:00 Fort Frances
11:00 The Pines
12:00 Chris Scruggs

The Station Inn

8:00 Brennen Leigh
9:00 Phoebe Hunt
10:00 Marvin Etzioni
11:00 Rodney Crowell

The Rutledge

8:00 Felicity Urquhart
9:00 The Wood Brothers
10:00 Kevin Gordon
11:00 Jordie Lane
12:00 The Trishas

Mercy Lounge

8:00 Lera Lynn
9:00 honeyhoney
10:00 Tift Merritt
11:00 Buddy Miller & Lee Ann Womack

The High Watt

8:00 Jill Andrews
9:00 Derek Hoke
10:00 Kasey Anderson and the Honkies

Tickets to the Americana Music Festival are available at the Americana Music Association website.

Linda Chorney Grammy Nomination – A Response

Chorney –  Ukrainian and Jewish (Ashkenazic): nickname for someone with dark skin or dark hair, from Ukrainian chorny ‘black’.

Linda Chorney is aptly named. As the lone question mark on a Grammy Americana Album of the Year nominee list. A list dominated by Americana music stalwarts Ry Cooder, Emmylou Harris. Levon Helm and Lucinda Williams. Chroney is in name as well as in actuality, the dark horse.

As the GRAMMY blogger for the Americana/folk categories I was anticipating the nominees for these are other categorizes like Blugrass, country and wherever else the music I love was being represented  Spotting an unknown name on the Grammy Americana Album of the Year list was surprising and, truth be told, bruised my ego a bit. I pride myself on knowing a thing or two about not just the  mainstream but the fringes of the Americana/Roots music territory. Seeing an unknown name, like happened to me with the Civil Wars and Mumford and Sons in early 2010 when they broke, kind of shakes my taste-maker mojo.

After interviewing Chorney about a week after her nomination I left unconvinced that her style of music fell into my definition of Americana.But after listening to songs over her catalog and watching live performances I could hear hints of artist I’ve seen perform at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and the Americana Music Association showcases. So Okay.

One thing I had no doubt about was that this woman, over her 51 years, had paid her dues. Also that by engaging the GRAMMY365 site, a social site for members of the Grammy organization, to get her music in from of people that influence that nominations, was ingenious.

Some level of naiveté did not prepare me for the considerable scrutiny, contempt and outright venom headed Chorney’s way in the wake of her Grammy nom. Hateful comments on Facebook were posted that attacked her on her very existence within the genre and not her music. As though lake of awareness on the writer was cause enough to dismiss her.

The Americana Music Association, who had a hand in the creation of Americana as a distinct Grammy category,  has even withheld their boiler plate congratulations that is released soon after the nominees are announced. I wonder if their heads will explode if she actually wins.

In balance there were some people of considerable merit (most notably by Kim Ruehl and Paul Schatzkin) that took a more thoughtful approach to the Chroney nomination. They argue that though her music wasn’t their shot of hooch they were able to see Chorneys’s nomination as a testament to indy ethos, DIY perseverance and a performer’s adept ability to adapt in a music business that is undergoing a significant industrial upheaval.

Generally, the arguments against Chorney’s nomination run into two  camps; She hasn’t done time in the Americana community and she somehow cheated her way into the nomination.

The first argument is ridiculous and smacks of the same Nativist logic used by some to argue for building a wall on the Mexican border. “You’re an outsider, you don’t belong and have nothing to contribute. You miust be kept out”Americana, like America herself, is made up of refuges and misfits. Diversity and acceptance are qualities that make up the genres strength. Newcomers are not always appealing to all members (yours truly included.)

The second argument – “she cheated” – Is equally ridiculous. It’s the same augment made by Luddites whenever a new way of doing things disrupts the norm. Automobiles were a “cheat” in a horse culture. Computer were a “cheat” in an analog world. Chorney paid her dues as a singer/songwriter, had n opportunity to create the album of her dreams, and then used a social network to get that album in front of people involved with the Grammys. The album still had to go though the evaluation of members of NARAS and, as is my understand in the case of Americana, a separate genre “expert” panel. There were many checks and balances beyond Chornys personal efforts to lobby for her work.

Chorney is a great example of the new breed of artist-entrepreneur, artists and craftsmen that see technology and a connected world has laid the world at their career doorstep and use every means at their disposal to walk through it.

I think a lot of the bile hurled at Chorney is a result of Americana communities inability to better define what Americana is. As I mentioned I believe this to be a founding strength but it makes others uncomfortable in practice. Some of the ill will, and I know tis because I know the professional background of some of those posting sneering bon-mots online, results from Chroney’s efforts shining a bright light on the PR industry and showing that many of it’s traditional value now lies in the hands of a diligent artist. Instead of reevaluating their place in the entertainment industry they choose to attack rather than adapt.

True until her bid for a nomination on GRAMMY365 Chorney appears to have never heard the term Americana applied as a musical formal genre. Most people haven’t. I bet when many young and established musicians start emulating the influences that enrich the genre, The Band, Parsons, Cash,  their first instinct is not to look for labels but to indulge in the only thing that matters, the music. Do you think that the Avett Brothers or Robert Plant specifically sought out the Americana handbook before creating a work?

