2013 Americana Music Association Conference & Awards

Published in the Mid-September issue of e – Leaf Magazine.

With over a century of recorded music born on American soil, you can take your pick of styles and genres from all of the big categories like Rock, Country, Blues, Gospel, Folk, or good old Southern Rock to lesser consumed, but equally important grooves like Jazz, Hillbilly, Texas Swing, Dixieland, Ragtime, and Jug Bands and never stop discovering an endless vault of treasured American music. Along with the birth of recorded music came marketing firms and big business minds that placed all of this incredible music into big boxes to sell records and boy did they sell records, especially when Blues had its first two children, Rock & Roll and Country. Fast forward to the new century and the digital revolution and there is an endless sea of musical content available just a key stroke away. Much of this music is as easily forgettable as it is instantly accessible. If you keep a diligent ear to cyberspace you can find plenty of great music, but you may have a hard time finding what you want in the big boxes, and if you’re digging through the long-beloved, and oh so American, Country Box for contemporary artists, you may be a bit disappointed that what you find does not do much for your ears and sounds a bit too much like the other big boxes right next door, Soft Rock, Country Rock, Pop Rock, or any other (insert descriptive term) Rock genre. Somewhere along the way, bands and musicians started working their way out of these boxes and stretching the boundaries of the original music they created and wound up using these different styles and sounds to create their own original music that is both roots influenced and topically contemporary for a delightful musical gumbo, Americana.

Oddly enough, the idea of a genre called Americana is firmly rooted in the Mecca of commercial Country music, Nashville. In spite of the fact that the big guns in the commercial Nashville music assembly line have been rejecting American Roots music as not commercially viable for decades, the Americana Music Association is alive and thriving in the Music City’s scene and they celebrate each year in September with a six day Conference and Award ceremony augmented with performances by the top Americana Artists at several music venues, including the famous Bluebird Café. This is not just a series of concerts and awards but also a full-fledged music-industry conference with daily educational workshops, seminars, guest speakers with QA sessions, and networking opportunities for musicians, songwriters, bands, writers, teachers, producers, engineers, record label reps, radio stations, agents, and anyone who wants to learn more about and be exposed to this unique art form.

This year’s conference kicks off on Tuesday September 18 and runs through Sunday the 22 and has over 60 daily events that feature everything from workshops on the international marketplace and artist/producer relationship and home recording to interviews with Rosanne Cash and Dr. John. There will also be songwriter’s in the round sessions, the Mentors Café, and a Songwriter Session with Rodney Crowell. My guess is you better get there early for these sessions! On Wednesday night, the award ceremony kicks off at 7 at the Ryman Auditorium with Buddy Miller leading an all-star band backing performances from Stephen Stills, Rodney Crowell, Emmylou Harris, Shovels & Rope, Jerry Douglas, JD McPherson, Richard Thompson, John Fullbright, Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison, Billy Bragg and more. Alabama was well represented at last year’s ceremony when Jason Isbell, The Alabama Shakes, and The Civil Wars all took home awards. If you can’t make the conference or the award ceremony/concert, $50 will get you a pass to attend any of the 130 performances at six different venues around Nashville every night. On the website they carefully point out that attendance to these shows is open to ticket holders unless the building is at capacity. Arrive early! For folks that just want to take in a day of this incredible gathering, a free concert called Americanarama VI is held in the back parking lot of Grimey’s New and Preloved Music on Saturday from 10am – 8pm, featuring multiple performers throughout the day.

For more information check out the American Music Association’s website at http://americanamusic.org/

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