Sept. 21 marked the last full day of the Americana Music Festival and, for most fans it was truly a full day of music. With the Conference panels concluded, the entirety of Saturday could be filled with great music, from Grimey's annual Americanarama to the Bootleg BBQ there was ample opportunity for folks to fill their day before going to the official showcases in the evening.
For this Examiner, the day began at Musician's Corner, a regular weekly free concert series that had partnered with the Americana Music Festival to theme the show to give a taste of Americana to Nashville residents who may not know enough about Americana to want to buy a festival ticket. With a main performance stage and a smaller acoustic stage set up side by side with staggered schedules, the music went virtually non-stop. Performing on the Musician's Corner main stage were Shelby Lynne, Donna the Buffalo, Promised Land Sound, and Ryan Tanner. Over on the acoustic stage, Suzi Ragsdale, Lilly Hiatt, and Emily Barker performed.
From there it was time for the official Americana showcases. We landed at the Station Inn where Phil Madeira's Mercyland kicked off the evening. The Mercyland show at last year's Americana Music Festival was the best performance of the weekend so expectations ran high. While this wasn't nearly the star studded event that last year's was, Madeira still managed to pull together a strong backing group that included Will Kimbrough, Steve Hindalong, Chris Donahue, and Dennis Holt.
Madeira's 45 minute setlist was a mix of songs from “Mercyland: Hymns For the Rest of Us” and his new album “PM.” The new tunes sounded great and it was interesting to see how Madeira played around with the arrangement of the Mercyland songs to fit his voice and band rather than the artists that performed them on the album.
After the Mercyland set, the religious theme of the evening got kicked up to 11 as Nashville's best gospel divas, The McCrary Sisters, brought some old fashioned tent revival fire to the Station Inn. Daughters of legendary Fairfield Four founding member Reverend Sam McCrary, these ladies have been belting out tight gospel harmonies since they were able to talk. Unlike previous Americana Music Festival appearances where they had limited instrumental accompaniment, this year they came with a full band and the driving guitar, bass, and drum just nailed an already high energy set to another level. While the house was far too packed for anybody but the ladies on stage to do much dancing, there was certainly a lot of shouting and waving of hands to show the crowd was into it.
Our last show of the evening came from recently formed Americana supergroup Willie Sugarcapps. Consisting of Will Kimbrough, Grayson Capps, Corky Hughes, and Sugarcane Jane's Anthony Crawford and Savannah Lee, you have a band with as strong a pedigree as any Americana group could get. Performing songs from their recently released self-titled debut album, Willie Sugarcapps brought the goods hard.
While bands made up of so many solo performers can sometimes be a train wreck, these are all artists who thrive on collaboration. Trading lead vocals between Kimbrough, Capps, and Lee and with great instrumental licks from everyone, Willie Sugarcapps brings old school gulf shore regional goodness with every song. If this group isn't up for a whole host of Americana Music Awards at next year's ceremony, it's a crime.