Americana Fest: Saturday Showcases

My sleep schedule has (almost) returned to normal after four straight days of Americana Music Festival showcases. I’m happy to say that the genre is quite healthy and still capable of surprising jaded music nerds like me. You can also read about my experiences here, here and here.

Nanci Griffith performs at Musician’s Corner in Centennial Park, courtesy of the Americana Music Association. Photo: Stacie Huckeba

On Saturday (10/15), festival attendees and members of the public were rewarded with an absolutely perfect day for outdoor musical enjoyment.

The Southern Festival of Books, held at Legislative Plaza, hosted the Civil War-inspired 1861 Project. Over at Musician’s Corner in Centennial Park, the impressive lineup included “I Love”: A Tom T. Hall Tribute, Ben Sollee, and Nanci Griffith.

When the evening showcases rolled around, I decided to get away from the Mercy Lounge for at least one night. With no headlining performer scheduled for the Cannery Ballroom, it was an ideal opportunity to check out some of Americana’s new faces.

It was a packed house when I arrived at the Basement, and Deep Dark Woods was already onstage. The Canadian band played a highly melodic brand of folk-rock, recalling The Band and Neil Young along with contemporaries like Midlake. They’ve got another Nashville show tonight (10/17) at 3rd & Lindsley, and their album The Place I Left Behind comes out in the U.S. tomorrow (Oct. 18) via Sugar Hill.

Nashville-via-Ohio singer-guitarist Patrick Sweany was up next, offering up retro-styled blues rock. His his songs like “Shoestring,” “Oh Temptation,” and “Them Shoes” recall gritty ‘60s soul and the scuzz of fellow Ohio-to-Nashville ex-pats The Black Keys. Appropriately, two of Sweany’s album’s were produced by the Keys’ Dan Auerbach. His latest album is That Old Southern Drag.

Jim Lauderdale joins Bobby Keys (L) onstage at the Mercy Lounge, courtesy of the Americana Music Association. Photo: Stacie Huckeba

The crowd had started thinning by this point, perhaps to catch James McMurtry, saxman Bobby Keys, or Deadman at the Mercy Lounge. Across the train tracks at the Station Inn, showcasers included Sierra Hull and Highway 111, Tara Nevins, Catherine Britt, and Brigitte DeMeyer. I stayed the course at the Basement, and was handsomely rewarded for my inaction.

Hymn For Her

Hymn For Her, the musical guise of Lucy Tight and Wayne Waxing, played a trash can symphony of demented country blues and punk attitude turned up to 11. Lucy sang and played an instrument comprised of a cigar box and broom handle that had one bass and two treble strings on it. Wayne handled everything else. While seated he sang, played an acoustic guitar (or banjo) and harmonica, and used his feet to keep time on a kick drum and high hat.

Their own songs like “Slips” and “Fiddlesticks” crackled with energy, and they added a nightmarish cover of Bob Dylan’s “Ballad of Hollis Brown,” for which Wayne requested a “dark, murderous reverb” from the sound man. They closed the set with a pedal-to-the-floor run through Led Zeppelin’s “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” and announced they’d be back in town on Halloween weekend.

Hymn For Her was one of the strangest bands during Americana fest, which is perhaps indicative of its evolution and inherently inclusive nature. The genre occasionally has a dignified, too-serious air around it, so it was a nice surprise to see a band flip that notion on its head by playing music that was brash, snotty, and undeniably fun. According to Hymn For Her’s website, the pair recorded their album Lucy & Wayne and The Amairican Stream in a 16 foot Airstream trailer, which also serves as a rolling home for them, their baby, and dog.

And by golly, what’s more American than that?

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