2019 AmericanaFest: 20 Must-See Shows – Rolling Stone
Home Music Country Music Lists

2019 AmericanaFest: 20 Must-See Shows

From big-voiced singers Yola and Sarah Potenza to twangy rockers Jesse Dayton and Mike and the Moonpies

Yola, Jesse Dayton

Yola and Jesse Dayton are among the must-see artists at this week's 2019 AmericanaFest in Nashville.

Alysse Gafkjen* & Ray Redding*

The 20th annual AmericanaFest gets under way in Nashville on Tuesday, bringing a diverse roster of performers to clubs around town. There are acts from Texas and the U.K.; guitar-based bands and harpists; and songwriters galore. To be sure, it’s overwhelming, but here are 20 shows we think you just can’t miss.

Jesse Malin

Jesse Malin

Despite earning his reputation as a New York City hardcore innovator, Jesse Malin has always had an Americana streak in him. His 2003 solo debut The Fine Art of Self Destruction was full of introspective soul-searching and his new LP Sunset Kids — co-produced by Americana icon Lucinda Williams — doubles down on that mission, with Malin addressing the temporal nature of life. He’ll bring his full band with him on Wednesday night, turning up for what is sure to be one of the most punk — and cathartic — live shows of the festival. Wednesday, September 11th, 11:00 p.m. @ the Basement

Dee White

Back in March, Alabama native Dee White quietly released one of 2019’s best country albums in Southern Gentleman. True to its title, the collection — produced by the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach — offered an alternate path for country, one that isn’t reliant on either Hot 100 trends or adopting a macho outlaw pose. Instead, on songs like “Rose of Alabam” and “Ol’ Muddy River,” White sweetly crooned with a mixture of regret and nostalgia, while Auerbach dialed in an ideally lush backdrop without having to coat everything in syrup. Saturday, September 14th, 8:30 p.m. @ 3rd & Lindsley

Jeremy Ivey

ANTI- Records Showcase

ANTI- Records has served as a vital, slightly left-field source of roots and Americana over the past decade, the home to everyone from genre stalwarts Mavis Staples and Glen Hansard to up-and-comers Son Little and Sean Rowe. This year, Son Little is just one of several artists on an all-night label showcase that includes Jeremy Ivey (pictured, and celebrating the impending release of his solo debut The Dream and the Dreamer), Christopher Paul Stelling, Darrin Bradbury, and a highly-anticipated debut performance between Americana’s oddest new pairing: Cass McCombs and Wynonna Judd (known as the Frothy Pit), who cap the evening with their 11:00 set. Thursday, September 12th, 7:00 p.m. @ Mercy Lounge

Justin Hawk Harris

Jason Hawk Harris

California-based singer-songwriter Jason Hawk Harris chronicled a period of incredible struggle — death, illness, and self-destruction — on his 2019 album Love & the Dark, emerging more or less intact on the other side. A classically trained musician, Harris shows off his chops and range all over Love & the Dark, jumping from the hungover, black-humored Countrypolitan shuffle of “Cussing at the Light” to the searing country-punk of “I’m Afraid.” In the devastating ballad “Phantom Limb,” he calls out to the massive void left in the wake of his mother’s death: “I feel your fingers comb through my hair/Open my eyes and there’s no one there.” If you don’t feel something from that, check your pulse. Saturday, September 14th, 11:59 p.m. @ Mercy Lounge

Jesse Dayton

Jesse Dayton

Like the Americana genre itself, Jesse Dayton is hard to define. He’s country, punk, rock, and blues, and on his new album Mixtape Volume 1, he nods to all of those sounds, covering artists from the Clash to Gordon Lightfoot. It’s a satisfyingly diverse listen, but it’s on the concert stage where the East Texas singer-guitarist is not to be missed. Whether playing greasy slide solos with a beer bottle or growling his way through fan favorites like “Daddy Was a Badass,” Dayton is electrifying. Friday, September 13th, 5:00 p.m. @ Red, White & Blue Elain: Our Americana Sound; Friday, September 13th, 11:59 p.m. @ Exit/In

Kelsey Waldon

Kelsey Waldon

There’s a reason John Prine’s Oh Boy Records recently made Kelsey Waldon its first new signee in 15 years: she’s a tremendous songwriter with a singular voice. The Kentucky native already has a pair of acclaimed independent albums to her credit in The Goldmine and I’ve Got a Way, tackling heartbreak, addiction, and the quiet, seemingly insignificant moments of small-town life with the wit and empathy to match that of her new boss. Waldon’s Oh Boy debut White Noise/White Lines will be available October 4th and you can bet she’ll be ready to play a chunk of it for the AmericanaFest crowds. Wednesday, September 11th, 10:00 p.m. @ 3rd & Lindsley

