By Brian Wise.
Nashville, TN – Sunday September 17, 2017.
Americana week ended as it had begun, in spectacular fashion. The City Winery, one of the best venues in town, hosted the Thirty Tigers Gospel Brunch, and it provided some great music – and fried chicken!
Fittingly, this final event for us provided the sort of magic moments that had been popping up all week. This morning it was emerging artists Priscilla Renea, whose songs for a new album promise something special, and English singer Yola carter whose voice is as powerful as you would ever want to hear from a gospel singer! Then there were the wonderful McCrary Sisters, Bonnie Bishop (whose songs have been recorded by Bonnie Raitt), the charismatic Angeleena Presley, an energetic Rev. Sekou and, finally, a dynamic Paul Thorn who managed to really engage everyone.
The show was emblematic of what we had seen for the past seven days: some established acts from a variety of genres showing their enduring talent and many newer and emerging artists. It must have been awe-inspiring to the many young Australian musicians who made the trek; and, hopefully, they learned a lot.
The major problem with the Americana Festival & Conference is trying to decide what to see. A US$$75 wristband gets you into all of 12 venues over four nights, with each night featuring at least four and sometimes five acts. That’s over 170 choices! It also has to be the world’s best festival bargain and, hopefully, organisers won’t figure that out and put the price up. As it is, if you are a music fan this is a must-attend event, which is probably why so many Australians are here. Stand in any line and you might get the impression that Nashville has been invaded by Aussies (or infested by them, depending on your point of view).
It has been somewhat of a blur but certain events standout. The Awards & Honors ceremony at the Ryman has set such a high standard over the years that it would have been churlish to suggest that this year’s event was not quite the best yet – that was until Van Morrison made an appearance, accepted an honor – and contrary to suggestions did say thank you – blew everyone away and then promptly left.
The next night Mr Morrison gave one of the best performances I have ever seen him offer – and this makes the third great gig I have seen from him (the others being ACL Fest and the Astral Weeks show). He even sang the wacky ‘Mechanical Bliss’! Put that down as history! That is a privilege I will treasure because some of my fellow Melburnians are still complaining about the concert he did there in 1985!
The screening and Q&A for Thank You Friends: Big Stars’ Third Live and More at the Belcourt opened the week brilliantly then the following night some of the cast assembled at The Cannery to play it live. The Sing Out! Concert at the War Memorial Auditorium on the same evening featured an array of great singers including Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer, Billy Bragg and Joe Henry and many more. So here was the first clash of many!
Van took care of Thursday. Friday we spent at 3rd & Lindslley for a great show with Lindi Ortega, Jim Lauderdale, Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams and Bruce Robison. Then on Saturday evening at 12th & Porter, soul legends Don Bryant and Bettye Lavette were fantastic (and I don’t use that word lightly). Renowned as a songwriter (‘I Can’t Stand The Rain’ et al) Bryant has a great voice. Somebody please book him for a festival back home – quick! Then, Bettye Lavette was incredibly powerful, despite fighting a cold (did she get it from Van who had also sniffled away?). Lavette has surely assumed the mantle once held by Tina Turner of best singing septuagenarian!
All of this is not even mentioning all of the record company parties and BBQs (for registrants) and the numerous other events. At the end of the week, the head was spinning.
How busy were we? Well, we never even got to go to our favourite BBQ spot, The Peg Leg Porker! Now, that’s busy.
To be continued………