I write from the middle of Americana music week, feeling surrounded by and totally immersed in amazing sounds, stories and all-around artistry. It began with this week’s Music City Roots, an official kick-off event for the Americana Music Association’s annual convention and festival, and it was an absolute blast, with Chuck Mead, Manda Mosher, Madison Violet, Corb Lund and the Steeldrivers. The next night we were treated probably the best Americana Honors & Awards show ever, with gobsmacking performances at the Ryman Auditorium by the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Roseanne Cash, the Avett Brothers, Lucinda Williams, Joe Pug and many more, not to mention a 30-minute show closing set by Robert Plant and his Band of Joy.
Last night, it was showcase central, and while there was great music at AMA venues all over downtown, I spent the evening at the Mercy Lounge and Cannery Ballroom, where we saw spectacular sets from the Infamous Stringdusters, Darrell Scott, MCR host Jim Lauderdale, Shelby Lynne and Dierks Bentley, who is arguably the only male country music star in the business willing and able to write and perform roots music and hang in right there with the best of them. All in all, the scene feels as big and vibrant as ever, even with the struggles of the music business. And Music City Roots is more than privileged to be playing a part in this week of celebration and in the long simmering Americana music movement.
So when we reconvene at the Loveless Barn this Wednesday, it’ll feel like a continuation of these fine AMA showcases, and we’ll have the AMA banner flying proudly to remind ourselves of the gold standard set each year by this awesome event and its hand-picked showcasing artists. So how do we keep it going? With Dale Watson if you please. I’ve loved Dale for more years than I can count. Inspired by 1960s country but capable of updating it with fresh songs and a swaggering persona, Watson sounds like an amalgam of Merle Haggard, Marty Robbins and the young Elvis. And he can write a mean song, or a tender song, or a sad song or an angry song with the best of them. It’s an approach defined by its simplicity, like back in the day when making a record meant the players played together in a room, with no fixes. He’s as real as they come and we’re thrilled that he’s finally going to make it to the Roots stage.
Also this week, we’ll be re-visited by Miss Tess and her Bon Ton Parade. She was on one of our earliest shows and made herself very welcome with songs and chops that harkened back to the jazz and blues traditions of the 1920s and 30s. Boston-based Miss Tess has earned all kinds of accolades, and she fronts a remarkably skilled band. On tap as well is North Carolina old-time string band the Westbound Rangers, Austin-based swing trio Shotgun Party and Texas native singer-songwriter Andrew Combs. Should be a nice mix of the familiar and the novel, the twangy and the swingy, the musical and the lyrical. As Jim Lauderdale would say, “Now THAT’s Americana.”