Words by Kevin Bourke
Kevin Bourke made his way out to Nashville, TN to experience the 14th Americana Music Festival
Ernest Tubb Record Shop has been an institution on Nashville’s lower Broadway for decades, so where better to hear Laura Cantrell honouring the living country tradition with some old favourites and a few tunes from her wonderful new album No Way There From Here? It wasn’t officially part of the Americana Music Festival but throughout the week every hip venue in town had gone rootsy. Like any great festival, the only downside is that you can’t possibly see everyone you want to. That conundrum is eased a little by the fact that three of the venues – Cannery Ballroom, The Mercy Lounge and The High Watt – are in the same building, the Cannery.
A brief visit to one of the venues – the 3rd and Lindsley – confirmed that the line to see Rosanne Cash, Billy Bragg, Richard Thompson and Steep Canyon Rangers was absurdly long a good two hours before the gig was due to start. Rosanne had already spoken eruditely and poignantly on stage with Bob Harris about reconnecting with her Tennessee roots; Billy was going to be interviewed on stage the next day, and Richard had played, albeit only one song, at the American Music Awards show the previous night, so it was relatively easy to opt for the North Mississippi Allstars at the Cannery.
Onwards and upwards, then to the Cannery where, almost inevitably, the North Mississippi Allstars’ raucous world boogie tore the place up, after John Fullbright had convincingly demonstrated why lots of people are convinced he’s going to be the next breakout Americana artist. Buddy Miller seemed to be everywhere during the event, and this night found him teamed up with his old pal Jim Lauderdale for some deceptively spectacular honky-tonking in the Cannery Ballroom, followed by Shooter Jennings. Far more bracing and playing just upstairs at the Mercy Lounge were Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers, even if their set reminds me irresistibly of Linda Ronstadt in the 70s, while Courtney Jaye’s finely crafted pop is an effective palate-cleanser after Shooter’s stodgy fare.