Thursday September 22, 2016
It is difficult to believe that we have been here since last Sunday. Four nights have flown by. Of course, the undoubted highlight so far was the Americana Awards ceremony at the Ryman Auditorium.
Every other award ceremony should take note of what happens at Americana. This year it was efficiently run, as opposed to last year’s which dragged on interminably. The whole shebang only took 3 1/2 hours. There were only a few occasions when he and others needed to pad. This is because it was set up to serve the music rather than the television recording which in the past has sometimes dominated proceedings. This year the cameras were unobtrusive.
There were only a dozen awards and honours interspersed with music from nominees and the speeches were all short (apart from Jim Lauderdale’s and he is entitled to say more being the host for 14 years). None of the waffle of other awards either, everyone here was succinct. (God didn’t get a single mention, though Jesus did in some of the songs). Even Billy Bragg refused to use the evening as a platform.
Maybe the other secret to the evening was that it was an all-star cast and every performance was excellent, with some being spectacular. William Bell was fantastic and I had to check to see how old he is. It says he is 77, which I find impossible to believe. I will get up close tomorrow when he comes into the radio show. (Full details of the award are on the ATN homepage).
There was a lovely tribute to Guy Clark, Allen Toussaint and Merle Haggard to start with Buddy Miller, Alison Krauss and others singing ‘Gloryland’ a capella and then Joe henry (‘Freedom For The Stallion’), Steve Earle (‘Desperados Waiting For A Train’) and Bob Weir (‘Mama Tried’). It shouldn’t gte better than that but it did. Other performers included Bonnie Raitt, Steve Earle,Lucinda Williams (‘Dust’), Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell (‘Bring It On Back To Memphis’). The evening closed with the whole cast joining the Nitty Gritty Dird Band for ‘Will the Circle Be Unbroken.’ (Karen, my partner, said it was one of the best shows she has ever attended! High praise indeed).
Afterwards we got a cab out the Cannery to see the Dirt Band who must have hot-footed it out there as quickly as we did because they went on stage at exactly 10.30pm, played the ‘hits’ (including ‘Mr Boangles’) and finished at 11.15pm. There was no way we were goingto get in upstairs at the Mercy Lounge to see Dwight Yoakam so we cabbed back to the hotel pretty satisfied, I have to say.
There were two must see sessions for me at the Conference yesterday. The first was on the 50th anniversary of Ardent Studios featuring Jody Stephens (Big Star) and Steve Earle, amongst others. It made me miss Jim Dickinson a lot but be thankful that I got to interview him at his Zebra Ranch in Mississippi.
The other session was on The Relevance Of Woody Guthrie featuring Billy Bragg and Jimmy LaFave. Bragg is quite the scholar and impressed with his knowledge. On Tuesday I interviewed Bragg at the Union Station Hotel and he was sensational. So good to talk to an articulate musician who doesn’t mind having a chat.
Also on Tuesday we visited the Johnny Cash Museum which I have seen before and which was just as crowded this time too. I cannot decide who was the better actor – Johnny or Elvis. Karen also went to the Country Music Hall of Fame which she said was one of the best museums she had
On Monday we visited the town of Franklin which is as big a slice of American middle-class life as you could wish to see. The town is immaculate, manicured and picture postcard. Not my sort of thing but interesting to see.
Today it is back at the conference for T Bone Burnett’s keynote address and a a couple of interviews and then gigs in the evening. Oh, I also have to prepare my program at some stage!