Sunday, October 16, 2011

Americana Music Festival Showcase Wrap Up -- Part 1

The Americana Music Festival wraps up today in Nashville, Tennessee after a truly amazing week of great music, moments and periods of great growth and learning (especially the latter for this writer).  Trying to capture and eloquently describe the great music that was performed here this week is a daunting task.  But, this week was about overcoming mountains, so tackling this particular challenge should be fairly easy.

It's hard to believe that the festival has come and gone so quickly, but here it is Sunday and while some have started to make their way back home, I'm in Nashville for one last day and we'll call this a day of rest.  The music festival portion kicked off on Wednesday evening, October 12 and I decided to focus on the proceedings at the Mercy Lounge.  Opening up the festival was a well-known veteran band from Austin, Texas, The Gourds.  Performing tracks from their newest release on Vanguard Records, "Old Mad Joy", this hard working group was the perfect choice to kick off the proceedings at the Mercy (other showcases would take place simultaneously in four additional venues as well).  Working older material in to the set list kept longtime fans of The Gourds rocking long after the boys had wrapped their set and gave way to another Texas veteran whom has reunited with a longtime songwriting and perfoming partner.  Sadly, I am not familiar with much of The Gourds material, but they were outstanding.  I look forward to learning more about The Gourds and catching up on their lengthy career and extensive catalog.

Following The Gourds was an artist nominated for Instrumentalist of the Year at the Americana Music Association Awards and longtime guitarist for Marty Stuart, Kenny Vaughan.  Mr. Vaughan is one of the most gifted musicians in the world today.  This was my first experience watching Kenny on his own, having watched him on a couple of occasions with Marty as one of the Fabulous Superlatives.  Performing tunes from his debut Sugar Hill Records release "V".  Mr. Vaugahn is, in a word, "Superlative."  He commands the stage with the presence of a veteran guitar player who is ready to introduce a whole other side of himself as a leading entity on stage.  This was a perfect kick start to what will be a very long and successful solo career.

Up next was an act that I grew up admiring in my teens.  Radney Foster and Bill Lloyd, commonly known as Foster and Lloyd, have made their mark as songwriters and performers in mainstream country and Americana music for decades, both as solo and collabortative artists.  Their commercial success in the mid-to-late 1980's introduced Foster and Lloyd to a wide audience, but sadly, the industry never did quite figure out how to categorize the act.  As I mentioned to one of Mr. Foster's assistants at the CD table, I believe Foster and Lloyd, and indeed Radney Foster on his own, were ahead of their time and the industry didn't know how to react to keep their momentum going.  Mainstream country's loss is Americana's gain, as Foster and Lloyd showed the packed Mercy Lounge that they still posess the magic that brought them to the big stage all those years ago.  Kicking off with the title track to their standout new album "It's Already Tomorrow", Foster and Lloyd rolled through tracks from the new album while dropping in old hits such as "Fair Shake" and "What Do You Want From Me This Time."  The crowd knew they were in for something special with Foster and Lloyd on the bill, and the boys did not disappoint.  It was a treat to watch a rare performance from both of these songwriting masters.

The next night found me at The Station Inn following the Americana Music Association Awards.  After watching one of the truly great moments in music history with the pairing of Gregg Allman and Robert Plant with many other standout Americana artists to perform "Glory, Glory Hallelujah" off the latest Allman album "Low Country Blues," anyone who came on stage was going to have a tough act to follow.  Many kudos to the job that Mollie O'Brien and Rich Moore did at The Station Inn on Thursday night, it was not an easy task.  Mollie's soaring vocals with Rich providing the right harmonies and gentle guitar picking was a great change of pace from the Awards show.  Mixing elements of classic jazz, folk and a tinge of latin rhythm made for a truly great and interesting show.

The final act of the Thursday evening at The Station Inn was a true legend in the songwriting world.  JD Souther has long been associated as one of the pioneers of the southern California country-rock movement of the 1970's.  Frenquently collaborating with Don Henley and Glenn Frey, he helped craft some of the biggest hits of the 1970's and beyond with and for the Eagles.  Putting his own spin on such Eagles classics as "New Kid in Town", and filling the crowd in on the backstory of how "Heartache Tonight" was completed with Bob Seger was a rare treat.  His performance of the night was his rendition of his own hit "Only Lonely." 

The first two nights of the Americana Music Festival had shown the depth and variety of the music that exists in this particular genre.  It was only two days in and I had the great fortune to see some truly gifted artists and groups.  The next two days were met with great anticipation.  But, those shows will be dealt with tomorrow.

Until then my friends, have a good day.

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