Anna Azarov Photography

Lizzie No

Hailing from New York, the singer-songwriter-harpist Lizzie No has been quietly making superb records largely on her own over the past several years (see 2017’s full-length debut Hard Won, or the non-album single “Sundown” from the same year). This year, No is poised for a big AmericanaFest, having just released her glimmering new album Vanity, which builds upon her folk-rooted sound to incorporate more commercial-leaning elements of alternative rock, pop, and country. In addition to her main Wednesday evening showcase, No will also be appearing at Thursday night’s Americana Kickback at Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge. Wednesday, September 11th, 10:00 p.m. @ TRUE Music Room at Cambria Hotel

Yola

Yola

After years working behind the scenes in a variety of musical guises (as a songwriter, producer, and member of the band Phantom Limb), the British roots-music conjurer Yola has had one of the biggest breakthrough years, earning an Emerging Artist of the Year nomination at this year’s Americana Awards. Walk Through Fire, her solo debut released this past February, is a textured blend of orchestral Sixties pop and lush country-soul produced by Dan Auerbach. In between dates opening for Kacey Musgraves, she’ll be appearing this week for a much-touted Thursday night showcase. Thursday, September 12th, 11:00 p.m. @ City Winery

Maggie Rose

Maggie Rose

Since releasing 2018’s Change the Whole Thing, Maggie Rose has come into her own, finding a home not just in the Americana world, but in musically adventurous jam circles — she made a triumphant Peach Fest debut this past summer and has been collaborating with guitar phenom Marcus King. Rose was recently in Muscle Shoals working on a new album, so expect her to be fully in the swampy R&B zone during her AmericanaFest showcase. Wednesday, September 11th, 11:59 p.m. @ 3rd & Lindsley

Waylon Payne

Waylon Payne

The son of underappreciated country singer Sammi Smith, Waylon Payne perhaps first gained national attention with his frenetic performance as Jerry Lee Lewis in the film I Walk the Line. His own musical performances bundle that unbridled showmanship with Payne’s top-flight songwriting, a skill that’s landed him cuts on albums by Lee Ann Womack, Miranda Lambert, and Ashley Monroe. His long-awaited follow-up to 2003’s The Drifter is in the works, and AmericanaFest attendees will have a chance to hear some of those harrowing, personal songs before the rest of the world. Thursday, September 12th, 8:30 p.m. @ the Anchor

Sarah Shook and the Disarmers

North Carolina songwriter Sarah Shook has applied a punkish tenacity and outlook to her two albums with backing band the Disarmers, Sidelong and Years. There’s a rawness to her approach that comes through in the recordings — the way she communicates hot-blooded anger in “New Ways to Fail” or the aching vulnerability of “Years” —and their largely unadorned arrangements. It translates perfectly to her live performances, which are sweaty, intense, and cathartic, as they should be. (On Friday, she’s performing as part of a regional music showcase spotlighting artists from North Carolina.) Friday, September 13th, 10:00 p.m. @ Mercy Lounge

Orville Peck

Orville Peck

Sub Pop signee Orville Peck cultivated an air of mystery with his masked cowboy image, whirling ideas about traditional masculinity in with a heaping dose of queer sexuality. That would seem a little gimmicky if not for the material on his album Pony, which conjures up the haunting, surreal atmosphere of a David Lynch movie through the rumbling guitars and Spectoresque flourishes on tracks like “Turn to Hate” and “Dead of Night.” On top of that, the anonymous Peck makes for a really compelling singer, bringing to mind Roy Orbison sitting in as the frontman for Bauhaus. Saturday, September 14th, 10:00 p.m. @ Mercy Lounge

Joshua Hedley

Joshua Hedley’s After the Afterparty

Not officially a part of AmericanaFest, but fully under the musical umbrella of the festival, this Sunday night wrap-up features honky-tonk crooner Joshua Hedley and his ace band the Hedliners leaving Lower Broadway for Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge in Madison, Tennessee. It’ll be worth the schlep east — Hedley is one of the best country vocalists in the game and the intimate no-bullshit confines of Dee’s will make for the perfect come-down from a week of schmoozing. Sunday, September 15th, 10:00 p.m. @ Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge

Jonathan Wilson

Jonathan Wilson

Over the past decade, Jonathan Wilson has served as a focal point of sorts for the SoCal singer-songwriter community, producing and/or working with everyone from Dawes and Conor Oberst to Father John Misty and Laura Marling, and even earning a gig playing with Roger Waters. Along the way, he’s released several solo offerings, most recently 2018’s Rare Birds. He’ll be performing a mix of solo highlights (see 2011’s eternally relevant “Can We Really Party Today?”) and previews from a yet-to-be-released new solo record during his Tuesday late night City Winery showcase. Tuesday, September 10th, 11:00 p.m. @ City Winery

Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.