The real irony here is that many people that are up in arms about Chorneys nomination are people that over the years have dismissed the Grammys as being out of touch with current music and not representative of the best of music. Her nomination should just further justify their point of view.

Love her or hate her, Chorney is a excellent example when gatekeepers are removed from the music industry.

Below is a video I uncovered showing Chorney playing a show in 2009. I defy anyone to watch it and tell me that there nothing, absolutely NOTHING, that might be considered Americana in her sound (and wardrobe!)

 

Twang Nation Podcast Episode 1

Yes friends, after all these years of talking (and posting the occasional clip) about great music I decided to just into the fray and get out a Twang Nation podcast. Why now? Two reasons. I came back from the Americana Music Association Conference with some great experiences and the technological opportunity fell into my lap. there you have it.

How does it stack up with excellent productions like Freight Train Boogie, 9 Bullets or Country Fried Rock ? I’ll leave that up to you dear listener.There’s a lot of great Americana and roots music out there and I hope I am able to cover just a bit more of it to bring you great music. The production is excellent thanks to my friend (and bartender) Franklyn, the “uh” and “um”marred patter between songs is less smooth (Sorry Brett Deter, at least I got you name in there after the song!)but I take the same license I do as a blogger, you get what you pay for. And it’s untimely not about my sterling delivery, it’s about the music. By chance this maiden episode happen to coincide with the 70th birthday of Guy Clark so I’ve included his classic Dublin Blues to end the program.

Best of all, this was fun and I look forward to doing it again soon. I hope you like it and find some great music , and if you like it please leave your comments below and forward it to friends. Most importantly go buy music and get out and see live shows. if you don’t our greatest fears might be realized,  great music will go away.

  1. Dale Watson – A Real Country Song
  2. Hymn For Her – Slips
  3. Hellbound Glory – Better Hope You Die Young
  4. Amanda Shires – Shake The Walls
  5. Austin Lucas – Sleep Well
  6. Wagons – I Blew It
  7. Sunday Valley  – Sometimes Wine
  8. Nikki Lane – Gone, Gone, Gone
  9. Brett Deter – The Devil’s Gotta’ Earn
  10. Lindi Ortega – Angels
  11. Scott H_ Biram –  Dontcha Lie To Me Baby
  12. Truckstop Dalrlin’ – Down
  13. Guy Clark – Dublin Blues

Twang Nation Podcast Episode 1

On iTunes

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.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3skEpvi09Pc&feature=related[/youtube]

Americana Music and the Big Tent

This morning the Americana Music Association  shared a link to an online Spin.com (Meet the New Stars of Americana) past covering the Americana scene in Red Hook Brooklyn and touching on the Americana genre in general.

I take a view much like I believe Jed Hilly and the AMA do, since they sent this article out via twitter and their own official email blast, that any press is good press and it helps to lift all Americana boats in the ocean of mass-media and National consciousness.  It takes a real aberration of opinion, like calling Robert Plant the King of Americana or declaring the predecessor to Americana, alt.country to be dead , to rile my feathers enough to take use this blog as a virtual soap box..

But the article is pretty much what i would expect from Spin magazine. A 20-something speaking using context of indy-rock and language of 20-somethings to establish shared taste and like-mindedness. Ever generation does this. Have you listened to most 20-somethings on the  train talking to one another? It’s like razor wire, like, for your, like, ears. Right?!

I’m just glade that in this instance Uncle Tupelo , Whiskeytown and Bill Monroe are the topic of conversation instead of the whatever skinny-jean and hoodied is the flavor of the week.

If there’s anything in the article that peeves me it’s the reference to Americana pioneer Gillian Welch, who co-produced of the 9 million unit selling O, Brother, Where Art Thou and Alison Krauss, the most awarded woman in Grammy history (26 awards of  38 nominations) as “niche acts.” I think most musicians would love to have that niche. there is also the painfully ham-handed application of sub-genre definitions – “chillbilly, bootgaze, artisanal rock, outhouse, tin can alley, or hobohemian.”

Fans of Americana share, aside from band-wagoners, share a lot of the same attributes as folk, blues and jazz fans. there is a reverence to a purity and reverence to an idea of “tradition” that sometimes gets in the way of innovation and creativity. But in the case of Americana, a mongrel genre at best, the litmus of genre purity, or as I like to call it the “more authentic than thou” argument, makes no sense for a field that can claim genre-bending acts like Those Darlin’s , Hank Williams III and the Legendary Shack Shakers as members.

Washboard lessons held in Brooklyn, John Deere caps and pearl-snap shirts from Urban Outfitters  and a vague grasp of bluegrass history is no threat to Americana.  Age, geography, wardrobe or other litmus tests aside from the musical variety which I partake in ad nauseam, is pure horseshit.

