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The Rootsy Path Through Tin Pan South


The Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival, which returns for its 26th year this week, is mostly a showcase of country radio hits and commercial writers aspiring toward that goal. But the sprawling and popular event has diversified in recent years. Roots, Americana and bluegrass fans will find some strong shows if they know where to look.


Austin-based married duo Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay, witty country music sophisticates, are always worth seeing on their swings through Nashville. They perform Thursday at 6 pm at 3rd & Lindsley with Nashville’s Waylon Payne and the set’s host, the iconic Robert Earl Keen.

At exactly the same time, Tin Pan organizers have built a showcase around winners of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s songwriters of the year award. The in-the-round format show at the Station Inn will feature Jon Weisberger, Milan Miller, Tim Stafford and Becky Buller.

Buller, who added Female Vocalist and Fiddler Player of the Year to her IBMA trophy shelf last fall, says Tin Pan South - this is her second - gets her out of her comfort zone.

“I’ve always enjoyed the safety in numbers, you know, being up there with a band, having rehearsed with a group and having a support network. So I get nervous about just singing by myself. But it was fun to be part of that number last year. I’m excited to be doing this again. It’s fun and it’s a good kick in the butt for me to work those new songs up.”

Also recommended, Friday’s 9:30 pm set at The Local with Rounder Records artist Sean McConnell, Alison Krauss band-mate and solo artist Dan Tyminski, plus Lucie Silvas and Ashley Ray.

Tin Pan South runs Tuesday through Saturday. All told, more than 200 writers will perform across 10 venues. Update: Tin Pan is reporting that full-festival passes are sold out. Single show tickets will be sold as available at each venue.