After taking a pass last year like every other music festival, Americanafest returned to Music City in 2021 bringing joy to a lot of music fans. Unfortunately, some of the smiling faces were hidden under masks as the signs of COVID still remained. But thankfully, they only slightly dampened this spectacular event. It was a fun packed few days in Nashville, even though some fans and acts did skip this year’s event. Also, all those attending found themselves wearing a “Health Check” band on their wrist after having to provide proof of being vaxxed.
Yours truly found himself amid a busy week, and I managed only to spend one full day at this year’s fest. (BTW – why does the Pilgrimage Festival always have to be the same week?) I began my day with a short stay at the Oh Boy Records 40th Birthday bash at the Mercy Lounge where I enjoyed a brief set by the label’s newest signee, Emily Scott Robinson.
Disappointed that no one was posing for photos at their setup to recreate the LP cover of the debut John Prine record, I made an early exit over to the City Winery Lounge for a set I targeted as one I just could not miss. One of Nashville’s best young singer-songwriters, Kirby Brown, was hosting a four-act show with another local artist who I admire, Mary Bragg, another I’ve been longing to see play live, Austin’s David Ramirez, and an unknown “surprise guest.”
I was quite surprised, that at about a half-hour before the 4:30pm show time, I was the first to arrive at the Winery’s small cozy upstairs room. This did however offer me the opportunity to get a choice front table and a tasty cheeseburger before the show began. And while nibbling, I was overwhelmed to see that the special guest was Katie Pruitt who I would be seeing two days later at the Pilgrimage Festival. (The reason she wasn’t on the announced bill.)
Kirby Brown’s use of the word “Wrixlan” to label the evening was a new one to me. A poetic term, I’m guessing that he used it in it’s meaning of “to exchange.” For indeed that’s what this group of singer-songwriters did, exchange tales during what Brown called an evening of poetic storytelling. And after reading a few lines of classic poetry, he kicked things off in the style of the Nashville Bluebird Cafe “guitar pull” or “in the round,” whichever you prefer to call it.
Four of Brown’s five songs were from his latest record, Break into Blossom. His gentle voice and gifted songwriting make him one of Nashville’s most promising artists. He also made for the perfect host and did a fine job in putting this team together for the show, including pinch-hitter Carl Anderson, who filled in for David Ramirez who had to leave the game after two songs for another Americanafest commitment.
Bragg is also a talented writer who premiered some new material including a song that she co-wrote with Nashville’s Bill DeMain of Swan Dive fame called “The Lonely Persistence of Time” that was inspired by a Salvador Dali painting.
Katie Pruitt mixed both old and new songs with two from 2020’s Expectations LP, one of last year’s top records. Both new tunes dealt with recent social issues and Katie had some relevant commentary before each.
Like Brown, David Ramirez delivers his songs in a gentle style, but Carl Anderson, his replacement, sang two songs more bent on humor. His casually comical demeanor had the small but appreciate and attentive crowd laughing loudly at times.
It was such a fine experience to see these five great artists share a stage in such a tiny room. And there are now 35 people (at my count) who bought some records of these artists that night in addition to telling all their friends that they got to see Katie Pruitt at the CW Lounge. I will be the first to confess that I did both.
PS – It was so cool that two of the three Nashville artists on the bill are alumnus of my “11 Questions to a Nashville Musician” blog interview!
SETLIST: (click below to watch and listen)
Ashes and Leaves (Kirby Brown)
The Lonely Persistence of Time (Mary Bragg)
Normal (Katie Pruitt)
Put in the Work (David Ramirez)
I Remember You (Kirby Brown)
Please Don’t Be Perfect (Mary Bragg)
Blood Related (Katie Pruitt)
Maybe I Could Have Tried Harder (Carl Anderson)