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Americanafest Celebrates Two Defining Decades of Excellence in Music City

by Rich and Laura Lynch

Nashville, Tennessee is known as the Capitol of Country Music and thousands of fans flock to Mid-Tenn every June to take part in the CMA celebration of that genre. But, for a number of years Nashville has been the home of another major festival. The 20th annual Americanafest was held September 10-15, 2019 in Music City. The multi-day, multi-venue gathering brought together thousands of artists, fans, and industry professionals from all over the world. It was six days of education, entertainment and music for established and emerging artists.

Americanafest Celebrates Two Defining Decades of Excellence in Music City
The King of Americanafest - Mr. Jim Lauderdale.

Americanafest also featured informative panels and seminars that covered a wide range of topics such as artist development, digital platforms, legal issues, merchandise strategies, publicity, songwriting, team building and more. Americanafest showcased around 500 live performances at approximately 70 of Nashville's most prominent venues plus there were special events. All affording ample opportunities to network.

The American Music Organization is the group who hosts this compressive conference. They state that Americana is contemporary music that melds elements of various American roots music styles, including country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B and blues. While acoustic instruments are often expected Americana can also incorporate an electric band. Some describe it as more of an emotion while others express that it's a controversial topic and the definition of it continues to change.

Americanafest Celebrates Two Defining Decades of Excellence in Music City
Norman Greenbaum and Company presented a spirited performance of "Spirit in the Sky".

"Americana is a cultural melting pot," stated musician Jim Lauderdale who has also been dubbed the King of Americanafest. Mr. Lauderdale has earned the nickname as a long standing member of this community and he was spotted around town on numerous stages during the festival. With Jim's concept in mind we explored this eclectic event.

Americanafest had added a number of new venues to this year's calendar and on Thursday our choices led us to two of those locations. The Americanafest Day Stage presented by NPR Music, World Café and WMOT at the War Memorial Auditorium featured six artist performances paired with stage interviews that were live streamed. Robert Randolph and The Family Band kicked things off at noon with a set that showcased new songs from their latest the divine and diverse Brighter Days. After a quick set change The Mavericks presented a fun and feisty show that had fans on their feet.

Americanafest Celebrates Two Defining Decades of Excellence in Music City
Shawn Colvin was doing double duty on Thursday of Americanafest week.

Tami Neilson was tasked with following that big beguiling band with her trio. She opened with the bold "Big Boss Mama". Tami was a powerhouse singer with a big stage presence. Her music had a cool retro vibe that crossed genres. Neilson thanked those broadcasting the event for promoting unknown artists such as herself. Next, Aaron Lee Tasjan also commented on stations that "play my kind of music and sometimes play my songs". Aaron was plugging a current project that revisits his older material by reworking it.

Interestingly, Shawn Colvin who followed Tasjan was doing something similar with her seminal Steady On. The acoustic anniversary edition reflects her musical maturity thus allowing Shawn to explore the deeper meaning of those songs. Closing out an afternoon of quality entertainment was The Record Company. The trio's tunes gushed with adventure and agility by combining gritty slide guitar, fuzzed-out bass, and driving drums.

Americanafest Celebrates Two Defining Decades of Excellence in Music City
A diverse roster included Kevn Kinney, Nicki Bluhm, Raul Malo and Robert Randolph.

Ole Smoky Distillery Yee-Haw Brewing is a new entertainment complex located at 6th & Peabody in Nashville, so it was their first year participating. On Thursday, they dedicated their outdoor stage to Americanafest. A night full of music was kicked off by The King of Americana joining the North Mississippi Allstars for a tune before the band presented an energized set blending blues, jam and southern rock. Sierra Hull, Lauren Morrow, The Milk Carton Kids and King Corduroy were also on the bill that night.

Friday we headed over to the Basement East for "To The Moon and Beyond A Tribute to 1969". The concept was presented in four parts starting with songs associated with the winter of that year to the fall. The Whiskey Wolves of the West supported a wide range of artists. On this night fans were treated to a guest appearance by Norman Greenbaum who led us though an energized and expanded version of his hit song "Spirit in the Sky". Another standout moment among many was a version of "I Want To Take You Higher" featuring the very animated Nicole Atkins.

Americanafest Celebrates Two Defining Decades of Excellence in Music City
Canadian country music legend - Corb Lund under the sun in Nashville.

Themes played a part at Americanafest on both Saturday and Sunday. The first part of the weekend attendees could check out The Aussie BBQ or The Bootleg BBQ. Bonfire Management & Recording Company hosted a day of music as did the North Carolina Day Party that included Jim Lauderdale, Michaela Anne, Daddy Long Legs and Mapache. Plenty of other venues around town had music going on all day and night. Sunday featured a Gospel Brunch plus all day events such as A Sundown Social and Sunday Morning Coming Down.

Under The Sun took place at the Westin Hotel's rooftop lounge. A versatile line-up entertained fans from 11 am to 6:30 pm. The view from L27 afforded spectacular views of the region. There was some free food and drinks plus menu items were available for purchase. Bands such as Drivin N Cryin and Strung Like A Horse were impressive as was many of the singers such as Nicki Bluhm and Suzy Bogguss. Topping the bill was Canada's award winning artist Corb Lund. Corb along with his talented team told vibrant narratives that included "Bible On The Dash" a witty tale about old time religion and southern law enforcement. Under The Sun was another prime example of the accomplished and diverse artists that are featured over the course of this expansive event.

Americanafest Celebrates Two Defining Decades of Excellence in Music City
Even more scenes from Americanafest 2019.

AmericanaFest is a fun festival, yet with so much to do one has to have a plan to make the most of their time. There are different approaches. One is to examine the festival guide to figure out which artists or seminars are important to you and then map out your schedule based on that. Another is to drop in at different venues but staying in one spot can also be an effective strategy. It really comes down to each individual's interests.

So, what precisely is Americana music? For us it will be an ongoing process to find the "true definition" but we know that we were highly enlightened and entertained at AmericanaFest 2019 and we are looking forward to 2020. Mark your calendars now and plan accordingly!

Americanafest Celebrates Two Defining Decades of Excellence in Music City
Hogslop String Band - "what did they say?"

Related Links: For more information on AMERICANAFEST and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- Americanafest | Norman Greenbaum's Spirit In The Song | Searching For the Meaning of Americana | AmericanaFest was Overflowing with Spirit | For Rusty Young the Waitin' Is Over | Music City Roots Soaring To New Heights


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