September 25, 2013 by Jay Minkin
Attending the Americana Music Association in Nashville from September 17 through 22 is much more than just about the music. It’s about reconnecting with old friends and fostering new ones. It’s about good comfort food and local beer. It’s about revisiting old haunts and exploring new hidden gems. So sit back and relax … this will be a very long story.
Hitting the open road at eight-thirty in the morning from Akron, my partner in crime Dale Elwell and I made our way down to Nashville for the AMA conference for the fifth time in the last six years. The executive decision was to leave a day early to have some extra free time as last year’s conference was jam packed. It looked like the relatively new The Stone Fox was our best bet for dinner and entertainment. Audrey Auld was scheduled to perform her new album Tonk with the all-star band she recorded the album with Kenny Vaughan (guitar), Harry Stinson (drums), Paul Martin (bass), and guest Chris Scruggs on pedal steel. Served in a Mason jar from this farm-to-table establishment was a tasty golden ale called Aurumglass from Turtle Anarchy Brewing Company located in nearby Franklin with an order of Caprese Stack (heirloom tomatoes, Kenny’s Farmhouse mozzarella, Stone Fox garden basil, and balsamic reduction). Main course selection was the Elise Favorite burger (Sun Drop BBQ sauce, onion ring, sliced avocado, lettuce, tomato & sweet pickles). A couple of young ladies that go by the names of Lux & Freya from Music City Burlesque added some additional entertainment throughout the show to give it an avant-garde edge.
Home is the Best Western Music Row on Division Street while in Music City and after having a BW complimentary breakfast, we met up with our lovely tour guide and former Clevelander Holly Gleason. The destination was beautiful and tranquil Lake Radner where we hiked along the lake and up the ridges seeing deer, buzzards, heron, and wild turkeys. All that morning exercise meant one thing, a trip to 3 Crows in East Nashville for a pint of Yazoo Hefeweizen and a visit to The Groove record shop. The primary reason to visit this eclectic neighborhood was catching up with another former buckeye Jack Silverman over lunch at Marche’ Artisan Foods. I had an amazing eggplant sandwich (eggplant, tomato agrodolce, spaghetti squash, herbed ricotta with spaghetti squash) that was probably the best meal of the trip. Afterwards we stopped at Barista Parlor for what looks like a chemistry lab brewing java. Evening festivities started early with a five o’clock check in at Broadway Brew House & Mojo where “Liver is Evil and it must be punished”. Yazoo Gerst Amber Ale flowed from the keg accompanied by Fish tacos with spicy beans & rice. The awards show at the historic Ryman Auditorium started just before seven and blew up with John Fulbright “Jericho”, Robert Hunter “Ripple”, Richard Thompson“Good Things Happen To Bad People”, Old Crow Medicine Show “Wagon Wheel”, JD McPherson “North Side Gal”, Shovels & Rope “Birmingham”, and many other. Even Lennon & Maisy Stella, the real life sisters who play the daughters of Rayna James on ABC TV’s Nashville covered The Lumineers nominated song “Ho Hey” bringing a huge smile to bandleader Buddy Miller. The good doctor, Dr. John performed with favorite Akron native son Dan Auerbach, Kenny Wayne Shepherd played “For What It’s Worth” with Stephen Stills and Ritchie Furray, The Milk Carton Kids brought down the house with their acoustic number, and the big finale had all participants singing “Leaving Louisiana”. Showcases on the first night began at ten and we rolled the dice with the line-up at The Station Inn for performance sets by The Greencards, and Della Mae. Sandwiched in-between and show stealer was a bluegrass band from down under called Mustered Courage.
Shopping day began with a visit to Star Bagel for coffee & mushroom- spinach breakfast sandwich. No better place to search for gold than at McKay’s, a humongous two floor warehouse of music, books, movies, and other tradable items. The Outlaws & Gunslingers Party at Second Fiddle hosted by Starfish Entertainment and Six Shooter Records featuring Canadian artists. It was a real treat seeing Colin Linden of Blackie & Rodeo Kings backing Joe Nolan not to mention being greeted at the door with a shot of alcohol. Delicious mini Reuben sandwiches with dill pickles, cole slaw, and potato salad rounded out the complimentary lunch. We caught sets by Daniel Romano and NQ Arbuckle before heading to the conference at The Sheraton Nashville Downtown Hotel. Able to catch a songwriters-in-the-round with Will Kimbrough, Andrew Combs, Lera Lynn, Kim Richey, & Jenny Scheinman prior to one of the panel discussions. Next, it was onto the SXM radio studio where I ran into fellow Lofter (SXM 30) Bob McAdam along with fellow Akronite Chuck Auerbach. Mojo Nixon hosted “Americana’s Most Wanted” with Marshall Chapman, Mike Stinson, Bobby Bare, and Sturgill Simpson … who was amazing. One of the AMA highlights was Alejandro Escovido coming out to sing “I Was Drunk” with Bobby. The whole Taylor Swift phenomena deserves a thesis to describe as her tractor trailers and “Swifties” were camped outside Bridgestone Arena while we were waiting in line to SXM studios. After a quick clean-up and change of clothes, we headed over to nearby DeSano Pizza Bakery for a delicious San Gennaro pizza (sausage, peppadew, buffalo mozzarella, and caramelized onions) with a bottle of Hap & Harry’s Tennessee lager. Showcase included Lera Lynn, North Mississippi All Stars, and the dueling partnership of Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale. Longtime friend and brother H Dennis Cohen and his son Hersh from Fort Lauderdale arrived in time to see Luther Dickinson do his thing from front center stage for the Americana baptism. The night could not end without getting more of Sturgill Simpson performing a showcase at The Basement along with The Howlin Brothers closing out the night.
