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22 Best Things We Saw at Americana Music Fest 2015

From a hushed showcase by Jewel to raucous rave-ups by Los Lobos and JD McPherson, Rolling Stone Country singles out the most mesmerizing performances of the annual festival

JD McPherson

JD McPherson's rollicking performance was a highlight of the 2015 Americana Music Festival.

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The 2015 Americana Music Festival and Conference further cemented itself as one of the country's preeminent festivals, with an expertly curated lineup of legacy acts (Loretta Lynn), famous names (Jewel) and promising upstarts (JD McPherson). Over the course of a week, fans gathered at venues both large and small around Nashville for sets that ranged from the wild and rollicking to the hushed and intimate. Here's the best things we saw at the satisfyingly diverse celebration of American roots music.

Corb Lund

Shoot in the Dirt Photography

Best Canadian: Corb Lund

With his red-checked flannel shirt and tight n' polite Canadian accent, you could mistake Alberta's Corb Lund for a beard-free lumberjack — until, that is, he starts spinning his grooving, witty take on classic country. Friday night at Mercy Lounge, he showcased tracks from his upcoming Dave Cobb-produced LP, Things That Can't Be Undone, like the romping "Run This Town" and Stax Records-steeped "Weight of the Gun," weaving in Johnny Cash riffs and Hayes Carll ticks with a deft hand. Despite his provenance, there's a level of believability in his north-of-the-border honky-tonk that even those who grew up five miles from Nashville can't often hit. Maybe it's that syrupy delivery, or maybe it's the way he smiles when singing about heartbreak, death and depression that's plenty Hank Williams, despite the foreign passport. M.M.

Bros. Landreth

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Best Victory Lap: Bros. Landreth

When the Bros. Landreth played last year's AmericanaFest, the guys were measured and controlled, delivering a version of the electric blues that was more about nuance than bluster. This year's set was a louder story. Kicking things off, as always, with a cover of Wings' "Let 'Em In," Winnipeg's newest guitar heroes kept the amps turned high, adding new muscle to a catalog of songs whose four-part harmonies and slide solos occupied the middle ground between the Doobie Brothers and Bonnie Raitt. The Bros. Landreth have become Juno Award-winners since their previous AmericanaFest set, which may have been why this year's appearance felt like a victory lap, closing out the long chapter of the band's debut album, Let It Lie, and paving the way for whatever's next. A.L.