Set List Bonus: 2013 Americana Music Festival & Conference
Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.
By Lynne Margolis
In 14 years, the Americana Music Festival & Conference has grown from a small gathering of industry professionals to thousands of attendees, each attracted by a mix of legendary and newcomer performers and panelists, an expanding list of special events, and the occasional chance to interact with music icons.
When the Americana Honors & Awards show was added in 2001, it became an instant highlight of the Americana Music Association's annual fall gathering, held this year from Sept. 18–22. And for most of those years, MC Jim Lauderdale, a two-time GRAMMY winner, has kept a running joke about what, exactly, Americana music actually is.
Though Merriam-Webster began defining it in 2011 as "a genre of American music having roots in early folk and country music," Americana is a mix of country, bluegrass, folk, blues, rock, soul, and anything else considered "roots music." At this year's awards show, held Sept. 18 in Nashville's revered Ryman Auditorium (known as "the mother church of country music"), Lauderdale said it's a genre in which the past and traditions matter, "even as we celebrate the infinite new ways those traditions can be extended and expanded."
The thread linking old to new was conveyed with the President's Award, posthumously presented to country standard-bearer Hank Williams, "the hillbilly Shakespeare." Granddaughter Holly Williams accepted, then joined the Buddy Miller-led house band for a rendition of "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry."
On Sept. 20 she performed during a showcase at 3rd & Lindsley that also included renowned songwriters Darrell Scott and Tim O'Brien. Among Scott's compositions is an ode to her grandfather, "Hank Williams' Ghost." Holly Williams, who called Americana "a home for artists like myself who may be a little too this for that and a little too that for this," performed a beautiful version of John Prine's "Angel From Montgomery," followed by "Waiting On June," the true story of her maternal grandparents' life together.
During his rave-earning showcase on Sept. 19, GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter John Fullbright said he was reluctant to embrace Americana "when they started throwin' that term around." But now, he admitted, "I'm liking it. This is my kind of people."
"His kind of people" could be found mingling with fans and fellow players throughout the week, including during a post-awards showcase/jam hosted by actor/banjo player Ed Helms that attracted Instrumentalist of the Year winner Larry Campbell and Emerging Artist of the Year nominees the Milk Carton Kids, who nearly stole the awards show with their mesmerizing performance. That wasn't an easy feat during a night that also featured Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, who won Duo/Group of the Year and Album of the Year for Old Yellow Moon, and Shovels & Rope, the husband-and-wife duo of Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, who earned Song of the Year for "Birmingham" and Emerging Artist of the Year honors. Lifetime Achievement for Performance honoree Dr. John performed with guitarist Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys; for his first performance in a decade, Grateful Dead lyricist and Lifetime Achievement for Songwriting honoree Robert Hunter delivered a wonderful solo rendition of the Dead's "Ripple." Lifetime Achievement for Instrumentalist winner Duane Eddy credited Hank Williams as his inspiration.
Crosby, Stills & Nash songwriter/guitarist and Spirit of Americana Free Speech Award recipient Stephen Stills invited former Buffalo Springfield bandmate Richie Furay and the Rides collaborator Kenny Wayne Shepherd onstage for a fiery rendition of "For What It's Worth" that presenter Rosanne Cash proclaimed "an out-of-body experience."
Throughout the conference and festival, attendees took in performances by young artists such as JD McPherson, Aoife O'Donovan and the Lone Bellow, while also absorbing the wisdom of veterans such as Paul Kelly and Woody Guthrie disciple Billy Bragg, who noted, "I don't work in the record industry. I work in the music industry. There's a difference."
For many, that's the crux of Americana: It's music that has to be made, whether it finds a market or not. Americana might be today's fastest-growing genre, but for artists and listeners alike, it’s still about authentic music.
(Austin-based writer/editor Lynne Margolis contributes regularly to print, broadcast and online media including American Songwriter and Lone Star Music magazines. Outlets also have included the Christian Science Monitor, Paste, Rollingstone.com and NPR affiliates. A contributing editor to the encyclopedia, The Ties That Bind: Bruce Springsteen From A To E To Z, she also writes bios for new and established artists. This year's Americana Festival & Conference was her 10th.)