The final night of the 2012 Americana Music Festival and Conference held to me the most magical performance of the week. After all, it’s not every day you get to see the wizardry of master musician and master record producer Buddy Miller team up with Nashville’s newest mainstream free agent Lee Ann Womack in a club setting. But that’s exactly what occurred on the stage of the Mercy Lounge this past Saturday, as Buddy and Lee Ann performed to a packed house to close out this year’s conference. More details a little later on in this write up …Opening the nights festivities at the Mercy/Cannery/High Watt complex was a young lady whom I had not seen before but heard great things about, Jill Andrews. Jill put on a wonderful set at The High Watt that included music from her latest release "The Mirror." Jill has recently completed a successful tour with Kasey Chambers and will continue to tour into the fall with dates in New York, NY, Alexandria, VA and Bristol, TN.
Next up in the evening saw great performances by honeyhoney (whose show really picked up when they went with their electric instruments), awesome rockabilly from Derrick Hoke, and the beautiful sounds of the always reliable Tift Merritt. According to their web site, honeyhoney will be going in to the studio to cut a new album this winter. Derrik Hoke has just recently released his latest album, "Waiting All Night."
11:00 pm rolled around and it was time for the magic to happen. And happen it did. Upon entering the Mercy/Cannery/High Watt complex, guests were invited to submit their requests to hear Buddy and Lee Ann perform duets from the 60’s. This was intriguing, as anyone who has followed either artists career will be fully aware that both artists could perform the phone book and make it sound like a recorded classic. Hearing both artists who have so much historical knowledge of the music that we all love was a tremendous experience. The show was not necessarily without its bumps though, however, no one really paid much attention. After all, the atmosphere in the Mercy would be akin to being in Buddy Miller’s living room watching he and the band perform with Lee Ann Womack. If a requested duet was unknown to the artists on stage, a more than adequate substitute was brought forth. Frankly, the substituted songs were superior to the original request, at least to my ear. They were perfectly suited to Lee Ann’s voice, which in reality should have been the one thing that was considered when submitting a request. Every classic country music duo was covered in this performance. George Jones and Tammy Wynette with “Golden Ring”, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn with “After The Fire Is Gone”, and the first of two Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton classics, “The Last Thing On My Mind.” Their performance of The Flying Burrito Brothers Classic, “Dark End Of The Street” brought a hush to the audience, as the crowd savored the moment.
Selfishly, I will say that my favorite performance of the night happened when I heard the magical words introducing another classic tune. “We have another Porter and Dolly song. ‘Just Someone I Used To Know’, requested by Jason from Toronto, Canada.” To say this was the performance highlight of the week would be an understatement. Sometimes it’s hard to be objective when, in reality, we’re all music fans. That’s why we go to the shows, buy the records and attend the conferences.
And with the conclusion of their set, the showcase portion of the 2012 Americana Music Festival and Conference was complete. As the crowd slowly emptied from the Mercy Lounge to the darkened street, one had to wonder what could the AMA do next year to top this year's festivities. It will take some doing that's for sure, but one thing is for certain. The committee that plans this portion of the event is more than up for the challenge as evidenced by this year's output.