While AmericanaFest wound down in Nashville over the weekend with gospel brunches and banjo hangovers, Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival kept the roots vibe alive in nearby Franklin with stellar sets from Margo Price, Brothers Osborne, Anderson East, Kacey Musgraves and Jason Isbell.
As the heat rose to sweat-through-your-clothes levels, the Brothers and East started the afternoon off with their own styles of soulful Southern grooves, paving the way for Price to catapult the crowd into humid honky-tonk heaven as she played songs like “Desperate and Depressed,” “This Town Gets Around” and her single “Hurtin’ (On the Bottle).” Recently deemed Emerging Artist of the Year at the Americana Honors & Awards earlier in the week, Price also made sure to pay tribute to some of country’s legends with versions of Gram Parsons (“Ooh Las Vegas”) and Loretta Lynn (“Rated X”) tunes that have become staples in her sets. Clad in a pink and red romper and knee-high boots, Price showed how well she can adapt the catalog from her debut LP, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, to the festival crowd, lengthening the grooves and letting the twang shake and simmer. Price dedicated “Tennessee Song” to her son Judah, who undoubtedly felt at home at the family-friendly fest filled with more strollers and soccer balls than stoners and hacky-sacks.
Across the field, a white fringe and gingham-decked Musgraves drew one of the day’s biggest crowds, diving straight into “Biscuits” from her second LP Pageant Material. Though she’s currently preparing for the release of A Very Kacey Christmas, her set at Pilgrimage was all sun, no ice – with raucous moments (like a cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”) and introspective ones (her debut hit, “Merry Go Round,” which stunned softly). The biggest response came from “Follow Your Arrow,” as the audience sang the equality-praising chorus proudly even in Franklin’s traditionally conservative Williamson County (though several “Make America Gay Again” hats spotted in the audience proved the times they are a-changin’).
Undoubtedly the king of Americana Week – he snagged album of the year for Something More Than Free at the Americana Honors – Jason Isbell delivered a set that played to his rootsy tendencies but even more to his penchant of skewing his live performances toward rock. Joined by his stellar band and wife Amanda Shires on fiddle, he launched into favorites including “Flying Over Water,” “Decoration Day,” “Alabama Pines” and “Codeine.” At one point, he summoned his daughter with Shires, Mercy, onto the stage, then pointed out that his wife “wears the pants in the family” – though, clad in a see-through skirt, Shires wasn’t actually wearing any.
One of the day’s best moments came with a stunning rendition of “Children of Children” as the sun dipped down and gave way to the evening sky. Isbell may be able to sell out four nights in a row at the Ryman Auditorium back in town, but he still lets his festival appearances feel warm and conversational, at one point mentioning a man standing in the distance all alone. “Is that a man, or a scarecrow?” he joked. “He’s in a field all his own.” Same could be said about Isbell.