Friday, September 14, 2018

Americana Fest: Paul Thorn, Sarah Siskind, and Hush Kids Make For A Great First Day

By Wil Comstock
Music City Arts Contributing Writer

Tuesday (Sept. 11):

         Sneaking out of work (somewhere not far from The Local), I headed up West End to catch Paul Thorn. The place was hopping inside as well as on the outside deck. Clearly, this was the place to be on Tuesday afternoon of Americana Fest.

         Thorn was the man of the hour as he took the stage. His gospel blues infused songs are delivered with swagger and a hint of mischief behind his blue eyes. This guy has presence! Paul did a few numbers from his new CD, “Don’t Let the Devil Ride.” To the crowd's amusement, he confided that his wife only lets him “have it” once a week, but after 19 years of marriage, he feels pretty lucky! Much earlier than expected, my phone started buzzing. It’s Music City Arts editor Chuck Whiting, who texted he is out front waiting in his car for me. I squeezed out of The Local as we headed to the Weston to pick up our Americana Fest passes. 


         Parking at Mercy Lounge, one spot opened up as we entered the lot. We quickly rambled over to the Westin. On the way, we passed Concord Records on the Circle. Finding out that they had free beer, Chuck said that we'd have to stop there on the way back! Everyone at festival registration and pass pick-up were friendly, pretty and efficient! We ran into Seth Taylor of Mountain Heart standing in line, a really nice guy whose set we’ll catch on Thursday at City Winery.  

         Concord Records was packed, and Sarah Siskind was on stage! I love Sarah Siskind. Her smooth lilting voice wraps around me like a soft blanket. This woman believes every word she sings. Chuck led the way as we rubbed shoulders and stepped on toes winding our way to the makeshift bar where we picked up our Lagunitas Ales. It was really good beer, especially since it was in a can!  

         A new band, Hush Kids, was introduced. I liked their folk-like harmonies and arrangements immediately. I later learned that Jill Andrews, one of the lead singers, is an artist in her own right. She teamed up with keyboard player, guitarist and lead vocalist Peter Groenwald to form Hush Kids. The band is completed with a lead guitar, bass and drums, all tasteful musicians.  Check these guys out on YouTube. You need to hear their song, “All My Love.” They closed with this one, just two voices and a guitar. You could hear a pin drop!


         We grabbed dinner at Peg Leg Porker on Gleaves Street. I had never been.  Chuck, a vegetarian, ordered coleslaw, mac and cheese, and fries.  I had the half chicken with mac and cheese and smoked green beans. I believe it was the best BBQ chicken I have ever had. The green beans and mac and cheese were also out of this world as well. Chuck raved about his coleslaw and sides. Don’t leave town without heading over to Peg Leg Porker!

         Arriving early at Mercy Lounge, we were able to get a coveted seat near the stage. We were looking forward to My Politic, and they did not disappoint. This band has been around a long while. Kaston Guffy (guitar and lead vocalist) and Nick Pankey (guitar and vocals) started playing together as teenagers. Their songs often look at the underbelly of rural life, addiction, economic woes, and mountaintop mining. Yet, these are not depressing songs, rather a slice of rural life. I especially liked “Loneliness” and “Heartless”.  


         Missing their last few songs, we went downstairs to the Cannery Ballroom to hear Brandi and The Alexanders. Brandi can melt your heart with a simmering blues number like “Jealousy,” and the next minute she has you rocking out on “Shaspeshifter.” She was backed by an ace band that not only accompanied Brandi but took the songs to a different place musically. There were rock riffs on a blues number, and jazz chords on a rock song. The arrangements were well thought out and executed flawlessly. Brandi and the Alexanders delivered a phenomenal show.  


         Before heading back to the car, we climbed the stairs back up to Mercy Lounge to catch a few tunes by Jill Andrews (also of Hush Kids). She had the same talented band with her that were at Concord Music earlier. Jill has a quiet, commanding presence. Her honesty comes through on each number. Of her "The War Inside" album, Andrews says, “When I set out to make this album, I wanted it to feel like me, but me moving, me progressing. I wanted to stretch my legs a bit.” This growth through struggle is evident on every line of her songs. My favorites were “Get Up, Get On” and “What’s Your Hurry.”  Jill Andrews and Hush Kids are becoming my new favorite artist/artists!  


         It was time for Chuck to drive me back to my car. I have a day job in the morning, somewhere near The Local!

         Editor's Note: Tomorrow is the Americana Fest Awards Show. This festival gets better and better every year. 

(Story and accompanying photos by Music City Arts Contributing Writer Wil Comstock)

(To learn more about the Americana Music Festival, visit

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