The Americana Music Festival, being held Sept. 17-21 in venues throughout Nashville, has always been an event with a deep respect for the legends who helped make the genre what it has grown into. While many of the well over 100 artists performing Americana Showcases at Americanafest are younger acts who are acting as modern flag bearers for roots music or rising stars who will comprise the next generation of the movement, there are always a fair share of established stars willing to play to the hardcore enthusiasts who line up for the festival. Often, this is a chance to see these stars in much more intimate venues than they normally play, and with a much more relaxed feel to their show.
Here are our picks for 5 legends you should pencil in to your Americanafest 2014 lineup:
Billy Joe Shaver
Any fan of outlaw country should be lined up outside whichever venue is lucky enough to host Billy Joe Shaver's Americanafest performance early, as his show is sure to fill up fast. Shaver's classic 1973 album "Old Five and Dimers Like Me" is considered to be one of the most perfect examples of the genre. He is set to release his first new album in 7 years, "Long in the Tooth" on Aug. 5 and has been getting favorable press. A recent profile in Rolling Stone debuted the album's first single, a duet with Willie Nelson called "Hard to Be an Outlaw."
Outside the confines of the Americana Music Festival Buddy Miller is far from a household name, although recent stints as music producer for the hit show "Nashville" and Sirius XM radio host along with his friend Jim Lauderdale have certainly gone a long way toward changing that. At Americanafest, a Buddy Miller appearance is treated like Elvis just walked into the room. Miller and Lauderdale are about as close to official ambassadors for the Americana music scene as you can get. Miller's Americanafest shows are always capacity crowds and always worth wedging yourself into the scrum for.
These days, Joe Henry is known more for his work as a producer of artists like Billy Bragg, Bonnie Raitt, and Carolina Chocolate Drops than for his own music. But one listen to classic albums like "Short Man's Room" and "Trampoline" quickly remind you that Joe Henry can hold his own on stage with anyone. Henry released his latest album, "Invisible Hour" in June.
While it may seem strange to put an eclectic British surrealist rocker like Robyn Hitchcock on an Americana Music Festival lineup, but past Brit performers like Richard Thompson, Billy Bragg, and Robert Plant have shown that modern Americana music isn't fenced in by lines on a map. Hitchcock has always had a folksy element to his music, drawing comparisons to Bob Dylan throughout his career. He has also delved pretty deeply into American roots rock in his collaborations with Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, and John Paul Jones among others. Hitchcock's live shows are like nothing else you'll see at Americanafest 2014 and the potential guests from among his dozens of local collaborators makes this one a no brainer for anyone looking for a change of pace.
Todd Snider and Friends
Todd Snider has been dubbed the "Mayor of East Nashville" by his fanbase, an honor he's earned by being the most vocal standard bearer for the quirky storytelling style that has become the East Nashville Sound. Always an entertaining performer on his own, his billing as "Todd Snider and Friends" leaves the gates wide open for anything to happen. Currently touring with Americana/Jam hybrid band Hard Working Americans, Snider has the talents and the local friends to take this show in a number of different directions, from pure folk to jam to loud guitar rock. Unless more information is revealed on who Todd's "friends" are, fans will get to be surprised. Whoever they are, you can be virtually guaranteed of a good time. Anywhere Todd Snider's in the building, that's automatically where the party is.