Photo Essay: Three Days Of AmericanaFest In Madison


WMOT started its Day Stage tradition in 2017, at the end of its first full year as Roots Radio, with marathon broadcasts under a tent in the heart of downtown Nashville. Over the years the rosters have become increasingly prestigious and fans have been following us to The Local on the West End for a couple of years and now to our second year at the Wash at East Side Bowl in Madison. Despite only being a year old, the venue now feels lived-in and ready to rock, with an orange velvet curtain really setting the stage for the immense talent.

This year, WMOT partnered with legendary Nashville photographer John Partipilo to capture the scene, even as audio and video were streamed worldwide in partnership with NPR Music and World Cafe. Partipilo, a Pulitzer Prize nominee and 40-year veteran of documentary photography, said it’s the first time he’s been hired to capture AmericanaFest events. “I’m a photojournalist and I try to stick to those principles and tell a story,” he said. “This is where photojournalism meets music.”

Here is a portfolio of John’s 2022 AmericanFest Day Stage work with notes.

WEDNESDAY

The first day was a WMOT wired Show for our members and friends that blends classic country, bluegrass, soul and rock and roll just like we do on air every day.

Melissa Karper taps into the soul of old country music with her bands Sad Daddy and Buffalo Gals, and her jazzy solo work credits her as Ozark Billie Holliday. On Wednesday, she locked in her upright bass with Patrick Lanier on archtop electric guitar and violinist Kalia Yeagle for airy, swinging magic, with much of the material taken from her upcoming album Ramblin’ soul.

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Bay Area songwriter and powerful singer Miko Marken embodied joy in a lithe country-soul set in front of a bold and eclectic five-piece band. Her 2022 single “Feel Like Going Home” made for an explosive, danceable finale.

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Bluegrass icon (he’s also host of Alison Krauss’ Union Station) Dan Tyminsky performed with Dobro and guitarist Gavin Largent. Their rhapsodic and bluesy set included Tony Rice numbers from Dan’s recent tribute to the late legend. They were wrapped in Tyminski’s signature rendition of “Man Of Constant Sorrow.”

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BJ Barham took the stage solo and promised “depressing music,” but it was nothing like that. That American Aquarium Frontman deals with darkness in his songs, including new album title “Chicamacomico,” but they make you feel better. He’s also a magnetic force on stage, and his story about the loss of his mother was poignant, funny and compelling.

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Winnipeg artist and JUNO award winner William Prince brought a mighty five piece band to end the first day with his graceful voice and heartfelt and intelligent songs. He began with the life-affirming and perhaps misleadingly titled “Wasted” and closed with his lovely “The Spark”, both from his 2020 album helper.

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Wednesday’s set can be viewed in full streaming here.

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THURSDAY

Thursday on the Wash stage was a star-studded affair with several artists celebrating with the AMA Lifetime Achievement Awards.

Legendary western swing band from Austin Fell asleep at the wheel supported the original Nashville songs Burn Leighhis new album Obsessed with the west revives the songwriting spirit of Cindy Walker with beautiful vocals. Having the entire 7-piece ensemble on hand makes for a powerful, upbeat sound.

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There are many male/female duos in roots music, but few have the sizzling chemistry and sonic originality of White horse from Ontario, Canada. They arrived laden with songs from the forthcoming album i’m not crying, you’re crying.

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every other day Amy Ray would have been the biggest popular star in the room. She rushed to the gig, taking virtually no breaks between the car and the stage to deliver country music from her brand new When everything goes south Album. This comes just a day after the Indigo Girls were presented with the Americana Free Speech Lifetime Achievement Award for 35 years of dedication to causes greater than themselves.

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It was a thrill to welcome the big ones Lyle Lovett, who played in a signature dark suit with an equally sophisticated band of Viktor Krauss (bass), Jeff White (guitar) and Luke Bulla (violin). The room was electric, the songs cool and cerebrally funny, in keeping with four decades of distinctive Texan magic. He sang from his 2022 album 12th of Juneincluding the end-of-sentence title cut.

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The always charming, sometimes heartbreaking country mainstay Sunny Sweeney introduced their forthcoming album Married alone as her “second divorce album” and played its lonely, waltz-like title track. But we also heard their sass and fire.

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Young English songwriter jade bird became a WMOT favorite a few years ago when her song “Lottery” became a 2019 hit. Now she shares songs from the amazing 2021 album Different types of light and work on a new one.

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FRIDAY

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Music on Friday spanned coast-to-coast geography and influences from the ’90s through to the most modern of socially conscious folk tunes.

Freedy Johnston1990’s folk-rock star, recently released his first album in 12 years, the raunchy, country-leaning Back on the way to you.

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Just when we needed a reminder that we were on live radio, this came Rainbow Girl, a free-ranging folk trio from the Bay Area. They’re essentially an improv comedy troupe crossed with a band, and they’ve smashed with satirical radio commercials and songs about issues and matters of the heart, like 2022’s caustically ironic single “Compassion To The Nth Degree.”

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His second straight year at AmericanaFest was the Oakland-based folksinger Chris Pierc. He was intense, knowledgeable, soulful and genuine as he offered 2021 songs enriched with commentary American silence LP.

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Will Höge is as Nashville as the Batman Building and Arnold’s Meat-and-Three, but as unflinching as he is, new material always sounds fresh from the roots rocker. He pierced the veil of gentrification on his August release’s “Ain’t How It Used To Be.” wings on my shoes. And while “John Prines Cadillac” is the first song on the LP, it was its punchy, poignant finale on the Day Stage.

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Taylor Rae‘s debut album Crazy twenties came out in late 2021, but it caught a spark and slowly burned as an Americana chart anchor well into this fall. Her velvety voice and country-jazz vibe of Sade meets Dusty Springfield shone on romantic “Fixer Upper” and recent existential single “Just Be.”

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The WMOT Day Stage was shrouded in flinging, sliding strings as Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley took the stage with their eclectic and virtuoso interpretation of bluegrass and blues. Often just a duo, they filled their songs with double bass and drums. Trey’s Haggard-like Nashville ballad “Backstreets Off Broadway” was country cream, and they closed, as they often do, with a expansive “Friend of the Devil.”

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Most of Friday’s sets can be re-streamed here.

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