Eighty-Eight Hours of Crazy Americana-Mania
The Americana Music Association (AMA) put on their 10th Awards, Conference, and showcase last week in Nashville and it was all that and much, much more. Traveling down from Ohio for the third time in the past four years with my trusty friend and fellow musiholic Dale Elwell, we were ready to begin the continuous theme of local craft beer, good food, CD shopping, and hearing some of the best musicians over a four night and three day span.
After some brews with a side of fish ‘n chips at Dan McGuinness Irish Pub, we headed to The Rutledge for the first night of showcases featuring the legendary Marty Stuart and his lovely wife Connie Smith. We both loved hearing the band that followed, as Mountain Heart mixed that traditional bluegrass of banjo, fiddle, and mandolin with some beautiful piano. There were many favorite sons and daughters from Ohio representing during the AMA’s, but nobody put on a show quite like Kent’s very own David Mayfield and The David Mayfield Parade. As his Mama Valerie says, David is unleashed when fronting his own band.
The next morning included a trip to The Country Music Hall of Fame to see the new Chet Atkins exhibit after a few cups of java at Fido. When visiting to Nashville, you don’t walk past a record store without taking a peek inside, so after touring the Country HOF, we ventured to Ernest Tubbs Record Shop and picked up a CD. Our appetite was working overtime by this point and Broadway Brewhouse & Mojo satisfied our growling stomachs. With time to spare, it was off to Grimey’s New & Pre-Loved Music for some Americana music purchases.
The big awards show was taking place at the historic Ryman Auditorium and it was ever so convenient to dine across the alley at Jack’s BBQ for some hearty meat & 3’s. The awards show opened with a performance by Don Was, Emmylou Harris, Allison Kraus, Buddy Miller, and Jerry Douglas singing “I’ll Fly Away”. The floodgate of talent which followed was stellar as Amos Lee, Lucinda Williams, Buddy Miller with Regina McCrary of The McCrary Sisters, Jessica Lea Mayfield backed by The Avett Brothers (who also performed), Jim Lauderdale, Secret Sisters, Civil Wars, Robert Plant & Band of Joy with Patty Griffin, Greg Allman, Hayes Carll, Elizabeth Cook, Justin Townes Earle, and Candi Staton with The McCrary Sisisters singing “Heart On A String”. Whoa Nellie.
This expert driver was able to get us over to The Station Inn in nothin’ flat to nab front row seats for the second round of showcases featuring J.D. Souther along with Mollie O’Brien and Rich Moore. We just happened to have two extra chairs at our table and later were joined by the darling Ange Boxall, a singer/songwriter from Australia, and her friend Kathy Magee from England. We must have been either charming or quite amusing as Ange left us with passes to attend a special Aussie showcase the next afternoon.
Friday morning started out with a trip to McKay Used Books & CD’s, the ultimate place to shop for a couple of music prospectors like us. Next it was off to The Second Fiddle where the ‘Maton Presents Lunch with the Aussies’ showcase was taking place. The event was being catered by Jack’s BBQ located next door, so what’s not to like? The finest up and coming talent from down under played including Shandell, Kirsty Akers, O’Shea, Henry Wagons, The McMenamins, Catherine Britt, along with our new friend Ange, who had Bones Hillman from Elizabeth Cook’s trio on upright bass.
Prior to dinner, probably the coolest event we were lucky to fall into was an invite from SiriusXM Outlaw Country to attend a live radio broadcast with DJ Mojo Nixon. Only sixty people were able to see an intimate performance by Luther Dickinson, Kenny Vaughan, and The Bottle Rockets. Afterwards, we went to Rotier’s Restaurant for beer and cheeseburgers. Round three of showcases on Friday night took us to The Cannery and adjacent Mercy Lounge for the superstar line-up of Keb’ Mo’, Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale, The North Mississippi All Stars featuring Luther Dickinson, and Jessica Lea Mayfield. The AMA’s was all about Dale meeting Buddy Miller and his bucket list quest was finally met; a moment that will live in infamy. After more than twelve hours of music later, we decided to call it a night.
There are reasons to have a car while in Nashville and we covered a lot of territory on Saturday. For starters, we took a drive to the Sylvan Park area for breakfast at Star Bagel Café and some much needed java. Given the pace of the previous day, we decided to up the ante’ by attending AMERICANARAMA IV at Grimey’s and The Basement. Beer was flowing with generous portions of Yazoo and Calfkiller ale samplings along with the Mas Tacos Por Favor food truck offering up some delicious fresh Tex-Mex. Grimey’s was having their rummage sale outdoors in the parking lot and a big sale going on inside the store. Bands and DJ’s were performing from 11:00-6:00 with Dave Olney, Amy Speace, Derek Hoke, Glossary, Paul Birch, Tim Lowman’s one man show Low Volts, and the duo Hymn For Her featuring Wayne Waxing and Lucy Tight and their very artistic guitars. While waiting in line for Tacos, I met singer/songwriter Chris Altmann and his lovely companion Alysha Main. They are also from Australia, but traveled to Nashville via Toronto and stopped in my hometown of Akron, Ohio on the way. Chris was playing one of the main showcases in the evening and this information helped with a later decision.
Another drive was in order for dinner time as we headed into East Nashville for Shepherd’s Pie at The Family Wash. For the final night of showcases, The Cannery “TBA” was cancelled, so we took a flyer on going back to The Rutledge. This was a night of getting turned on to new artists as Chris Altmann opened and then was followed by Ryan Tanner. Then, a bunch of older hipsters wearing nudie suits called Blackie and the Rodeo Kings who had help tearing it up with special guests Carrie Rodriguez and The McCrary Sisters.
Afterwards, we decided to uphold a time honored tradition of ending the evening back in East Nashville. I heard that a band called The Twenty-Eights were playing at The Five Spot. Brought together to celebrate Chuck Berry’s birthday were Garry W. Tallent, Dave Roe, George Bradfute, Jimmy Lester, Jack Irwin, and Jim Hoke. Unfortunately, we arrived late or the band started early and we only heard about five songs before they packed up their instruments. But we had one more stop to make, so walked over to 3 Crows Bar for a night cap and some appetizers in the rear outdoor bar. And who walks in and sits by us? That wild and crazy Mojo Nixon! Mojo’s entertaining personality led to a nice long conversation with Scott Collins, who was sitting on the other side of us. Scott performs in a touring band with his wife called The Smoking Flowers and another band based in Chicago called The Buddies.
After another marathon day of music, we called it a night with a long journey back to Ohio looming the next morning. Nashville lived up to previous expectations and in some ways exceeded them. So my friends, now THAT’s Americana ….