‘The performances were amazing!’ By Emma Swift
Wednesday, September 18 – Americana Music Festival & Conference
It’s impossible to describe how much fun the Americana Music Festival & Conference is for a music geek like me but I’m going to try. Held annually in Nashville, Tennessee the conference is equal parts boozing and schmoozing with a tonne of live music thrown in for good measure. There are gigs aplenty and drinks aplenty and talented musicians on every corner, watching shows, playing shows, participating in panel discussions and lively debate about the future of Americana music today and what the whole damn thing means anyway.
Here’s the Americana Music Association’s definition for those still baffled:
“Contemporary music that incorporates elements of various American roots music styles, including country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B and blues, resulting in a distinctive roots-oriented sound that lives in a world apart from the pure forms of the genres upon which it may draw. While acoustic instruments are often present and vital, Americana also often uses a full electric band.”
I first ventured to the festival and conference back in 2011, so this makes my third attendance now and it feels a little bit like a school reunion, lots of long-time-no-see embraces and slightly awkward small talk before we loosen up via well liquor, cheap beer and great music.
Last night was the first night of the festival and as ever, it kicked off in style with a spectacular awards show at the Ryman Auditorium. Hosted by the effervescent Jim Lauderdale, the awards celebrate the year’s finest albums, songs and bands, as well as honour legends that have contributed to defining Americana music throughout the course of their careers. This year, lifetime achievement honours were handed out to Duane Eddy, Dr. John, Robert Hunter and American roots music label executive Chris Strachwitz.
Like most people, I find awards shows a bit tedious so I’m not going to give you blow-by-blow details of the winners and losers but I am going to tell you this – the live performances were amazing. Dr. John performed a cracking version of ‘I Walk On Gilded Splinters’, Richard Thompson nearly blew the roof off the place with a glorious version of ‘Good Things Happen To Bad People’ and Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris charmed with a stunning version of ‘Chase The Feeling’.
Just when the night seemed almost over, Stephen Stills made his way to the stage with Richie Furay and played ‘For What It’s Worth.’ And that’s just the performances from the old school. The younger musicians were also out in force. Old Crow Medicine Show played their now million selling single ‘Wagon Wheel.’ John Fulbright’s ‘Jericho’ was melancholic and beautiful. \
The Milk Carton Kids and Shovels and Rope both showed how interesting and diverse Americana duos can sound, the first sounding like the love children of David Rawlings and Paul Simon, the second sounding like the lost little brother and sister of Bonnie Tyler and Dolly Parton.
It was a spectacular show and a sure sign that the next few days and late-late nights of music are going to be pretty special.
Here’s a list of the night’s winners and grinners:
Americana Music Honors & Awards 2013 Winners:
Album of the Year: Old Yellow Moon, Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
Artist of the Year: Dwight Yoakam
Duo Group of the Year: Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
Song of the Year: ‘Birmingham,’ Shovels & Rope
Emerging Artist of the Year: Shovels & Rope
Instrumentalist of the year: Larry Campbell
Trailblazer Award: Old Crow Medicine Show
Spirit of Americana / Free Speech in Music Award co-presented by the Americana Music Association and the First Amendment Center: Stephen Stills
Lifetime Achievement for Instrumentalist: Duane Eddy
Lifetime Achievement Award for Executive: Chris Strachwitz
Lifetime Achievement for Performance: Dr. John
Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriter: Robert Hunter
President’s Award: Hank Williams