Joshua Hedley at 3rd & Lindsley for AmericanaFest 2022.
Americana Highways closed out the 2022 AmericanaFest experience at 3rd & Lindsley in Nashville with a country music revivalist, Joshua Hedley.
Hedley took the stage for the last showcase of Saturday night there on September 17.
In 2018, Hedley released Mr Jukebox which is evocative of country & western music in the 1960s, aka the Nashville Sound.
On Hedley’s 2022 album Neon Blue, he took a shift to Nineties country revival, when honky tonk music was still cool in the industry. And the shift in the albums’ moods is from melancholy to day party.
Joe Diffie’s passing in 2020 from Covid complications factored into Hedley’s decision to focus on an era when Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn and Diffie were among those who still had that classic style of fiddle and pedal steel guitar on songs. At that time, you could still tell country music from pop music that gets so much airplay now.
Hedley starts off his show with “Old Heartbroken Blues” from 2022’s Neon Blue. This song, like the others on the album, are for dive bars, not the sports bars where current “country” music is tailored from corporate board rooms. As it turned out, eight of the thirteen songs on the set were from Neon Blue.
“These Walls” followed, from Mr Jukebox, one of three songs on the set from the 2018 album.
If you know about Hedley’s encyclopedic knowledge of country music, the next song, “Country & Western” is autobiographical. He literally is “the singing professor of country and western” as the lyrics state.
When you figure the years Hedley has played at Robert’s Western World on Lower Broadway in Nashville, with a “name that tune” familiarity with country music history, the claim is not bravado.
Now Hedley shifted songs from music thinker to drinker, part-time thinker. Next up, a bar patron is conflicted about being just another person who drowns their sorrows after a heartbreak on “The Last Thing In The World” from Neon Blue.
“Weird Thought Thinker” from Mr Jukebox describes Hedley’s own music career:
I’m a young sidewinder, a high note finder / a fiddler, a gypsy, and a wandering soul / I’m a little bit crazy, a little bit lazy /And I don’t feel at home unless I’m on the road
Earlier in his career, Hedley was out on the road touring with Justin Townes Earle
. The style of the song seems to invoke the feeling of a western movie with a good ending, where a cowboy rides off into the sunset with the girl. High nostalgia at its best. The Nineties revival that has popped up among several artists is centered around youthful memories in the 30s age demographic.
“Bury Me With My Boots On” which followed, is stylistically Brooks & Dunn through and through.
Hedley then took to the fiddle for a string of two songs. The first two were covers, starting with “Green Snakes On The Ceiling” by Johnny Bush on Here Comes the World Again from 1973.
“Lone Star Beer and Bob Wills” is the second cover on the set from Red Steagall in 1976. We hear “professor” Hedley at it again teaching songs we may have never heard. Hedley spoke to the audience about how his recording career started before playing “Mr Jukebox” the tile track to his first album: “I just thought I’d continue playing fiddle for Jonny Fritz,” he explained. “People wanted me to make a record in 2018.” Hedley continues to play at Robert’s after his earlier supporting role for Fritz there.
Next, with the bassline and fiddle interplay, came a great dance floor boogie song – “I Wonder if You Wonder”- about a not so smart boy. Hedley then returned to acoustic play and informed the audience, “My songs tend to be autobiographical. Boy, I wished this one wasn’t.” The punchline is the song is “Broke Again.”
In the waltz-style ”Down to My Last Lie” Hedley illustrated relationship conflict in greater complexity than your average cheating song. This is the simpler version, the man walks away from the mistress because he can’t lie to his wife anymore.
The last song of the evening was about getting your heart broken after one single dance. She ghosted him in “Neon Blue.” The song’s tempo is a reminder, in part, of “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” by Brooks & Dunn.
The audience at 3rd & Lindsley got a sampling of the talent of someone who’s worked nearly twenty years on Lower Broadway.
Some at AmericanaFest will avoid the crowds for more listener-friendly venues. By bringing Hedley over a just short distance to play, some discovered a gem of a musician that night, among all the rock.