Music fans from across the world will once again descend on Nashville this week as the 2022 AmericanaFest kicks off, bringing with it the return of a diverse array of showcases, panels and the annual Americana Honors & Awards ceremony.
At first glance, the week-long musical extravaganza can look a little hectic. The schedule boasts marathon days packed full of exciting things to do and epic line-ups, with a varied enough cast of performers to tempt any and every kind of music fan. With so much unbeatable music on the docket, it’s hard to go wrong: But read on for Holler’s picks of who we’re most excited to see at the festival this year.
Kick off the week with this showcase at Germantown eatery The Optimist, which offers a spread of some of the most exciting young talent Americana has to offer. Breakout star Katie Pruitt offers sharp, incisive lyricism told through the lens of her own powerful coming of age story, while acts like Sierra Ferrell deliver a kaleidoscopic blend of genres that range from jazz to Calypso - and everything in between. Logan Ledger, Bella White and Early James are also on the bill for this showcase, so fans will have ample opportunity to hear new artists just before they crest into the mainstream, or discover new favorite acts.
Ever since 1985, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers - aka The Indigo Girls - have been putting out music that is both cathartic and soft, hard-rocking and introspective, both sharp and catchy. They’ve racked up a diehard fanbase in the process, and if you count yourself among that fanbase, there’s no better place to be than at this standout panel on Wednesday of AmericanaFest. Hosted by NPR correspondent Ann Powers, the hour-long conversation will take a deep dive into the folk-rock duo’s career - past, present and most of all, future.
If you’ve ever wondered how a song becomes part of the soundtrack to breakout television hit Yellowstone, this event is for you. The show has a strong country music connection - songs by artists like Jackson Dean have appeared on the soundtrack, and Tim McGraw and Faith Hill star in the prequel, 1883, plus Lainey Wilson has just been added to the cast of the show’s next season. Wilson - a fast-rising soon-to-be country superstar in her own right - will take part in this “in the round”-style spread of Yellowstone songs. Hayes Carll, who has contributed two songs to the soundtrack, will also perform, as will 'All I Know' performer William Prince.
That’s Mr. and Mrs. Americana Honors & Awards Nominees to you! The War and Treaty, who are up in the Duo/Group of the Year category after winning the Emerging Artist of the Year trophy in 2019. Comprised of Michael and Tanya Trotter, the husband-and-wife duo offers rafter-raising vocals, powerful songwriting and a versatile on-stage presence that’s brought them into some unlikely onstage collaborations. They joined Dierks Bentley onstage at the 2021 ACM Awards to perform ‘Pride (In the Name of Love)’, for example. The duo’s City Winery performance takes place right after the 2022 awards show, and it’s sure to be an all-night party if they’ve just been crowned Duo/Group of the Year.
The Black Opry has generated increasing buzz in the country music industry over the past year - you may have seen founder Holly G’s June interview on the Kelly Clarkson Show, for example - and this showcase is a must-see AmericanaFest event both for the stellar group of artists it bags and for its unique, increasingly relevant position in the genre.
Holly G first got the idea after watching a woman named Rachel share her story of what it’s like to be a Black country fan, and the duality she felt between loving the music while also feeling unsafe at concerts. Holly G knew Rachel’s story tapped into an experience shared by her and other Black listeners, and she started a blog that quickly grew into a collective aiming to provide a safe space for these fans, and provide a platform for Black country artists. Already booked up well into 2023, the Black Opry proves that country music is for everyone - and that there are a multitude of Black artists who, while they may be less visible than their white counterparts, are making incredible country music.
Hailing all the way from South London, Jade Bird became one of Americana’s biggest upstarts with the release of her self-titled debut album in 2019. One of her earliest releases, ‘Lottery’, rose to the top of the Adult Alternative Songs chart, making her only the fifth woman to top that chart since 2010. She earned an Emerging Artist of the Year nod at the Americana Honors & Awards in 2019, and since then, her star has only risen: In non-pandemic times, Bird toured internationally, and her follow-up album to Jade Bird was written in far-flung locales like Japan, Mexico, New York and Nashville. Highly touted and in-demand producer Dave Cobb signed on to work on that project, which ultimately arrived as Different Kinds of Light in 2021.
Get to know a Nashville landmark with a trip to the Bluebird Cafe, the intimate venue known for spotlighting Music City’s best songwriters. Fans of the music-centric television show Nashville will recognize the stage, as some of the most memorable scenes in the show were filmed there. But even more exciting are the real-life songwriting greats who grace the stage, such as Gretchen Peters, who has been a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame since 2014. Known for writing hits like Shania Twain’s ‘Dance With the One That Brought You’ and Martina McBride’s ‘Independence Day’, Peters also has a robust catalog of her own as a recording artist. Joining her onstage for this showcase is Barry Walsh, her husband and fellow songwriter, who has written for Waylon Jennings, Nanci Griffith and many more.
Singer-songwriter stalwart Jim Lauderdale takes the stage at Exit/In on Friday night, with a performance that’s sure to thrill any diehard Americana fan. A powerhouse in the industry since the mid-’80s, Lauderdale has both released his own music and written songs for other artists, who range from George Strait to Blake Shelton to Patty Loveless. Lauderdale is also a nimble collaborator.He put out two bluegrass records with Dr. Ralph Stanley, for example - one of which was nominated for a GRAMMY - as well as planning frequent team-ups with the Grateful Dead’s Robert Hunter. He’s a mainstay of AmericanaFest, winning the Association’s special achievement Wagonmaster Award in 2016, and he’s hosted the Americana Honors & Awards show several times. Those deep roots in the festival, and his impressive musical resume, make him an act not to be missed.
A beloved annual tradition on the final day of the festival, the Gospel Brunch is not to be missed. Among the acts set to appear are the McCrary Sisters, the iconic musical sibling group who are also part of the “house band” at the Americana Honors & Awards ceremony every year. Also on the ticket is Brent Cobb, who released his stellar gospel album, And Now Let’s Turn to Page..., in January. Now in its 10th year, the brunch will return with more chicken and waffles, plus an unbeatable lineup of musicians.
Fans have got some tough choices to make on Saturday night, as the McCrary Sisters, Nikki Lane and many more are all playing the 10 PM slot that day. And while Lane’s set certainly gave us pause, ultimately, we’re spending that high-traffic hour in the company of Kelsey Waldon at Riverside Revival. A protogé of the late, great John Prine’s Oh Boy Records, Waldon has quickly established herself as an impressive rising act coming out of Kentucky. Her latest project, No Regular Dog, released in mid-August to critical acclaim as the follow-up to her breakout White Noise/White Lines in 2019. Tune in to hear Waldon try out some new tunes - and revisit beloved favorites - in this epic conclusion to the 2022 AmericanaFest experience.
For more information on AmericanaFest visit their site here.