AmericanaFest Goes Out With A Bang

Pierce Greenberg | September 13th, 2010

The journey that started four days ago certainly didn’t finish on a sour note. The final night of music at the Americana Music Festival was—again—full of talent, making for another difficult decision as to what to cover. Lo and behold, my intuition—and a diverse lineup—led me to the Cannery Ballroom and Mercy Lounge.

Fairfield Four

The Fairfield FourThe first act of the night in the Cannery was well-renowned gospel acapella group the Fairfield Four, which ironically has five members. (Hey, if the Big Ten can do it, so can they.) The Grammy Award winning group has been spreading their message and perfect harmonies for more than nine decades. The quintet was led by daddy-figure Robert Hamlett—who introduced each song.

Most of the set list was comprised of songs that the Fairfield Four has been performing for years. “Standing In The Safety Zone” and “Walkin’ Up The King’s Highway” had the crowd clapping along. For a music festival that’s known for having no censors, the Fairfield Four didn’t need any. The raunchiest moment was a vocal re-telling of Adam “taking what Eve had to give.” Regardless, the group—who started in 1921 in Nashville—performed a flawless set and certainly added diversity to this year’s Americana offerings.

Courtney Jaye

Courtney JayeIn between sets downstairs, I wandered up to the Mercy Lounge to catch a little bit of Courtney Jaye’s set. Jaye, a resident of East Nashville, labels herself as Hawaiian garage country. However, in the middle of “One Way Conversation,” her voice sounded like it could easily be suited to contemporary country, but the smart lyrics and unique grooves of songs like “Hold Me Up To The Sun”—along with her tattoos—probably wouldn’t go over well on Music Row. “Don’t Tell A Girl”—written by Thad Cockrell—showed off her slick “Tropicalicountry” sound.

Mike Farris

Mike FarrisMike Farris—the 2008 recipient of the AMA’s New and Emerging Artist of the Year—is still one of Nashville’s least-appreciated musical entities. His soulful, bluesy voice is one of the best instruments in town—and Farris put it to good use during his set at the Cannery. Songs like “Oh Lazarus” and “Down On Me” were delivered with fierce precision.

Farris was backed by some top-flight musicians on mandolin, fiddle, guitar, horns, keys, and drums—making for a truly remarkable musical experience. Each song was enhanced with extended instrumentals—only adding to Farris’ high energy punch. In fact, that is what truly sets Farris apart. Every single vocal inflection has soul pouring out of it—and any performer that gives 110%, like Farris does, is bound to set himself apart.

On October 26, Farris is releasing a six-song EP entitled The Night The Cumberland Came Alive. He previewed every song from the album, as well as adding some blues standards like Memphis Slim’s “Mother Earth.” To close out the show, Farris conducted a sing-a-long of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” as each instrumentalist got one more shot to wow the crowd—not that it was needed.

Todd Snider and the Rock & Roll Review

Todd SniderTodd Snider has a solid reputation as an alt-country singer-songwriter—which made the title of this showcase particularly compelling. Snider seems more likely to slap on a guitar and harmonica than to rock out, but his mantra for this show was different. “Free your mind, and your ass will follow,” Snider said. While he held his own quite well on songs like “Sideshow Blues” and “The Ballad Of Cape Henry”—it was his special guests that truly “made” the show.

Dan Baird—former lead singer/guitarist for 80’s rock band The Georgia Satellites—played alongside Snider all evening. He took the mic for a couple of rockin’ songs including a clever “Dixie Beauxderaunt.” Snider stepped forward again for “Nashville”—a fitting song—before introducing rock-and-roll pianist Jason D. Williams.

Williams brought some big energy—and his boogie-woogie piano style evoked images of Jerry Lee Lewis. One of the best moments came when both guests combined their talents on the Satellites’ big “Hands To Yourself.”

And with that, it was time to go. Four late nights of non-stop music were finally catching up with me. Regardless, it was a great way to end another great Americana Music Festival.

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  1. Dave D.
    September 13, 2010 at 11:04 am

    The Todd Snider set was great, and Jason D. Williams really lit the place up. Not to mention a bonus appearance from Amy Lavere.

  2. Charles
    September 13, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    hunkering down at Mercy/Cannery meant you missed great shows by Paul Burch and Sid Griffin at Station Inn that night…

    and my personal favorite of the entire conference, American Aquarium at the Basement at the end of Saturday night.

    I dropped by Cannery/Mercy for a bit…but in the 10 years I’ve been going to AMA, I loathe any show at Cannery. The hard surfaces in that room make it impossible for anyone to sound good. They need to soften that room up. A lot.

  3. Dave D.
    September 13, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    @Charles: Not only was Paul Burch great, the preceding performance by the Sweetback Sisters was awesome as well.

    Agree 100% for all the reasons you listed that the Cannery is the least desirable venue on the AMA circuit.

  4. Rick
    September 13, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Gosh, I would have really liked to have heard that live version of “Hands To Yourself”! The other stuff probably not so much.

    Mike Farris looks like he’s trying to channel The Blues Brothers! I wonder if he drives an early 70’s giant hunk of Detroit iron? Hmm…

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