News Round Up: Jimmie Dale Gilmore Premiers Heirloom Music

  • Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass fans take note! Texas’ Americana music legend  Jimmie Dale Gilmore waxes philosophic on what is wrong with country music today. Gilmore’s upcoming release was done with Hardly Strictly Bluegrass benefactor Warren Hellman, and his band the Wronglers. The album is a collection of vintage Nashville classics entitled Heirloom Music, which they’ll be premiering at Slim’s in San Francisco on Sunday3/10/11  afternoon.
  • On March 17 “Americana @ The Bluebird Cafe” show will focus on the rock side of Americana, with performances from Webb Wilder, Brad Jones and Hans Rotenberry. Tickets for the 9 p.m. show are $20, available through bluebirdcafe.com beginning at 8 a.m. on March 10, and all proceeds will go to the Americana Music Association. Also planned for this month are two more “Americana @ The Bluebird Cafe” shows: Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer will perform on March 22, and there’ll be a Jerry Douglas & Friends concert March 24th.
  • In support of his latest solo effort, the T Bone Burnett produced Low Country Blues, Gregg Allman has announced a solo tour that will launch April 19th in North Charleston, SC. For the first handful of dates, Allman will be joined by the Steve Miller Band. Allman will also be performing at several festivals this summer, including Bonnaroo and Nateva Music Festival. Press for Allman also indicates that he’ll be “back doing shows in late summer into the fall” as well.

Music Review: Willie Nelson – Country Music (Rounder) Merle Haggard – I Am What I Am (Vanguard)

If there was a country music Mount Rushmore two legendary (and appropriately weathered)  mugs sure to be immortalized in granite would be Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.

Willie and The Haggard have left their indelible imprint on Country music by spearheading two spirited responses to the slick sound of 50s and 60s Nashville, Outlaw country and the Bakersfield sound respectively. Willie (77) and the Hag (73) show no signs of slowing down with ongoing touring and debuts on new labels ( and in Willie’s case a follow up) and both are back to buck mainstream Country trends by assuredly reasserting their mark on the future by mining tradition.

Country Music, the title of Willie’s Rounder Records debut, can be read as both a historical affirmation of the genre and a proclamation that the current pop variety overtaking the airwaves does not have a lock on the moniker  Never a slave to the genre Willie infuses these 14 classic covers (and one unearthed original) with his laid-back jazzy approach to make them fresh and compelling. Lack of collaboration is not a short-coming Willie embodies. He might collaborate with even a fence post if the mood struck him. But what I consider a perfect fellow Texan T Bone Burnett (Grammy winner for Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ Raising Sand and Academy Award winner for the Crazy Heart soundtrack ) to handle production and brought some Nashville’s best talent – Buddy Miller,Jim Lauderdale,  mandolinist Ronnie McCoury, banjo player Riley Baugus as well as long-time Nelson harmonica maestro Mickey Raphale – and worked with Willie to choose the material, and steps back in the production and allows Willie and the material to shine.

The highlights include a sparse and elegant version of Merle Travis’ Appalachian coal miner lament Dark as a Dungeon which takes on a  topical context in light of the recent West Virginia and Russian tragedies,  the traditional Gospel number Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down which suits Willie’s sinewy voice backed by a instruments that emit a fitting Southern Gothic chill. The oft-covered Satisfied Mind is a solid study on appreciating what you have and is given authority in this delivery. The swinging Pistol Packin’ Mama, which was a number one single for Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters, throws off tons of playful cowboy cool.

I wonder if Haggard asked George Jones if he could borrow the title of his 1980 album I Am What I Am? Hag’s version made up of all originals and show him as feisty, poetic and occasionally solemn as ever. Recorded with his ace band the Strangers, as well as his son Ben on guitar, at his Northern California headquarters, the Shade Tree Manor studio, and produced by Haggard and longtime collaborator Lou Bradley, this album fits nicely into Haggard’s storied catalog.  The past fist-clenched defiance of Okie from Muskogee and The Fighting Side of Me has been replaced with a contemplation and mature restrain. But Haggard is still willing to say, not shout, what’s on his mind.

The bitetrsweet I’ve Seen It Go Away reminisces better times in a rear view mirror. Pretty When It’s New and The Road to My Heart shows that Willie is not the only one with a jazzy traditional pop bent. The spirit of Bob Wills inhabits the lively twin-fiddle fueled Live and Love Always, featuring a duet with his wife, Theresa, as Haggard gives arrangement instructions mid-song. Bad Actor is a great smooth country number about a man going through the motions in a dead-end relationship. Mexican Bands is a great mariachi-tinged waltz south of the border where haggard alludes to a pastime he might have picked up from Willie – “And early mañana smoke what I wanna, And listen to Mexican bands.”

Longtime fans know that both of there men are masters of the understated guitar, and throughout both releases there is testament to their subtle artistry. There are welcome reminders of the beauty and majesty possible when performers, young or old, are courageous enough to perform work from the heart.

Willie Nelson –  Country Music

Merle Haggard –  I Am What I Am

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