It’s called The Local so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it felt like home straight away. Starting at noon today, the indoor/outdoor venue at 110 28th Ave. N. became AmericanaFest headquarters for WMOT Roots Radio along with broadcasting partners NPR Music and World Cafe for the duration of the event. Live music continues until Saturday at 6 pm.
It is in fact the official Americana Music Association Day Stage. Our own Jessie Scott booked it and is holding down most of the emcee duties. The sets are streaming over the VuHaus platform and airing nationally and locally on the radio. The music, plus the location next to Nashville’s spacious and historic Centennial Park (home of the Parthenon) makes for a welcome wagon, a networking opportunity and an off-campus hang with the best possible music. Also available, besides food and drink, are WMOT shirts and merch, plus ample opportunity to become a member of the station.
Nashville’s Will Hoge minced no words about his thoughts on the American political situation in the day’s hard rocking opener. The Accidentals, the sparky strings and drums trio out of Michigan signed to Sony, played as if on purpose. And Paul Thorn offered his inimitable story songs about ordinary people with more promise than prospects, in his dusty Mississippi drawl.
I was personally most taken by Ruston Kelly’s velvety croon, even if his melancholy was a mismatch for the gathering of old and new friends feeling another (the 19th) Americana conference coming into focus. Kelly, who has just released the album Dying Star, wore a black Misfits punk rock t-shirt and played, at times, a Pepto-Bismol pink Gibson Hummingbird guitar. So contrasts make the man. His story, shared in recent press, of getting sober in an acute hurry and marrying complex country star sweetheart Kacey Musgraves, made an inspiring backdrop to songs that were plaintive and gorgeous.
Also rolling out a whole new them was Knoxville band The Black Lillies. Cruz Contreras has been the heart and soul of the band since its 2009 foundation, not to mention its core songwriter. Several members, notably Trisha Gene Brady, have moved on recently. Starting three years ago Sam Quinn, an eccentric Knoxville folk music icon, became part of the touring ensemble. But the album Stranger To Me, out in late Septemer, marks a rollout of Quinn as bass player and singer in a country rock quartet with sharp textures and stunning three-part harmonies. Quinn said he’s now writing or co-writing for the band, which makes it something of an East Tennessee supergroup, and they sounded super. “Waiting” offered Crazy Horse style chills.
The day was rounded out with the self-aware and passionate songs of Nicki Bluhm, who’s made the move from the Bay Area to Nashville and found a home with Compass Records. Label mate Mike Farris closed out the afternoon with songs from his new Silver and Stone LP.
Wednesday features a WMOT Wired In broadcast with Amy Helm, The War And Treaty and Shemekia Copeland. A complete schedule for the rest of the week is here.