Who to see and where to be during this year's Americana Music Fest 




Lydia Loveless

Twenty-one-year-old Lydia Loveless doesn't hold back on her Bloodshot debut, Indestructible Machine, and thank goodness for that. Calling to mind Loretta Lynn, Exene Cervenka and Neko Case, the pint-sized Loveless brazenly sings about God and whiskey and everything in between, with a mix of grit and vulnerability that commands attention. 8 p.m. at The Basement

The Deep Dark Woods

Could this be the year of The Deep Dark Woods? They're hitting the festival circuit hard in 2012 — playing Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits, among others — and they're up for the Americana Emerging Artist of the Year Award. Another "Canadiacana" addition to this year's lineup, The Deep Dark Woods make a haunting, rootsy sort of rock. 11 p.m. at The Basement

The Music of Memphis

If festival hopping is not your thing, park yourself at The Rutledge on Thursday for The Music of Memphis, featuring sets from Star and Micey, Luther Dickinson, Americana superhero Jim Lauderdale with the North Mississippi Allstars, and The Bo-Keys. The evening ends on a high note with the "Songs of Big Star," anchored by original Big Star drummer Jody Stephens and a cast of characters. Expect cameos from Chris Stamey of The dB's, R.E.M.'s Mike Mills and more. 8 p.m. at The Rutledge

Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers

An inventive Hall and Oates cover goes a long way — if you haven't seen their Van Sessions (Bluhm's Van Sessions being precisely what they sound like ... live sessions in a van) cover of "I Can't Go for That," stop what you're doing right now and Google it — but Bluhm & Co. are more than just a YouTube sensation. Their soul-tinged country showcases Bluhm's incredible voice, and their take on '70s West Coast pop is welcome and refreshing. 9:30 p.m. at The High Watt

Punch Brothers

Three albums in, the Punch Brothers have grown into a fully realized band at the top of their game. Former Nickel Creek mandolin phenom Chris Thile et al. are up for the Duo/Group of the Year Award and Thile himself for Instrumentalist of the Year. If you like your bluegrass with a bite, this is it. 11 p.m. at the Cannery Ballroom

The Dunwells

British family band — two brothers, two cousins, and a "longtime best mate" — may be the underdogs on a bill including '90s hitmakers The Wallflowers and next-big-things Delta Spirit, but you'll do yourself a favor if you get there early. Their polished alt-folk bridges the gap — yes, there is one — between Celtic folk and '70s AM pop, and it's easy on the ears. 6:30 p.m. as part of Live on the Green in Public Square Park; free and open to the public

Billy Joe Shaver

Poster boy of outlaw country, songwriter, actor and Texas Country Hall of Fame member Shaver is one of the true legends of Americana. His 1973 debut Old Five and Dimers Like Me is a classic, and his songs have been cut by Willie Nelson, The Highwaymen and Patty Loveless, among others. Shaver was awarded the inaugural Americana Lifetime Achievement Award in Songwriting in 2002, and his return to the Americana conference is a welcome one. 9 p.m. at Mercy Lounge

FRIDAY, 14th

Two Gallants

After a five-year hiatus, San Francisco's Two Gallants return with The Bloom and the Blight. Childhood friends Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel used the time off to work on other projects, and they've regrouped and refreshed on their ATO debut. In this anticipated return, the duo takes a grungy, punk turn, moving away from the folk and blues of past efforts. 9:30 p.m. at The High Watt

Robert Ellis

At the ripe old age of 22, Houston's Robert Ellis already has two superb albums under his belt, the self-released The Great Rearranger and his 2011 New West debut, Photographs. Ellis cut his teeth on honky-tonk, and Photographs offers a respectful nod to the past, with two distinct approaches featured on the record: a set of folkish, singer-songwriter tunes, and a set of classic country compositions, making Ellis appealing to old-school country fans of all ages. 10 p.m. at The Cannery

Humming House

Nashville quintet Humming House released their self-titled debut earlier this year, and while their maiden effort showcased their songwriting chops and multifarious influences, they truly shine live. With a sound that's a little bit bluegrass with hints of jazz and rockabilly, they exemplify the breadth and adventurous spirit of the genre. Midnight at The Station Inn


Tift Merritt and Richard Thompson: Songwriter Sessions at The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

With so many options to choose from each night, you're bound to miss something. Fortunately, you can catch two must-see artists in the daylight hours on Saturday at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's Songwriter Series. Held in the beautiful Ford Theater, the series includes intimate performances by the artists and a Q&A session. The hall will host Grammy and multi-Americana Music Award nominee Tift Merritt, who will release her fifth album, Traveling Alone, in October, as well as the legendary Richard Thompson, founding member of seminal British folk-rock outfit Fairport Convention. Tift Merritt, 11:30 a.m.; Richard Thompson, 1:30 p.m. at The Ford Theater at The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

The Pines

Minneapolis seven-piece band The Pines make their Americana Fest debut this year, touring in support of their fourth album of atmospheric alt-folk goodness, Dark So Gold. Despite the number of band members, The Pines certainly don't suffer from too many cooks in the kitchen — Gold is an understated, superbly edited and well-crafted album that will translate beautifully live. 11 p.m. at The Basement

Buddy Miller & Lee Ann Womack

The final night of the Americana Fest is always bittersweet, but a set from beloved Americana legend Buddy Miller and chart-topping country artist Lee Ann Womack should soften the blow. Get there early. 11 p.m. at Mercy Lounge

SUNDAY, 16th

Gospel Brunch

Looking to carb-load after the long week? Thirty Tigers presents Elizabeth Cook, Dottie Peoples and next-big-thing John Fullbright (also playing Mercy Lounge on Thursday at 11 p.m. — highly recommended) for a Gospel Brunch at The Station Inn. Hosted by the always entertaining Cook, the event is free to badge and wristband holders, and is open to the public for a $15 fee — a bargain when you consider the amount of stellar entertainment and chicken and waffles. 11 a.m. at The Station Inn


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