Wednesday, September 13, 2017

AmericanaFest Begins with BMI Party and Unforgettable City Winery Shows

By Wil Comstock
Contributing Writer

         NASHVILLE -- At 2 p.m. on Tuesday (Sept. 12), I headed over to the Basement to pick up my press pass. It was raining steadily. We all stood quietly in line waiting under our umbrellas. One of the volunteers manning the line gave his umbrella to a girl in front of me. He then proceeded to stand in the rain with his hooded raincoat dripping onto his shoes. I was pretty impressed. I thought about the sacrifice so many people make to get this festival up and running. All of the volunteers, the extra hours the staff puts in, the endless meetings, the workers at the venues all over town, all lending grace with welcoming smiles on their faces. Thanks... you are the pillars that support this wonderful event! There would be no AmericanaFest without you.

         At 5:35 p.m., MCAU Editor Chuck Whiting picked me up at work, and we headed over to the BMI Kickoff Party. It was held in the downstairs foyer because of the rain. This event was sponsored by George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey. Upon entering, I grabbed a Tennessee Punch... yum and strong!  I then made my way over to the food line. Barbecue chicken breast for me with salad and jalapeno chips. The place was crowed, all bistro tables taken, so I made my way over to the stairs and sat down. Bravely, I lifted the chicken off of the hamburger roll and ate it with my fingers. My birthday is next week, and I’m trying to drop a few pounds! There are no calories in the alcohol, right? 
         About the time I finished my dinner, Hurray for the Riff Raff was taking the stage. They were fronted by Alynda Segarra, looking and sounding like a chic folk artist.  To quote The Wall Street Journal on Alynda’s singing: "She has a subtle, expressive voice that she wraps around songs that draw on the sounds and styles of the American South, and her lyrics often takes unconventional tack on traditional subjects." Riff Raff was followed by Phoebe Hunt and the Gatherers. I really liked this band. Phoebe and husband, Dominick Leslie (mandolin and vocals), spent time in India at an ashram studying music. This eastern influence is felt in the music and executed perfectly with Phoebe’s searing vocals accompanied by fiddle, mandolin, accordion, upright bass, and percussion. Last up was indie rock band Susto from Charleston, South Carolina. Their lively music had me dancing as we left BMI and headed over to City Winery. 
Hurray for the Riff Raff performs in the BMI lobby during AmericanaFest
         After parking on the street in one of the last free areas in Nashville, we headed to CW to see Colin Hay at the 8 p.m. show. This was the second time I saw Colin, and I was not disappointed. Colin fronted the Australian band Men at Work in the early 1980s. That’s his vocals on “Who Can it Be Now” and “Down Under." His familiar voice is like a good glass of sherry, stirring up warm memories. Colin is quite funny and entertaining, a great storyteller who does not shy away from the hard subjects like his mother’s death. He had the audience in the palm of his hand on “I Don’t Know Why,” “Come Tumbling Down,” and “Waiting for My Life to Begin.”     
         Joan Osborne filled the 9 p.m. slot singing songs from her critically acclaimed album "Songs of Bob Dylan." Osborne had a residency at New York’s Cafe Carlyle in March 2016 and March 2017. At those gigs she performed only Dylan material. She always loved the way Ella Fitzgerald performed the "Great American Songbook" and wanted to do something like that. She picked Dylan because of his lyrical timeliness to events going on today, saying that even though we may be polarized politically, music brings us together. She was accompanied by her two virtuoso producers, Keith Cotton on piano and keyboards and Jack Petruzzelli on guitars. Joan’s sultry voice wrapped around each song and made them her own. No imitation here, pure interpretation. I especially enjoyed “Highway 61 Revisited,” “Masters of War,” and the rearranged “Rainey Day Women #12 & 35.” I can’t wait to pick this album up!
To learn more about the AmericanaFest and see the full schedule of live shows, workshops, and parties, visit

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