AmericanaFest 2023 Expectations

One Writer’s Expectations for AmericanaFest 2023

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I’m set to hit my very first AmericanaFest (assuming there’s not another incident similar to last year’s poorly timed appendicitis), and I’m highlighting some must-sees for anyone else who’s making the trek to Nashville, as well as sharing my choices for the Americana Awards (to be held Wednesday evening at the Ryman Auditorium). My ground rules for the musts – they have to be folks I haven’t seen play before, and they have to be playing at events open to all passholders.


Adeem the Artist – The Nashville Scene cover person recently made their Opry debut, and they’re now going to be all over Americana Fest, in both conversation and song.
Americana’s Most Wanted, SiriusXM Music City Theater Thursday, Noon
The Vinyl Lounge Thursday, 11pm
The 11th Annual Gospel Brunch, City Winery Saturday, 11am
Good Ol’ Queer Country Jamboree, Soho House Nashville Saturday 3pm

Americana Proud: A Voice for All – A collection of LGBTQIA+ artists – including Ally Free, Crys Matthews, Denitia, Jaimee Harris, Jessye DeSilve, Julia Cannon, Liv Greene and Madeline Finn – telling their stories, their way. Hosted by Autumn Nicholas and Vidalia Anne Gentry.
City Winery Two shows, Wednesday 8pm and 9:30pm

Brennen Leigh – This year’s Ain’t Through Honky Tonkin’ Yet was twangy fun, and 2020’s Prairie Love Letter is still one of my favorite road albums.
Mojo’s Music City Mayhem, Robert’s Western World Thursday, 3pm
A Tribute to the Songs of 1973: Part 2, The Basement East Friday, 9pm
Standard Hat Works Day Party, Standard Hat Works Saturday, 2:30pm

Jobi Riccio – a very late arrival to this discussion via a (well-earned) Twitter nod from Jason Isbell, her “For Me It’s You” quickly earned a spot on my Super Depressing Autumn Drive playlist, and her brand-new Whiplash is one of this year’s (very sad) delights.
Americana Proud: A Voice for All (late show), City Winery Wednesday, 9:30pm
AmericanaFest Day Stage, Eastside Bowl Thursday, Noon
Exit/In Thursday, 8pm

Bella White – Like Leigh, I’ve missed her recent Colorado appearances. Her Among Other Things is the best (and saddest) straight-up country album this year, and her online cover of “Dublin Blues” is simply stunning.
Concord Americana from All Sides, The Optimist Tuesday, 6pm
Exit/In Wednesday, 10pm
Equal Access, The Music Makers Stage at Delgado Guitars Thursday, 4pm

Jess Williamson – I honestly only learned of Williamson’s music through her album with Katie Crutchfield as Plains (nominated together as Duo/Group of the Year), but her Time Ain’t Accidental is one my favorite records this year.
Analog at Sutton Hotel Friday 9pm


Album: Big Time (Angel Olsen) – Olsen has circled Americana for years, but this album took big ol’ bites of country music. Plenty of twang, without sacrificing an iota of Olsen’s angst.

Artist: Allison Russell – Russell didn’t release a full album during this awards cycle (her excellent The Returner came out after the deadline), but she was everywhere over the past 12 months, Nothing she did was more important than organizing (and musically backstopping) March’s “Love Rising” concert at Bridgestone Arena as a way of combatting Tennessee’s anti-LGBTQ laws. She’s a leader who also happens to be a damn fine musician.

Duo/Group: Plains – Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee) and Jess Williamson joined forces for a gorgeous album – I Walked with You a Ways – and a short tour late last year. They claim it’s a one-and-done. Let’s hope they reconsider.

Emerging Act: S.G. Goodman – in an absolutely LOADED category, and with an award that, unlike its Grammy counterpart, serves as a pretty accurate prediction of staying power (recent winners include Charley Crockett, Tyler Childers and Margo Price), S.G. Goodman’s spare, heartbreaking Kentucky tales deserve a special shout-out.

Instrumentalist: Kyle Tuttle – 2018 winner Molly Tuttle has formed herself a kick-ass bluegrass band so good that anyone in it could win this award, but we’ll give the nod to Golden Highway’s banjo player.

Song: “Something in the Orange” (Zach Bryan) – The guy has a way of writing songs that just won’t let go, either on the charts (“Orange” in the longest-charting song by a male country artist, despite receiving little airplay) or in hearts (this tune is a damn MOOD).

Bonus must-see: Bettye LaVette – this year’s Legacy Award recipient (presented in conjunction with the National Museum of African American Music) is someone that I’ve come to appreciate in recent years, and her voice and presence are made for the Ryman stage.

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