Music City’s music scene finally seems to be getting close to its normal jam-packed self. The Americana Music Association’s 22nd Annual AMERICANAFEST® is set to take place Tuesday through Saturday, featuring scores of top-notch musical acts at various venues large and small around the Nashville area. Coupled with the Labor Day weekend’s well-attended Live on the Green festival in downtown Nashville, the return of Bonnaroo festival in June in nearby Manchester, Tennessee, and the upcoming Pilgrimage Festival in neighboring Franklin, and the lingering pandemic may seem a distance memory.
While the pandemic remains — with the bulk of AMERICANAFEST® indoors, fans are always encouraged to wear a mask, particularly if you’re unvaxxed or you skipped a booster shot or two — the fest remains one of the biggest bangs for your musical buck each and is worth any extra effort and precautions.
Rest assured that any festival-sanctioned show has been curated for quality by the expert ears of Festival Producer Craig Shelburne, a music industry vet who joined The Americana Music Association in February. He works alongside Danna Strong, producer of the sprawling conference portion of the
festival as AMA’s Director of Education and Programs, as well as longtime Executive Director Jed Hilly.
Most of Nashville’s top nightclubs are participating in AMERICANAFEST® this year, although we’ll sorely miss the ease of checking out multiple acts under one roof at The Cannery complex (The Cannery, Mercy Lounge, The High Watt) after its recent ownership change and temporary closure.
HERE ARE THE PICKS FOR AMERICANAFEST® THIS WEEK:
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13
BGS Presents: Jason Carter & Friends from 8pm-11pm at Station Inn. What better way to experience the melting pot of Americana influences that roots, folk, country, blues and soul-based music than with an all-star lineup at the country’s premier bluegrass nightclub, Station Inn in The Gulch? Join ace fodder Jason Carter (Del McCoury Band, The Travelin’ McCourys) and many of his famous friends as he performs songs from his upcoming solo album. All Conference and Festival Passholders welcome on a first-come, first-served basis. Admission also available at the door.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 14
For the second straight AMERICANAFEST®, Middle Tennessee State University-based treasure WMOT Roots Radio hosts a special edition of its regular “Wired In” show, with bluegrass stalwart Dan Tyminski (Alison Krauss and Union Station) at 2pm and North Carolina’s American Aquarium at 3pm topping the bill at The Wash at Eastside Bowl in historic Madison, just a few minutes from downtown. That’s followed by Thursday and Friday afternoon WMOT shows at Eastside Bowl that feature the likes of Lyle Lovett (3pm Thursday), Asleep at the Wheel (noon Thursday with singer Brennen Leigh), Freedy Johnston (noon Friday) and Nashville’s answer to Bruce Springsteen, Will Hoge (3pm Friday), fresh off a much-praised new album Wings on My Shoes.
“Coming off a life-affirming set co-headlining with Chris Isaak (Aug. 17 at the Grand Ole Opry House), we are delighted to be presenting Lyle in his only set of music during AMERICANAFEST,” said WMOT Program Director Jessie Scott in a news release. “But also, how excited I am that we are able to put a lineup together with some legends and some newcomers. It marks our continued commitment to music discovery. You’ll get turned on by something that will touch your heart.”
The event is open only to festival wristband and badge holders or WMOT members, of which you absolutely should be one of as even a casual fan of roots music. You can sign up for WMOT membership at the door.
The annual Americana Honors & Awards Show is set for 6:30-9:30pm at the historic Ryman Auditorium. The show always sells out, so check the AMERICANAFEST® website ASAP to buy a ticket, be it ever so pricey. ($90-$225) The All-Star House Band again boasts the multitalented Buddy Miller as musical director, with the fabulous McCrary Sisters again providing backing vocals. Scheduled performers include Adia Victoria, Allison Russell, Brandi Carlile, Buddy Miller, Chris Isaak, Fairfield Four, Indigo Girls, James McMurtry, Lucinda Williams, Lukas Nelson, The McCrary Sisters, Morgan Wade, Neal Francis, Phosphorescent, Sierra Ferrell and The War And Treaty. Click here for tickets.
The official awards show viewing party takes place at City Winery via livestream starting at 6:30pm, followed by live performances by William Prince (10pm) and the always compelling The War and Treaty (11pm).
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 15
Riverside Revival, a converted church located on the campus of East Nashville Community Collaborative, hosts a who’s who of roots stars, starting with front man Ray Benson’s long-running Western swing band Asleep at the Wheel at 7pm, followed by Brennen Leigh (8pm), James McMurtry (9pm), and The Jerry Douglas Band featuring Dobro master Jerry Douglas (10pm).
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 16
For those on a budget, it’s free admission at the outdoors Musicians Corner at Centennial Park with a lineup that includes Lilli Lewis, Mark Wilkinson, The Ballroom Thieves, Emily Scott Robinson and Joe Purdy beginning at 5pm.
The always entertaining Jim Lauderdale, one of Nashville’s master modern country singer-songwriters, takes the stage at the internationally renowned nightclub Exit/In at 7pm, followed by Jaime Wyatt (8pm), Michigan Rattlers (9pm), and 49 Winchester (10pm). There are no bookings at Exit/In after
late-November 2022, when present owner Chris Cobb’s lease runs out. Here’s hoping Cobb, fresh off a triumphant booking of Live on the Green, surfaces elsewhere soon, and that Exit/In remains true to its heritage as a taste-making venue.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 17
If you want to brave the ever-present crowd at tiny The Bluebird Cafe in Green Hills, it’d be worth it to see and hear accomplished singer-songwriter Allison Moorer, Robby Hecht and Nashville roots-rock institution Webb Wilder for the SESAC at The Bluebird show at 6pm.
Nashville rockers Cordovas help close out AMERICANAFEST® at 11pm in the cozy confines of The Basement on Eighth Avenue South, also known as the OG Basement as opposed to its bigger sibling, The Basement East in East Nashville.