Americana Fest has become one of the robust music festivals in the country. Much like the South By Southwest conference held annually in Austin, Texas, Nashville's AmericanaFest is a dizzying week of music showcases, panels, pop-up shows and impromptu jams. At nearly every show, you'll find the performers mingling with fans to watch the year's best in Americana music. It's clear that the genre is thriving and will continue to grow in the coming years. Here are our favorite showcases and moments from AmericanaFest 2017.
With their 2012 self-titled album, The Lumineers brought their brand of folk and Americana to the pop charts and beyond. During the first full night of AmericanaFest showcases, they played a rare, stripped-down club show in Cannery Ballroom to an attentive audience. It was one of those special moments that encapsulate the appeal of the fest, giving fans and attendees the chance to experience one of the biggest bands in the genre in an intimate setting. One of the best moments of the brief set was when the band unplugged their instruments and stood on the edge of the stage to perform their trademark hit "Ho Hey."
Swagger, style, soul and charm -- Charley Crockett has them all in spades. The Texas performer and his ace band had the crowd at the Cannery Ballroom grooving with their savory blend of traditional honky-tonk, R&B and blues. Crockett's music is the rare kind that's rooted in tradition but still sounds vibrantly fresh and modern. Towards the end of his electric set, fellow Texan Brennen Leigh joined Crockett for "Am I That Easy To Forget," their duet featured on Crockett's new album, Lil G.L.'s Honky Tonk Jubilee. If you're not listening to Crockett's music yet, you're doing yourself a serious injustice.
As exhaustion set in on Saturday, local talent Caroline Spence provided a breath of fresh air with her solid set at The Country. She performed an assortment of cuts from her latest record Spades & Roses, which is arguably one of the best and most underrated releases of the year. From the lonesome "Hotel Amarillo" to the piercingly honest "You Don't Look So Good (Cocaine)," the set showcased just how gifted Spence is as a songwriter and storyteller.
One year ago, indie Americana artist David Ramirez visited us in Austin to share songs from his then-unreleased album We're Not Going Anywhere. One year later, Ramirez debuted the newly released record live onstage at the Mercy Lounge during Americana Fest. Ramirez and company have been working hard to match the lush production and intensity of the record in their live show. As it turns out, these songs translate incredibly well to the stage. They delivered one of the most textured, lush and potent shows of the week.
As midnight approached on Thursday, a buzzing crowd queued up to see rising artist Tyler Childers perform within the tiny confines of The Basement. The setting was claustrophobic, but it didn't matter: Childers and his band lit up the dark room with real country music that has both bite and profound depth. The Kentucky native is still in his early 20s, but shows deft lyricism and intensity well beyond his years.
The Wild Reeds
One of the best things about AmericanaFest's growth in recent years is the added variety when it comes to artists. The Wild Reeds brought a much-needed hit of rock and roll to Friday night's festivities with their set at Mercy Lounge. The Los Angeles-based trio brought stellar harmonies and 70s era style to a riveted, packed out room of listeners. If you're looking for something with a little more fuzz and grit, their 2017 record The World We Built is a must-listen.
Take the Band, the Allmans, Little Feat and the Grateful Dead, distill their musical essences and channel it through five young hot shots, and you have Cordovoas. The Nashville-based outfit left it all on the stage at their packed Mercy Lounge show, jumping effortlessly from acapella numbers to guitar-driven barnburners. Cordovas proved classic American rock-and-roll can still fire up a club like it did in its heyday. Favorite moment: bandleader Joe Firstman reaching his bass over the crowd during a blistering cover of "Truckin'," shouting out for the audience to "sing it from the bottom of your soul!"
One of the hardest slots to perform during Americana Fest is right at midnight. After long days of panels, networking and shows, it can be hard to drive industry folk out after hours for your set. Still, Texas' own Paul Cauthen managed to bring a full house of fans, friends and curious conference attendees to his Saturday night set at the Basement. With his powerhouse voice and a badass backing band, Cauthen rolled through cuts from his 2016 LP My Gospel.
This year Outlaw was nominated for the Americana Award for Emerging Artist, and it's no wonder why. After years on the road, he's matured into a bonafide country entertainer who projects class, chops and commanding stage presence. Outlaw's performance of "Diamond Ring" at the 2017 Americana Awards and Honors showed the California crooner in top form, and was certainly one of the standout moments from the show.
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