AmericanaFest Recap: Mercy Lounge Happenings
Americana Music Festival goers didn’t even get a chance to settle down after a surprise 30-minute Robert Plant performance at the Awards Show before more showcases around town fired back up. Tonight’s venue of choice was the Mercy Lounge–where both Dale Watson and Wanda Jackson took the stage.
For a guy who wrote tunes like “Country My Ass” and “Nashville Rash,” Dale Watson sure has been spending a good amount of time in Music City lately. Critics have noted that his latest work Carryin’ On is a settled departure from his honky-tonkin’ persona. After opening his set with the title track, Watson acknowledged that the album does reflect a “kinder, gentler side” of him.
Explaining the change in direction, he noted that he wanted to come to Nashville to record with some of the instrumental legends that played on some of his favorite records. His steel player jokingly gnawed at his finger nails as Watson mentioned the name “Lloyd Green.” The throwback style fit him well, as he glided–not stomped–his way through “How To Break Your Own Heart.”
Earlier in the day, Watson shared a beer with Mel Tillis on his tour bus. Not surprisingly, he joked, Tillis is the last of his icons that hasn’t quit drinking. Watson tore up Tillis’ “Heartbreaker” in tribute.
“Flowers In Your Hair” allowed him to lay down some smooth vocals atop a simple love song–something that wasn’t often heard in his previous material. A romp through “I’ll Show Ya” and “Whiskey Or God” showed him to be in usual form–but the performances felt more nostalgic than current circumstance.
To close out the show, Watson ended with the sad “Hello, I’m an Old Country Song”–which he said brought the show full circle. On the last note, a tattooed man with a bald head and killer mustache looked a little bummed–but the rest of the crowd applauded with warm approval.
Only a few hours after receiving the Americana Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Wanda Jackson popped up on stage at the Mercy Lounge to a packed house. She didn’t miss a beat as the 72-year-old quickly bombarded into “Mean, Mean Man” and “Rock Your Baby.” Jackson sang with surprising fervor and growl.
In between songs, she chatted easily with the crowd–making special note to thank producer Jack White, who she said “pushed her right into the 21st century.” That much was evident on “You Know That I’m No Good”–a raunchy Amy Winehouse cover that almost made me re-ponder whether a person over 70 could be sexy.
(White showed up halfway through her set, but lurked in the shadows of the side stage before slipping out a few songs later.)
“Fuijiyama Mama,” the recently rejuvenated “Funnel of Love” (of Entourage fame), and “Right or Wrong” all showed Jackson in prime form. And if that wasn’t enough to make you love her, Jackson spoke briefly towards the end of her set about how she came to find Christ in 1971. She followed it up with a rousing delivery of “I Saw The Light.”
After walking off the stage, Jackson returned moments later for “Let’s Party” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” In all, her peppiness, sense of humor, and right-on performance was a perfect rockabilly history lesson from the Queen herself.
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