Over the weekend, hundreds of music fans and industry insiders flocked to Nashville for AmericanaFest 2018. With dozens of showcases and concerts being held each day, the Wide Open Country team checked out some longtime favorites and discovered a few exciting new voices. Here are our 10 favorite moments from this year's festival.
Courtney Marie Andrews at the Americana Honors and Awards
In a night filled with memorable moments, Courtney Marie Andrews' performance at the Americana Honors and Awards remains a standout. Backed by the incomparable McCrary Sisters, Andrews delivered a Ryman-rattling performance of "May Your Kindness Remain," from her 2018 album of the same name. With her voice filling the revered building from the rafters to the pews, Andrews had the crowd on their feet before the last note rang out. The Emerging Artist of the Year-nominee got a chance to shine again when she joined The War and Treaty, Brandi Carlile, the McCrary Sisters and the legendary Irma Thomas for a show-closing tribute to Aretha Franklin. — Bobbie Jean Sawyer
Ian Noe at John Prine's Tree of Forgiveness Pop-Up Bar
Throughout the week of Americanafest, John Prine's Tree of Forgiveness Pop-Up Bar hosted by Oh Boy Records consistently featured some of the most underrated Americana artists we saw at the festival. Many overlooked by official showcases, the spot gave these artists a platform and a quiet room of listeners to appreciate them. One that stood out in particular was Ian Noe. The singer-songwriter gave off a meek persona, and his powerhouse voice genuinely surprised me when he took the stage. There's an obvious comparison to troubadours like Blaze Foley and Bob Dylan in his work, but beyond the surface, Noe is reworking folk within a modern context. He didn't shy away from explicit storytelling that represented the realistic, not-so-pretty side of Americana and Southern culture. Just him and his guitar in a white-brick room, he grooved effortlessly. Noe's rich voice and Kentucky accent blew me away in the live setting. — Olivia Ladd
Lilly Hiatt at The Basement East
As usual, Lilly Hiatt and crew gave their all during their showcase at the Basement East on Saturday night, churning out odes to Bowie, east Nashville and the healing power of music from her critically-acclaimed 2016 album Trinity Lane. Stunningly vibrant and honest, Hiatt reminded everyone why she's one of Music City's favorite daughters and out-of-town AmericanaFest attendees were lucky to see the hometown hero in her element. — Bobbie Jean Sawyer
Paul Cauthen, Daniel Donato and Asleep at the Wheel at Luck Mansion
Friday afternoon, Luck Mansion pulled out all the stops with two wonderful sets by Paul Cauthen, joined by guitarist Daniel Donato, and Asleep at the Wheel. In a dimly lit living room, Cauthen covered "Friend of the Devil" by Grateful Dead, pushing the bounds of Americana. Giving us a rock 'n' roll moment within the bounds of Americana. The show was intimate and short, the audience small enough to get a good look at what was happening. Texas legends Asleep at the Wheel were fun as always. Fiddler Katie Shore was especially wonderful to watch, and Ray Benson's humor was the highlight. Jesting about Old Crow Medicine Show he said, "None of 'em are old, and none of 'em are doctors!" They played classics like "Miles and Miles of Texas" and kept everyone on their toes with surprises during the set. — Olivia Ladd
Brandi Carlile at RCA Studio A
After listening in on illuminating conversation between Brandi Carlile and producer Dave Cobb about everything from Elton John, her latest album and "radical forgiveness," the packed audience inside historic RCA Studio A were treated to a special performance by Carlile, who sang the spellbinding "The Joke," "Sugartooth" and "The Mother" from her 2018 album By the Way, I Forgive You in the same room she recorded them. It's safe to say there were few dry eyes in the room by the end, especially after Carlile belted out the heartsick piano ballad "Party of One." — Bobbie Jean Sawyer
Margo Price's Rooftop Show at Third Man Records
It's no question that Margo Price always puts on a good show, no matter how big or small, but Thursday evening was something extra special. Price and her backing band played on the rooftop of Third Man Records, the sun setting over the Nashville skyline behind them, and it was magical. She brought out Lilly Hiatt and Brandi Carlile for duet covers of The Beatles and Dolly Parton (respectively) and ran through some of her best hits. Things slowed down at the right spots for works like "All American Made," but it was upbeat, passionate and an all-around fun performance to watch. Props to Jeremy Ivey's harmonica playing, which resounded even more beautifully from above, and Price's sheer stamina rocking from song-to-song after appearing in and playing sets all week.
Yola Carter at The Nashville Palace
As part of a stacked lineup that included Aaron Lee Tasjan and Lori McKenna, Bristol, U.K.-native Yola Carter brought down the Nashville Palace during the AmericanaFest edition of Music City Roots. The country-soul singer performed songs from her breakout 2016 album Orphan Offering before returning to the stage late in the night to join Tasjan, McKenna and Music City Roots host Jim Lauderdale for a floor-stomping rendition of the Carter Family's "Will the Circle be Unbroken?" Carter's appearance further proved that she's one of the U.K.'s best Americana exports. — Bobbie Jean Sawyer
Ruston Kelly at Mercy Lounge
There's been plenty of good records that have come out so far this year, but Ruston Kelly's Dying Star is one of the most powerful, brutally honest and memorable records in recent memory. He attracted a massive crowd at Mercy Lounge during his Friday night set, which featured cuts from his new record along with his catchy, self-deprecating track "Asshole." He also invited his wife Kacey Musgraves out to the stage to perform "Just For The Record," a heartbreaking standout on an album full of lyrical gut-punches. — Lorie Liebig
Lori McKenna at The Nashville Palace
As one of the most celebrated songwriters in country music, Lori McKenna had plenty of songs to choose from for her set during Music City Roots. Thankfully, there's no such thing as a bad Lori McKenna song so she can't go wrong. The singer-songwriter went for a mix of her own recordings and songs she's penned for other artists, performing several songs from her 2018 album The Tree along with the Little Big Town megahit "Girl Crush." Her set-closing performance of "Humble and Kind" was enough to put a lump in the throat of even the most jaded listener. — Bobbie Jean Sawyer
Emmylou Harris, Margo Price and Matraca Berg at Ascend Amphitheater
Emmylou Harris closed down AmericanaFest in style with Woofstock, a benefit concert for her rescue dog charity Bonaparte's Retreat. After serving as emcee, introducing Jamey Johnson, John Hiatt, John Paul White, Ashley Monroe and more, Harris took the stage herself, rolling through "Two More Bottles of Wine" and nodding to her old comrade Gram Parsons with "Ooh Las Vegas." To end the night, Harris was joined onstage by Matraca Berg and Margo Price for a rollicking performance of the Rodney Crowell-penned "Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight." — Bobbie Jean Sawyer
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