Thursday night, Sept. 19 marked the second day of the 2013 Americana Music Festival. It also marked one of the most star packed nights of the weekend with artists like Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale, Communion Music, and Shooter Jennings performing.
Over at 3rd and Lindsley, legends abounded with highly anticipated performances by Rosanne Cash, Billy Bragg, and Richard Thompson. The near capacity crowd was treated to a clinic by three of the genre's biggest stars.
The evening started off with Americana Music Association head Jed Hilly introducing second generation superstar Rosanne Cash, who had participated in an interview with BBC's Bob Harris earlier in the day. In a nod to just how unusual Americana Music Festival fans are, Cash skipped playing all but one of her many hits, choosing to fill her Showcase performance with a top to bottom run through of her forthcoming album “The River & The Thread.” None of these songs were familiar to the audience and the majority were getting their first public performance ever.
Despite not knowing the songs, the crowd hung on Cash's every word, wildly applauding each new album cut and soaking in Cash's superb storytelling skills. Cash and her band were on point and the new album features some of the most haunting music of her career. To close out the set, Cash did pull out one golden oldie, her biggest hit song “Seven Year Ache.”
Following Rosanne Cash is a tall task for any artist but Billy Bragg doesn't have to stand in anyone's shadow. The cult favorite Brit kicked up the energy level a notch with a strong set that was as high on comedy as it was on rocket fueled Americana goodness. Bragg had the crowd in stitches the entire night with his stories and jokes, including the most hilarious answer to the question “what is Americana music” ever. Bragg insists that the best definition for Americana is “country music for people who enjoy The Smiths.” Bragg even brought Rosanne Cash back out for a duet of “I Still Miss Someone.”
You'd think it would be impossible for any other act in the night to rise to the lofty heights of the first two bands. Enter Richard Thompson. A Lifetime Achievement Award winner and one of the greatest guitar players in the world, Thompson is also one of the most accomplished songwriters. Thompson was flying solo and acoustic tonight which meant that the selections from his Buddy Miller produced 2013 release “Electric” had to be stripped down to one acoustic guitar. But when that one acoustic guitar is in the hands of a god like Thompson, it doesn't sound stripped down at all.
Thompson's set drew heavily from “Electric” but also touched on the rest of his career. Fan favorites like “1952 Vincent Black Lightning”and the sing along “Johnny's Far Away” were enthusiastically received.
Any one of the three artists performing would have been worth the price of admission alone. Getting all three under one roof in one night is a major event.