Singer-songwriter Brittney Spencer more than lived up to advance billing as an emerging artist to watch during her showcase at 3rd & Lindsley nightclub Thursday night as part of the 21st annual AMERICANAFEST®.
The Baltimore native, a Nashville resident since 2013 and proud graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, appeared at home while fronting a young four-piece band with the calm that belied being one of the buzzed-about acts entering the festival. She’s one of a rare but growing number of Black female artists that are shaking up the country and Americana music scenes.
“This is an absolute blast,” said Spencer, wearing a floral print dress and white tassled cowboy boots and accompanying herself on acoustic guitar.
Having an absolute blast meant staying in complete command of the stage. As someone who once sang for tips on the sidewalks of Nashville’s tourist meccas Lower Broadway and Printers Alley, she has worked hard to get here, and it shows.
“This is the title track off my EP last year,” she said, introducing the song ‘Compassion,’ “and to be honest, I never thought anybody would listen to it — and now I’m here at Americanafest.”
Spencer’s warm, no-nonsense singing voice and expert storytelling chops have attracted a growing legion of fans, which include some of her more-recognizable peers.
Joining her onstage for one-off guests turns were singer-songwriter-fiddler extraordinaire Amanda Shires — she of the supergroup Highwomen and a much-lauded recording and performing artist in her own right — as well as country singer-songwriter Hailey Whitters.
“We became friends on Twitter,” Spencer said in introducing Shires, who was a regular presence on stage at the Ryman Auditorium during the previous evening’s Americana Honors and Awards at the Ryman Auditorium.
“I think you decided to be you when you decided to be so ballsy,” said a playful Shires, toting her fiddle and wearing a black fedora complete with bunny ears.
Shires proceeded to tell the crowd, “My favorite writer on the planet is Brittney Spencer” — we’re presuming that includes her husband and ofttimes bandmate, the heralded singer-songwriter and Americana star Jason Isbell — as the two women laughed and lurched their way through a newly written Christmas song with bawdy lyrics not suitable for a family blog.
“This is the first time we’ve performed this in public,” said Spencer, stating the obvious, as she and Shires merrily ho-ho-hoed their way through the tune.
More often, though, her lyrics cut to the bone, as evidenced by “Sorrys Don’t Work No More,” a highlight of her 3rd & Lindsley set.
“I lie, I lie awake
I, I lied straight to your face
In hopes of sparing you the pain …
“Yeah, it hurts me
That I let time run out the door
And all my sorrys don’t work no more.”
Spencer’s fall touring schedule brings her back to Music City for a high-profile Saturday night opening slot on Oct. 16 during Isbell and his band The 400 Unit’s sold-out concert as part of a multi-date stand at the Ryman Auditorium, a fall highlight at the historic venue for several years’ running.
AMERICANAFEST® continues through Saturday, Sept. 27 at various nightclubs and venues throughout the city. The festival and awards show took a hiatus last year due to the pandemic. For every AMERICANAFEST-produced event, attendees must present proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours in order to access a venue.