For the 21st year, the Americana Music Association takes over Music City for a week, honoring the melting pot of music, including roots, folk, country, blues, and soul. Americana Fest will feature hundreds of live performances at numerous Nashville venues for four nights, plus more by everyone from legendary artists to the next generation’s rising stars. Here are five of the nearly 200 artists confirmed to be “officially” in attendance at the festival who — in our estimation — are well worth taking the time to check out.
Montreal-native and Nashville-residing folk-country artist Allison Russell’s Outside Child is a definite contender for Album of the Year in 2021, genre regardless. The “Nightflyer” vocalist curated the final day’s stage at the recent Newport Folk Festival, featuring an impressive who’s who of Black female artists well within the “Americana” expectation — including soul icon Chaka Khan. If there’s one artist worth viewing during the week at the focus of where Americana’s multi-genre style is arguably best headed, watch her perform.
Highwomen-cosigned country artist Brittney Spencer is a Baltimore, MD native who is also a member of CMT’s Next Women of Country class of 2021. “Sorrys Don’t Work No More” was her breakout song of 2020, whereas July-released “Sober And Skinny” shows her evolution as a singer-songwriter of renown. As well, when listening to her sing at a recent Country Music Hall of Fame Songwriter Sessions event, the hook “whoever said time couldn’t heal a heart must’ve been 100 years old” — from an untitled, unreleased new song — portends that Spencer has considerably more to offer.
At Americana Fest, the possessor of the voice that is most likely to be wished to be placed on Muscle Shoals-style production is likely to be first noted as Maggie Rose. Her R & B-tinged vocal stylings currently grace her latest album, Have A Seat. American Songwriter says, “[Rose’s] music is bold,” and it’s sound so bent on making its listeners come together and overcome social divisions that it “makes it difficult to just sit still.” Rose is currently on tour nationwide, so this is an opportune time to see an artist playing new material in a refreshed manner, which always lends itself to a highly entertaining time.
If you’re looking to see Nudie’s style suits and cowboy-beloved Western shirts, hear bluegrass-style performances, plus feel like you’ve been transported deep into country music’s heart and past, legendary singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale is at Americana Fest. He’s worked with everyone from Rodney Crowell to Emmylou Harris with thirty-four studio albums and countless songwriting credits into a legendary career. His songs have also been recorded by Elvis Costello, The Chicks, George Jones, Patty Loveless, George Strait, Lee Ann Womack, and numerous others.
Kiefer Sutherland is much more than an Emmy, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and Satellite Award-winning actor. In 2016, Sutherland released his first country music album, Down in a Hole, and debuted at the Grand Ole Opry. A 2017 review of the debut in The Guardian said, “you have the first Hollywood hobby act unshackled by convention and with a real shot at greatness.” Sutherland returns in 2021 to Americana Fest to preview his third studio album, Bloor Street, which is set for release on January 21, 2022, followed by a 24-date tour of the UK and Europe.