Americana Fest Nashville September 2018
Following Brothers Osborne gig in London this summer I made the decision to go to Nashville for Americana Fest for the first time. I didn’t really know what to expect but I knew I’d love the music. Flights were booked and an Airbnb chosen. I didn’t know the best area to stay so chose one that was about ten minutes in a taxi to East or downtown Nashville.
The Airbnb was described as minimal. It certainly was! It was a converted double garage, completely open plan with the bathroom being the exception. One Queen bed on a plinth, one double sofa bed on a plinth, another sofa and chair. The kitchen consisted of a microwave, toaster and coffee machine, paper crockery and plastic cutlery. But it met our needs.
Looking at who was playing during my stay was my next task. Being an Americana festival ensured that there would be lots of live music. On my list was Kendell Marvell’s Honky Tonk Experience at Exit/In, Delta Rae revival at The Basement, Opryland Classics at The Ryman and, the highlight of the week, Cody Jinks with The Steelwoods, Nikki Lane and Kendell Marvel at Ascend amphitheatre on the final night.
On arrival it was quite late, so we didn’t fancy doing much. The Airbnb owner suggested a restaurant called Two Ten Jacks in East Nashville, famous for its ramen. We didn’t have the ramen but had several tapas style dishes which were gorgeous, the wagyu beef was particularly sublime.
We collected our wristbands on Tuesday from the City Winery, we then set off for Broadway where I purchased the obligatory ‘three pairs for the price of one’ cowboy boots! I was introduced to the key bars on Broadway; Roberts Western World and Nudies amongst many, many more. We went to Luke Bryan’s new bar 32 Bridge and had the obligatory cocktail at the rooftop bar. We avoided Honky Tonk central.
Tuesday evening saw us going to Kendell Marvel’s Honky Tonk Experience at the Exit/In in Nashville. We were on the guest list so did not have to queue, but fans were queuing early. He shared the stage with Ona, Paul Cauthen and Gary Allan. I hadn’t heard of Ona before. They are described as an indie rock band from West Virginia and I really liked them. Kendell played tracks from his superb debut album Lowdown & Lonesome.
After the show we headed to The Basement East for the ‘Better Together: Show up and Sing’ Americana Fest party. Taking to the stage during the evening was: Andrew Leahy & The Homestead, Brian Wright, Ian Moore, Jamie Wyatt, Mary Gauthier, Sam Morrow, Sugaray Rayford Band, Susan Marshall, Tawny Ellis, Tim Easton, Whiskey Wolves of the West, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Will Hoge and Chuck Mead and The Grassy Knoll Boys. As we walked in the ‘band’ started singing The Clash’s ‘Working for the Clampdown’ followed by an Elvis Costello track ‘Peace Love and Understanding’. It was a great end to the evening with artists joining forces on stage to sing well-loved tracks.
Wednesday was the launch of the UK Americana Festival based at Nashville Underground, a bar/brasserie owned by Gavin and Joey De Graw. The artists we saw playing that day were Ida Mae – a UK duo – Chris Turpin and Stephanie Jean from Norwich who had recently made the move to Nashville, John Smith an acoustic guitarist who is releasing his album ‘Hummingbird’ in October in Europe with Commoner Records via Thirty Tigers. The Wandering Hearts played last. Their feet don’t appear to have touched the ground since supporting Marty Stuart at Cadagon Hall last year. It was lovely to see Darren Hodson from Southern Companion playing with Robert Vincent.
The evening found us at The Basement on 8th Avenue S watching Delta Rae’s revival. The support act were The Last Bandoleros, a lively, young quartet from Texas. In January, Rolling Stone suggested they could be this year’s most important new country band. They have great energy, rock and roll swagger and a Tex-Mex sound.
Delta Rae’s show was immersive and intimate with the stage set in a church. The band consists of three siblings; Ian, Eric and Brittany Holljes, Elizabeth Hopkins, Mike McKee and Grant Emerson. They started as a quartet, adding Mike and Grant at a later date. I saw the quartet at C2C Festival at the O2 in Ny-Lon this year. They were fabulous at C2C but they were absolutely outstanding this evening. It was very hot and sweaty which suited the vibe of the evening perfectly. A highlight for me was Brittany singing their latest single ‘Do you ever dream’. My favorite track of theirs is one they sang at C2C, ‘ No Peace in Quiet’. The icing on the cake was the guest appearance of Drake White. He sang ‘Makin’ me Look Good Again’ and ‘ With a Little Help from my Friends’. We then ventured downtown for some food and to visit the various roof top bars.
Thursday gave me the chance to see Sarah Gayle Meech again as she was performing with special guests at Robert’s Western World as part of Sirius Outlaw Country presents ‘Mojo’s Music City Mayhem’. We sat down, planning to stay for the afternoon. I took the opportunity to try Robert’s ‘Fanny’s Baloney Sandwich’, which was delicious. We were entertained by some wonderful artists including Paul Cauthen, Jamie Wyatt, Lillie Mae, Amy Helm and JP Harris. JP Harris was a new artist to me and hails from Alabama. He calls himself a carpenter who ‘writes country music’. Despite touring with his band he’s still an in-demand carpenter! On looking him up on my return I was pleased to see he’s playing the UK and Europe for the whole of November. If you like good old honky tonk don’t miss him and his band.
Thursday evening saw us at The Ryman for Opry Classics night with Larry Gatlin and his brothers, with guests The Whites, T Graham Brown, Joe Nicholls and Brooke Eden. This was followed by another lovely meal and wine at Merchants on Broadway.
My husband’s cousin told me to look out for an Australian artist, Fanny Lumsden. I talked to her representative Dan Biddle at the UK Americana party and arranged to see her perform at The Taste of Australia event at The Filming Station. It was a really hot day but I really enjoyed her mini set and arranged an interview with her for Country Lowdown when she returned home. Her debut album Small Town Big Shot was nominated for an Aria Award for Best Country Album. 2017 saw her win her first Golden Guitar (CMAA Country Music Awards of Australia) and nominated for a further three.
I was really looking forward to seeing Ruston Kelly at Mercy Lounge. He released his album Dying Star the week before our trip and I hadn’t been able to put it down. I was not disappointed – he was amazing. He was witty, didn’t put up with any heckling and told people to ‘be quiet and listen!’ It was a real family affair with his Father on steel, his sister on vocals and his wife, Kacey Musgraves, who joined him to sing ‘ Just for the Record’, a beautiful song written with Lucie Silvas (it also features on her new album E.G.O.) and renowned songwriter and producer Jarrad K. Following Ruston, was the gorgeous Brandy Clark who sang amongst others; Big Day in a Small Town, Love can go to Hell and Stripes.
Our last day was spent at The Groove in East Nashville at the UK Bootleg BBQ. An intimate BGS stage was located inside the record store with live sets being streamed. Outside, we had performances from The Worry Dolls, IDA MAE, John Smith, William The Conqueror, The Wandering Hearts and Aaron Lee Tasjan. It was a wonderful day, but extremely hot. We found a cool coffee house to interview The Wandering Hearts for Country Lowdown.
The highlight of the week for me was seeing Cody Jinks headlining the Ascend amphitheater. My friend Kendell Marvel supported, alongside the fabulous Nikki Lane and The Steelwoods. It was a wonderful evening, a fitting highlight to one of my best holidays.
I can’t wait to return next year.
Kate September 2018