The best music in the world continued to play in Nashville on Thursday night at the annual AMA festival with arguably one of the strongest nightly lineups in festival history. Stellar lineups were presented at all of the festival venues with artists ranging from the North Mississippi All Stars, and Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale at the Cannery, to outstanding newcomers John Fullbright and Nikki Bluhm and the Gramblers at the Mercy Lounge. 3rd and Lindsley presented a night of Americana pioneers, and that's focus of this write up today.
Rosanne Cash has long been a supporter of outstanding Americana music, even before such a format was recognized. Her musical heritage is beyond reproach, having grown up under the influence of her famous father and stepmother, Johnny and June Carter Cash, as well as the Carter Family. Creating and releasing thoughtful and insightful albums have been the standard for Roseanne Cash for her entire career, which now spans more than 30 years. Her performance at 3rd and Lindsley last evening served as a preview for the next chapter in her storied career. The River and the Thread will be released in January of 2014, an album of original material following the release of the outstanding cover album The List. The album should speak to many of us. Its core subject is returning to ones roots, that home base that they may have left behind a long time ago. It could be for varying reasons ... work, restlessness, escape. However, when returning to that home base after an extended period, that person feels the connection to themselves, that feeling where you know that you are the person you are because of those roots. It reveals a new appreciation for where you came from. It's an important theme of the album for Cash, who mentioned she has been living in New York City for long time, and the preparation for this album brought her back to her southern family heritage. Some great material on this album with key tracks being "What's The Temperature Darlin'?", a great lifelong love story; "Tell Heaven", an all-inclusive religious song about believing in a higher power and faith; and "When the Master Calls the Role", a beautiful, lyrically stunning Civil War song written by Cash, husband John Leventhal and ex-husband Rodney Crowell.
British folk legend Billy Bragg has been leaving quite the impression on Nashville and the Americana faithful, reminding everyone of why he's been so successful for so many years. Touring in support of his first album in 5 years, "Tooth and Nail," Bragg's set included many selections from that album, as well as a couple of stellar cover songs. "Handyman Blues" is a great tongue-in-cheek track from "Tooth and Nail" about the life, times and indeed, perils of loving a songwriter. "Swallow My Pride" is a beautifully written song of reconciliation, penance and healing a relationship with ones other half. "Chasing Rainbows" is a straight up country song loaded with pedal steel, featuring strong lyrics with that always wry, British sense of humour. A very poignant moment in Bragg's set saw the return of Roseanne Cash to the stage, where they performed the Johnny Cash standard "I Still Miss Someone." Their vocals melding together beautifully, a true highlight of the show performing the song to a hushed crowd.
Fellow British folk-icon Richard Thompson was on stage next, making a return appearance to the Americana Music Festival stage. Similar to his on-stage predecessors, Thompson performed tracks from his latest release "Electric." A song many can relate to was the performance of "Saving The Good Stuff For You", a beautifully written song about growing up to be a better man. It's an adult song, for adults. The performance of "Salford Sunday", a whimsical song about love lost was beautifully performed. However, it was the performance of "Vincent Black Lightning 1952" that left the 3rd and Lindsley crowd spellbound. Quite frankly, the guitar work on this song is like nothing I have ever seen. The entire performance was incredible, but this particular piece was astounding. Some people have called Richard Thompson a guitar god, and the description could not be more accurate.
And now, on and out to Day 3 ...