Courtesy of the artists
Clockwise from upper left: Front Country, John Paul White, CW Stoneking, Yola Carter
Courtesy of the artists
The Americana Music in Nashville is never quite what I think it will be. This week's All Songs starts with Yola Carter, a British singer of mixed race. Next is the white Australian C.W. Stoneking, sounding like blues legend Willie Dixon. The third song on the show is by Marlon Willams, a soulful young New Zealand singer. The common thread as we explore the newest and most promising voices at AmericanaFest is a love of folk, country, roots music, but how that gets interpreted varies, and that's where the fun is. I'm joined this week by NPR Music's Ann Powers and contributor Jewly Hight — both Nashville residents — to talk about some of the artists they're most excited to see as AmericanaFest comes to town, from Becca Mancari and Pony Bradshaw to Front Country and John Paul White.
Tune into our variety of webcasts all week, featuring performances by:
Wednesday, Sept. 21
12:30 p.m. ET - Margo Price & Friends (watch it here)
4:00 p.m. ET - The Lumineers
5:00 p.m. ET - Shovels & Rope
7:30 p.m. ET - Americana Music Association awards show (including performances by Bob Weir, Shawn Colvin, Alison Krauss, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, George Strait, Jason Isbell, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats and The Lumineers.
Thursday, Sept. 22
11:45 a.m. ET - Billy Bragg and Joe Henry
1:30 p.m. ET - Dawes and Lydia Loveless
Friday, Sept. 23
11:00 a.m ET - Bobby Rush
12:00 p.m. ET - Lori McKenna
- Song: Fly Away
- from Orphan Offering
Yola Carter is a British artist who began her career as a singer and songwriter in the U.K. electronic music scene, working with groups like Massive Attack. Prior to going solo, she was a member of country soul group Phantom Limb. "Her solo career is a much newer thing, but I really like what she's done on this self-produced EP, Orphan Country," says Jewly Hight. "She's stepped into the foreground with this, after playing the backing role a lot."
- Song: Jungle Swing
- from Gon' Boogaloo
Bob's choice is an Australian artist who sounds like he was born next door to the great bluesman Willie Dixon. "I was hesitant when I first heard the music," says Bob. "It felt a bit like a shtick. But seeing him and his fierce all-woman band at Pickathon recently changed all that. He grew up on this music, he loves this music, he's deep inside this music — this is what he is and knows, and it really feels like it comes from the right place."
"[He's] 25 years old, but I think when you hear him," says Ann Powers. "He definitely fulfills that cliché of having an old soul. He's really a student of American roots music, and also of country pop. He has a bit of that classic Marty Robbins sound to him, sometimes with a bit of Nick Cave thrown in."
- Song: Sake of the Sound
- from Sake of the Sound
San Francisco's Front Country has forged its own path in the bluegrass scene, coming from musical backgrounds of all genres and going on to win band competitions at festivals such as Telluride. They're a "progressive bluegrass quintet," says Jewly Hight. "Their singer has this great, round, sultry, more rock-leaning tone and vocal attack that you don't typically hear in bluegrass."
01Chillin' At The Beach With My Best Friend Jesus Christ
- Song: Chillin' At The Beach With My Best Friend Jesus Christ
- from Chillin' At The Beach With My Best Friend Jesus Christ
Charleston S.C.'s Susto brings a touch of laughter to the Americana scene, using comedy in the band's song titles and lyrics. Frontman Justin Osborne spent part of his life living in Cuba, which inspired the band's name. "Osborn was raised Christian," says Ann Powers. "And that's a huge part of his songwriting. But he doesn't fuss around it, he makes it fun — he deals with doubt as well as faith."
- Song: Josephine
- from Bad Teeth
"Pony Bradshaw is the performing name of a guy who covers sports for a small-town paper in Georgia," says Jewly Hight. "In recent years, he took up guitar playing and songwriting and performing. Sonically, he's in that tradition of a really visceral approach to combining blues and country and rock."
John Paul White
- Song: Black Leaf
- from Beulah
Beulah, the first solo album in eight years from John Paul White, the former singer and guitarist from The Civil Wars, has a blues-like sound. "John Paul White is definitely majorly influenced by rock as much as he is by country or blues," says Ann Powers. "He made [this] record in his hometown of Florence, Alabama."
- Song: Summertime Mama
- from Summertime Mama
Nashville's Becca Mancari is a newcomer to the scene, but she carries the influence of her past in her music, drawing from the many parts of the U.S. she's lived in. With notes of Appalachian folk, bluegrass, and everything in between, this is her debut single. "She's lyrical and a little bit raw," says Ann Powers. She "connects to rock and roll and roots music, and has a great personality in her songs."
04You Make My Heart Beat Too Fast (feat. Cactus Moser)
Wynonna & The Big Noise
- Song: You Make My Heart Beat Too Fast (feat. Cactus Moser)
Jewly Hight calls Wynonna Judd a "legend of legends." This week's show closes with a track that leaves Hight hardly able to contain herself. "This year, she and her drummer husband, Cactus Moser, debuted a new project: The Big Noise. They steered into an R&B-inflected roots rock thing, with that really guttural guitar attack that is reminiscent of what Buddy Miller does on guitar."