This is going to be a big year for the Americana Music Association Festival and Conference - the annual event held in Nashville, Tenn., to celebrate the music and passion of the Americana
world. If you go, you'll get the hang of AMA Award Show Host Jim Lauderdale
proclaiming 'Now THAT's Americana' - a response to the ever-present question of what constitutes Americana music. The truth is, the definition is a little vague, but you'll know it when you hear it. Aside from the big stars that'll be on hand this year - Bonnie Raitt, Rodney Crowell, John Hiatt - the festival itself is full of up-and-coming and relatively little-known artists with heaps of talent.
Like any festival, it's better to know before you go what you absolutely don't want to miss. If you catch the artists on this list, you'll be able to leave knowing you saw a slice of the next generation of Americana music stars.
Fresh out of South Carolina, Shovels + Rope is one of the most exciting up-and-coming duos on the folk and Americana circuit these days. Their energetic presence and tight, imaginative harmonies drive music which is palatable for all kinds of stylistic tastes - always firmly rooted in the traditional music of American communities. As Lauderdale would say (and probably will, if he's there) "Now That's Americana." Playing
: The Basement - Wednesday 9/12 at midnight
If any up-and-comer is worthy of standing next to Bonnie Raitt
and ripping the folk-rock-blues with considerable power, it would be John Fullbright. (And, of course, Raitt will be at this year's Americana Festival.) Fullbright's particular brand of music has been exciting fans and critics alike this year, bowling them over with his alternately smooth then growl-and-snarl vocals, tackling all sorts of difficult emotions. If reviews of his other shows are any indication, Fullbright is probably going to bowl over the Americana fest crowds this week. Playing
: Mercy Longe - Thursday, Sept. 13 at 11 p.m.
© Justin Voight
The Turnpike Troubadours decidedly fall more toward the country spectrum of what's celebrated as Americana music, and may not interest folks who are hard-core folk music fanatics. But their traditional approach to western music is as refreshing as it is creative and unique, nodding at true country troubadours like Lyle Lovett
and Dwight Yoakam
as much as at the old cowboy singers of yore. Their buzz has only barely just begun, but this Oklahoma-based band is poised to be a surprise hit of the festival. Playing
: Mercy Lounge - Thursday, 9/13 at 8 p.m.
© Holly Maher
The Humming House is just a great band. Pulling together influences as variant as traditional folk, ragtime, opera, and you-name-it-else, Humming House is a conglomeration of all the things which make the East Nashville scene so enviable. Each of these folks play in a number of other bands and projects, but together they bring a certain rootsy universality to this band, showing that they have chops in any style you might want to throw at them. No doubt they'll be a perfect fit for the Station Inn stage, as well, waking you up at midnight in the best possible way. Think Old Crow Medicine Show
in a Chicago speakeasy. Playing
: The Station Inn - Thursday, Sept. 13 at midnight
courtesy Crash Avenue
Anthony da Costa has long been a darling of the independent folk singer-songwriter scene, making his way through Folk Alliance showcases and festival performances across the country since he was just a teenager. Now a certifiable adult, his music continues to evolve in interesting, provocative, and thoughtful ways. Fresh from a stirring collaboration with John Elliott and Raina Rose, da Costa is likely to hit the Americana festival with some friends and rock your mind with his lovely singer-songwriterly music. A great way to close out the weekend if you ask me. Playing
: The Basement - Saturday, Sept. 15 at 8 p.m.