Playing All The Right Cards

Too many people have spent too much energy trying to find the perfect definition of Americana music, the nice catch-all for contemporary music rooted in our great traditions of folk, blues, country and gospel. But if you want an illustrative definition, Americana is what you’d find at the many festivals that book both the Greencards and Darrell Scott, a la Merlefest of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. Or Music City Roots, if you’ll give us credit for being a mini-festival every week.

Steeped in tradition but impeccably modern, these artists have become icons of an important transitional time in our music history, where a backlash against pop phoniness met a surge of grassroots enthusiasm for authentic singing, songwriting and musicianship.

Darrell Scott can do all three like a master. It’s almost not fair. Pickers this good aren’t supposed to sing this well, and master songwriters are often forgiven for their vocal chops, but not Scott. He’s Nashville’s ultimate triple threat. Raised in a musical family in Kentucky he rambled around the country and Canada for years playing long nightly sets as a guitarist, steel player and all-around musician. A delayed but rewarding undergraduate experience gave him the tools to marry a love of poetry with his long-standing love of music. As a songwriter, he’s not only beloved by the roots community, he’s found commercial success in country with cuts or hits by Garth Brooks, Suzy Bogguss, and the Dixie Chicks, who had a smash with his cheeky “Long Time Gone.”

The Greencards have become one of the most intriguing and unpredictable groups in Americana over the past decade. Kym Warner, a brilliant mando and string player and bassist/vocalist Carol Young put the band together as a trio in 2003 with fiddler Eamon McLoughlin and they toured the world and cut several acclaimed albums for Sugar Hill Records. In 2006 they were named the Americana Music Association’s Emerging Artist of the Year, and they’ve just kept emerging. Recently McLoughlin moved on so the Greencards are shifting chemistry a bit. What won’t change is their ace chops and their sense of how to get an audience involved.

Also on tap this week will be Rebecca Pronsky, a mainstay of the vibrant Brooklyn music scene and The Sweetback Sisters, a newish band that’s already earned a spot on a Prairie Home Companion’s emerging talent contest. For hard care music fans, this should be a fantastic mix of the familiar faves and the fresh. Looking forward to it as always.

Craig H

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