“Americanafest 2019 has been absolutely incredible. The talent showcased here has totally knocked our socks off and we’ve seen so many phenomenal songwriters and musicians who were just born to do this: this is their craft and it’s in their blood.
Each time we come to Nashville it feels like we’re entering a bubble that we never want to leave. However, when we do, we leave inspired and even more determined to continue to play our part in building the profile of Americana and country music here in the UK…”
Gill & Debs
Black Deer Festival Co-founders
Here’s what went on…
It was hot, there was lots of traffic and construction work was everywhere – but the only thing really being built at the Americana Music Association’s AmericanaFest 2019 was a community.
Music communities are strange. Very often, they’re driven by ambition and avarice – but the Americana community is different. Time and again we witness random acts of kindness and support from songwriters, musicians, managers, record labels and, yes, even festival promoters. AmericanaFest in Nashville was no different – we heard great music, witnessed wonderful live performances and met people who carry this way of life in their hearts.
Irishman Foy Vance was spellbinding and owned the Cannery Ballroom. The crowd were in awe of his amazing vocals and, with his Nashville band, they created a gospel flavour that captivated the audience. ‘Malibu Jane’ was a real highlight, but the moment of the set that lit up the Internet was when country superstar Keith Urban stepped on-stage for a stirring eight minute duet on Foy’s bruised balled, ‘Burden’ (check out our Instagram Highlights for clips).
As always in Nashville, lots of collaborative showcases framed the fun and two favourites were ‘We’ve Only Just Begun: A Tribute to the Music of The Carpenters & More’ and The House of Songs events. The House of Songs shows were inspirational, and we enjoyed seeing artists perform new material for the first time (so new lyrics were all over the floor!). Netherlands singer/songwriter Judy Blank had lots of people talking about her husky voice and lively stylings – especially when she duetted with emerging artists Dylan Earl and Jonathan Terrell at the showcases. All three are ones to watch for 2020.
Meanwhile at the Erin Rae-curated The Carpenters event, the cream of East Nashville gathered to sing those timeless old hits with standout performances from Michaela Anne, Lilly Hiatt, Natalie Prass and Logan Ledger.
Proving the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree in country music, Waylon Payne was another standout performer and his outlaw blues highlighted Basement East’s ‘To the Moon & Beyond’ sessions with his take on Bobby Gentry’s Fancy. Waylon Jennings is his Godfather, his mom is country singer Sammi Smith and his dad is John Payne, guitarist in Willie Nelson’s touring band. Not bad credentials, hey? From further afield, Canadian-born-New Zealand-based country soul singer Tami Neilson also had the audience eating out of the palm of her hand and is another powerhouse of a singer who played a great show.
Elsewhere, AmericanaFest and Black Deer favourites The Milk Carton Kids were once again the talk of the town as awards show hosts. Kenneth and Joey also returned to their acoustic duo roots in Nashville, following recent records and tours with a band, and still sounded as perfect together as you remember. The Dip were another band we fell for, a soulful seven-piece from Seattle with an upbeat sound and a singer that put us in mind of John Legend.
With so much to see and do, happenings occur on every corner and inspiration is found in all venues and bars hosting AmericanaFest events. It’s this community spirit that impresses most and the diversity of artists and performers plying their trade around a town built upon music really is awe-inspiring. One moment that will stay with us for a while, and illustrated this best, was when the aforementioned troubadours Dylan Earl and Jonathan Terrell got together again at Groove Records to share a song they’d written together about two gay bars in Texas called ‘Decisions and Choices’. Like the rest of AmericanaFest, it really must be believed to be seen… see you in 2020, Nashville!