Searching Out Country Music at Americana Fest 2018
It’s necessary to do a bit of digging to uncover what I consider ‘real’ country music these days. Robert’s Western World on Broadway in Nashville is a sure bet for the purist among us and with over three hundred acts performing at Americana Fest 2018, you’re guaranteed a decent representation of acts keeping that flag flying. Six acts in particular impressed and ticked the Lonesome Highway "real country is alive and kicking box."
Jaime Wyatt at 3rd & Lindsley
Resembling a young Lucinda Williams in both appearance and sound, the striking Californian outlaw artist’s gig drew in the main material from her current album Felony Blues. Recalling her former years as a hell raiser - she did a prison stretch for robbing her drug dealer - Wyatt and her equally tight band delivered a storming set with full on numbers like Wishing Well and Wasco impressing every bit as much as her dreamy delivery of Merle Haggard’s Misery and Gin. Wyatt is the real deal, an artist with the ability in her writing, delivery and stage presence to make giant career steps. She sings from the heart, with pain, emotion and healing oozing from her every word. A festival highlight for those lucky enough to have caught her at 3rd& Lindsley.
Pat Reedy and The Longtime Goners at The Vinyl Bunker
The location for Pat Reedy’s set was a small vinyl record store located in the office of an underground car park. Not the most salubrious of rooms perhaps, but Reedy’s not the type of artist that’s going to grace the stage of The Grand Old Opry. He’s been touted as the most likely ‘country’ artist to follow in the footsteps of Joshua Hedley by making a name for himself way beyond Nashville. His appearance is that of someone that just drifted in from an auto store having spent the day changing tyres. With a three-piece band consisting of a recently acquainted Scandinavian pedal player, drummer and upright bass, he played two short sets of material mostly drawn from his recent release, the wonderfully titled That’s All There Is And There Ain’t No More. A former busker and construction worker, Reedy is the real deal, no frills, dirt under the fingernails and he dished out the perfect mid-afternoon set of raw and ragged country tunes.
Jason James at Acme & Seed
Having played a solo performance at the same venue at the festival a few years back, James’s return with a full band was a joy to behold. The opposite side of the coin to Reedy, James is immaculately turned out, his appearance more George Jones than Willie Nelson and his performance was equally impressive. Playing to a large - and talkative- audience, it didn’t take long for him to silence them with his smooth Texan country sound, at times sounding like a young George Jones and helped in no small measure by his very impressive band. The new material on offer - to feature in his early 2019 album - sounded every bit as impressive as his 2015 self-titled album, using the same formula of traditional Texan country music, delivered with his silver-tongued southern tones. His signature tune Here Comes The Heartache and the honky tonkin’ I’ve Be Drinking More were standouts.
JP Harris at 3rd & Lindsley
Previous appearances at the festival had seen JP Harris play to smaller crowds at less spacious and less impressive locations, so it was a blast to see him and his entourage - which totalled ten at one stage - given the chance to play one of the larger venues. The stage at 3rd & Lindsley is one of the larger ones at the festival and Harris ensured that every square inch of it was put to use. His band featured guitar, bass, drums, pedal steel and keys with additional backing vocals courtesy of the Watson Twins and Kristina Murry. His set drew on material from his new album – officially released that day - including the title track Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing and When I Quit Drinking, alongside the crowd pleaser Give A LittleLovin’.Harris is not only a killer performer, he’s also a staunch supporter and promoter of emerging artists – in particular female East Nashville acts – often investing as much time in pushing them to the fore as he does in self-promotion.A rocking set from an artist that – were there any justice in the music world - would be a household name in country music.
Mike and The Moonpies at 3rd & Lindsley
With the perfect mix and twang, honky tonk and boogie, Mike Harmeier and his five-piece band were the ideal act to close off the Evenings showcases at 3rd & Lindsley. Living up to their reputation for delivering full on high octane sets with a forty-five-minute onslaught of material that transformed the room into a Texas Dance Hall. Drawing in the main from their recent album Steak Night At The Prairie Rose they accelerated through Might Be Wrong, Getting High At Home and Beaches of Beloxi at breakneck speed. A "send them home sweating and smiling" set of fun music!
Colter Wall at The Station Inn
One of the names on many people’s lips as the emerging young artist on the Americana scene of recent years, the 23-year-old Canadian nabbed a prime slot as the closing act at the revered Station Inn on the night of the Americana Fest Award Show. Playing out like a veteran, he mesmerised the full house with a spell binding stroll through his breakthrough self-titled album with the superb Me and Big Dave and Kate Mc Cannon bringing the house down. No mean guitar picker himself, the addition of a full band elevated his stripped back baritone vocals to another level. A memorable show!
Review and photography by Declan Culliton