A little late start as we didn’t make it to breakfast until 10 AM at Fido for multi-grain blueberry pancakes with sausage and java. Had time to check out the brand new Grimey’s Too for preloved CD shopping before a return trip to The Second Fiddle for “A Taste of Australia” showcase pizza party presented by Maton. Damian Howard played with local musical ambassadors Tim Carroll and Bones Hillman. Lovely sets from Melody Pool, Catherine & Bill, and The Bushwackers rounded out our visit. I was very excited to head back to the conference for the live taping of Acoustic Cafe with Billy Bragg hosted by Rob Reinhart. Afterwards, a No Depression meet and greet with Kayla Fairchild and Kim Ruehl. It was so nice to finally meet the folks that work so hard to bring this publication to your computer and smart phone screens. You best be ready to keep up with an old hipster, as after another quick change we headed back to East Nashville’s The 5 Spot for the Tim Carroll happy hour.
Going to 3rd & Lindsley was like a bad storm due to the Lisa Marie Presley star gazing spectacle showcase. Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line and Darrell Scott & Tim O’Brien were good, but the packed venue just wanted to talk amongst themselves and it was hard to enjoy the show. We moseyed our way to stage left against the metal barrier that was more tolerable. After Ms. Presley’s set, the crew took away most of the equipment on stage and by the sound board. The crowd cleared out and it seemed like a bad storm both indoors and out passed. As the room once again found some tranquility, Holly Williams made her way to the stage and saved the evening. Her beautiful vocals soared through the air and her closing number, “Waiting For June” might have been the best performance of the week. Decided to head over to the Cannery Ballroom for sets by The Devil Makes Three and Daniel Romano before calling it a night.
Found a new place for breakfast called West End Cafe for garden omelet (baby leaf spinach, tomatoes, red bell peppers, red onion, mushrooms, and white cheddar) breakfast. Might as well have stayed at Grimey’s as not only did we make our third visit, but we were here pretty much the entire day (10-6:30) and nighttime showcases at The Basement. Co-owners Mike Grimes and Doyle Davis along with their entire staff deserve huge thanks for all the hard work they did to make their annual party one to remember. Americanarama VI again left for no disappointments with flea market bargains, a store-wide sale, and nine bands playing outdoors in the back parking lot. The line-up included some new bands like The Reneaus, Dexateens, Daughter, and T. Hardy Morris. More established acts included The Autumn Defense which is John Stirratt and Pat Sansone from Wilco, the great Billy Bragg, and a Will Kimbrough project called Willie Sugarcapps. One new band that killed it was Steelism. Lead guitarist Jeremy Fetzer and his wife Beth are originally from my hometown area of North Canton, Ohio. Jeremy’s bandmate, Spencer Cullum Jr, hails from London, UK and plays pedal steel. Cullum sang the classic “Something” using a “talk box”. It was a food truck lunch and I went with the Smoke Et Al Beyond BBQ “Shoulder Sammy” (pulled hickory pork shoulder, BBQ sauce, & slaw) with side of red skin potato salad. We actually left Grimey’s to have dinner and struck out on two BBQ joints that were closed. Saw lots of folks including former buckeye Patrick Sweeney, Lij Shaw who operates The Toy Box recording studio , Lindsey Thompson from All Eyes Media, session drummer Jon Radford who played with both Steelism and Tim Easton, Tyler James from Escondido who is back in the studio recording a new record this week, and several others throughout the day. We ended up at Peg Leg Porker and I tried dry rub ribs for the first time. Returning to The Basement, which is located below Grimey’s, we caught sets by Hymn For Her and native Ohio boy Tim Easton. But the starlet of the night was Amanda Shires, whose passion drips from her phrases. Seeing and hearing the emotion from Shires during her rendition of “Bullet Proof” was another highlight of the week.
A trip to the Athens Family Restaurant for Sunday morning breakfast was all she wrote … till next time Nashville.