Just now coming off the adrenaline rush that was the 20th annual AmericanaFest, held Sept. 10-15, 2019, in Nashville, the DittyTV staff was thrilled to be part of the week’s festivities and events. The Americana Music Association promised that it would once again be “the must-attend event for anyone who loves the melting pot of Americana’s influences including roots, folk, country, blues, and soul-based music.” And after an incredible week of performances, seminars, panels, and networking, the AMA delivered on its promise.
If you attended, we hope you took a few moments to stop by our booth and say hello at some point. And if you attended, you probably have your own list of top highlights of the week. But we wanted to take a moment to offer our list of highlights in what was a nonstop week of amazing Americana happenings. While we had a full crew to attend, we included some commentary from staffers Jonathan Thomason (JT), Isaac Ericson (IE), and Robin Bender (RB) below in an event so big that we couldn’t stop at 10 best moments, so we’ve turned it up to 11!
Brent Cobb and Billy Strings at the BMI Rooftop Party (kickoff event Sept. 10): It was a packed-out event where we got to see two amazing artists with the Nashville Skyline as the backdrop. Great way to start off an amazing week. – IE
Liz Brasher at The Basement East (Sept. 10, 11:30 p.m.): This Americanafest was the year for women of Americana. Memphis up-and-comer Liz Brasher took the stage in a silver sequined jumpsuit and her white Gibson SG, carrying herself with confidence to spare and looking like a total rock star. It also doesn’t hurt to have Will Sexton accompanying on guitar. – JB
Drew Holcomb’s Secret Show at The Basement East (Sept. 11, Noon): Drew decided to put on a show in preparation for his Ryman performance. I hadn’t seen Drew play in years, but man, he puts on a great show. His wife, Ellie, came out and sang some songs with him. He even took some time out to do an interview with DittyTV after his set. – JB
War and Treaty at the Awards Show (Sept. 11.): On an emotional day for their family, Tanya & Michael Trotter sang their hearts out, a cappella, and showed the world why no one deserved to win “Best Emerging Artist” more. With the Awards show on Sept. 11, their beautiful version of “Love Like There’s No Tomorrow” was a reminder of not only Michael’s sacrifice and service during the Iraq War, but how much they have had to endure as a family. So much so that they almost skipped the evening entirely. But on a night that celebrated diversity and groundbreaking music, Michael and Tanya stood behind the podium on music’s most hallowed stage and spoke from the heart about our need to come together. And about their devastating pain. They recognized the families that had also suffer the debilitating PTSD that Michael battles daily. The War and Treaty are living proof that even during the darkest days, spreading love and positivity can shine the brightest light. – RB
Tanya Tucker at 3rd and Lindsley (Sept. 11, 11 p.m.): Fresh from being crowned Entertainer of the Year at the Awards, Brandi Carlile happily became one of the world’s most famous backup singers. While it was Brandi’s night, this was Tanya Tucker’s moment. And Brandi fresh off of producing Tucker’s brand new album While I’m Living took a backseat to the first lady of outlaw country as Tucker received the welcome back that she rightfully deserves. With a setlist ranging from her brilliant new music to the classic “San Antonio Stroll,” Tucker danced and shook her hips and drank a shot as she toasted the crowd that couldn’t get enough of this icon. And then, after a stirring intro of “Amazing Grace,” she transitioned into the song that made her a star: “Delta Dawn.” Every person in the audience sang every word. It was emotional, it was magical, and it was proof that Tanya Tucker is back. – RB
Jade Bird at Mercy Lounge (Sept. 11, midnight): Jade Bird had a big AmericanaFest this year, from performing at the Awards Show, to being nominated for Emerging Act of the Year. But her midnight set at Mercy Lounge brought the house down. It was dark, hot, sweaty, and loud. She ripped through her hits like “Love Has All Been Done Before,” “I Get No Joy,” and “Lottery” to the thrill of all in attendance. – JB
Chris Shiflett “Walkin’ the Floor” podcast taping featuring Delbert McClinton (Sept. 12, 10:30 a.m.): Going to shows all day and all night can wear you out, so it was a real breath of fresh air getting to hear Delbert McClinton and Chris Shiflett shoot the shit about the craft of songwriting, Delbert’s roots, and the current state of Americana. – JB
The Palomino Rides Again showcase at American Legion Post 82 (Sept. 12, 3 p.m.): The American Legion Post 82 is a really cool venue, and artists like James Intveld made the whole room look like a different era. Other artists like Alice Wallace, The Nelsons, and Rosie Flores played. – JB
Ruston Kelly at The Ainsworth (Sept. 12, 5 p.m.): He was hilarious and genuine. He even recognized our correspondent Szlachetka from the red carpet and called him out during his set. Fresh off of a performance of his nominated song “Mockingbird” at the Awards Show, this was a family affair as Kelly, his dad, and his sister performed some of the haunting songs off of his debut album. It was great. He also played a Saves the Day cover, which filled my emo heart with joy. – IE
Thursday Night at The High Watt (Sept. 12, all evening): There was way too much to do, see and hear on Thursday night and my plan was to move around to various venues. Instead I planted myself at the High Watt for 4 straight hours of frenetic, unique, and wildly entertaining shows that felt like a mini festival. There was no way to leave! Mike and the Moonpies brought the honky tonk with the perfect mix of old songs and music from their new album recorded at the iconic Abby Road Studios. The nicest guys in music turned the venue into a Texas Roadhouse and set the tone for the rest of the night. Next up, Hackensaw Boys with a really cool mix of strings, a nod to Virginia roots, and a little bit of punk. And then there was Gangstagrass. I’ll admit I wasn’t sure how these two divergent genres were going to work. Two rappers, one in a red Superman cape, with a fiddle, banjo, guitar and pre-programmed drum beat? No way, right? Boy was I wrong.
Bluegrass Hip Hop is here, it’s damn good, and it is LEGIT! And clearly the packed house thought so as well. And when you’re gonna close out a night, you do it with a huge Texas bang. Alternative country, cowpunk, whatever you want to call them, no band sets off a more explosive or bigger or more fun bang than Vandoliers. They’re loud, they’re wild, they can whip a crowd into a sweaty frenzy and they are awesome. – RB
Nicole Atkins at City Winery (Sept. 12, 10:30 p.m.): Nicole took the stage and quickly requested the lights be dimmed for an intimate show. She had the whole audience entranced. It was also a lot of fun to see DittyTV Rhythm Roots host Matt Wilson playing bass with Atkins on her set. – JB