So much to see and do, man.
Thursday, October 13, was the second night of the Americana Music Association’s Conference and Festival and also the organization’s 10th Annual Honors and Awards. For those who couldn’t make it out to that fine affair, I’d suggest reading about it right here.
Nightly showcases got off to a late start because of the Awards, so many bands across town weren’t hitting the stages until after 10 pm. But once again we were off to our beloved Mercy Lounge, where Athens, Ga.-based songwriter Lera Lynn started off the evening. The young performer favored a rock band setup for her music, which drew on influences of British and American folk, and jangly 60s rock. She even paid homage to one of the forebears of Americana and Country, turning in an eerie minor-key version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”
Downstairs in the Cannery Ballroom, performer Carrie Rodriguez was delighting the audience with her dazzling fiddle skills, leading the band through some hypnotic instrumental jams. Her set also included “La Punalada Trapera,” a Spanish language song written by her great aunt that appears on her 2010 album Love and Circumstance.
Nashville singer/songwriter Will Hoge was next up on the Mercy Lounge stage, and by the time I made it upstairs he and band were ripping through “Sex, Lies and Money” from his 2007’s Draw The Curtains. He joked that he and his musical compatriots had journeyed to the show from “a faraway land, called Inglewood.”
Hoge, it must be said, is a dynamite live performer. His voice last night was pure soul, adding the precise amount of emotional heft to tracks like “When I Get My Wings,” a standout from his current album Number 7. Other selections included “Trying To Be A Man,” “Fool’s Gonna Fly,” and “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” which Eli Young Band cut for their recently-released Life At Best collection.
Attendees were also crammed into the Cannery Ballroom to see the Jayhawks perform. The Minnesota band has been mining the fertile lands of planet country-rock since well before “Americana” had a name, and they played an important role in shaping its current sound. Band principals Gary Louris and Mark Olson sounded uncannily like their finest recordings, blending their voices in pristine harmony. Their set featured “Two Hearts,” “She Walks In So Many Ways,” “I’d Run Away,” “Tiny Arrows,” and their gorgeous, enduring minor hit “Blue” from 1995’s Tomorrow The Green Grass.
Americana opened its borders for Romantica, a folk-rock band from Minneapolis-via-Belfast and the final performers at Mercy Lounge on Thursday. Their sound fused the obligatory Gram Parsons influence with a little chamber pop and classic rock ‘n’ roll.
Band leader Ben Kyle professed his love of Nashville mid-set. “I love this town, because it’s where country music comes from.” Hey, we like it too!
Across town at the Rutledge, songwriter Lori McKenna played a with a full-band that included her producer, Barry Dean. Performances included the title track from her 2011 album Lorraine, “Buy This Town,” “Witness To Your Life” and “Stealing Kisses,” which Faith Hill cut in 2005.
Performers around town included Mollie O’Brien & Rich Moore, followed by JD Souther at The Station Inn. The lineup at the Basement included Amanda Shires, Pokey LaFarge & The South City Three, and Malcolm Holcombe, who set the Twitterverse abuzz following his set.
Last night was a late one for yours truly, so feel free to rattle me awake tonight if you catch me dozing against the wall. On tap for later: Matraca Berg, Will Kimbrough, Amy LaVere, Elizabeth Cook, Jim Lauderdale and Buddy Miller, and much more.
Also: look on musicrow.com for more coverage of AMA showcases tomorrow and Sunday.