Ten Best Artists I Saw at Americanafest 2019 – by Chad Whitehead

Another year of Americanafest has come and gone and Nashville’s answer to SXSW continues to grow. Selfishly, I enjoy it more than SXSW. Here are the ten best artists I saw during my very short yet very busy two and half days.

One big caveat here: these are only the ones I could make it to and want you to know about. I don’t need to tell you about artists you already know (Nathanel Rateliff, Brandi Carlisle) or the shows I didn’t get to (Bonnie Bishop, Orville Peck).

Joshua Ray Walker | Dallas, TX

I’m a big fan of JRW and he was everywhere at Americanafest. He’s off to his first tour of Scandinavia after a very successful 2019. JRW is the rare artist that shuts up the whole crowd with a quiet song; which is even more impressive when you consider that we’re all revved up on free beers.

Banditos | Birmingham, AL

The Bloodshot Records showcase is low-key a very big deal at Americanafest. I was there to see Vandoliers, but arrived early and caught Banditos, who blew everyone away (more on this Showcase later). I love their rollicking Janis Joplin, San Francisco vibe.

Carter Sampson | Oklahoma City, OK

It’s a real treat to see Carter Sampson, the Queen of Oklahoma anywhere, and even more so when she’s playing music. What’s even better is catching her in Nashville at an official showcase with John Calvin Abney and Kyle Reid supporting on guitar and pedal steel. What a show.

Shook Twins | Portland, OR

The Shook Twins are weird, that’s their deal. They’re zany and silly, and damn good musicians. Twins Katelyn and Laurie aren’t household names yet, but I bet you’ve heard their songs somewhere already and if you haven’t, just imagine Feist harmonizing with herself.

Marcus King Band | Greenville, SC

Sometimes an old fashioned blues rock band shows up and kicks you in the face. That’s what Marcus King Band is here for. Save your soft songs for another day and get some from Marcus King Band. Watch this video and bear in mind that Marcus King is still only 23 years old.

Sarah Shook and the Disarmers | Chapel Hill, NC

“I need this shit like I need a new hole in my head” is the anthem we need today, right? Sarah Shook doesn’t care if her lyrics aren’t as polished as the industry demands – she’s gonna sing it like she feels it and I am here for it.

Paul Cauthen | Dallas, TX

Paul Cauthen was also EVERYWHERE at Americanafest this year. There needs to be an award for most showcases (Aaron Lee Tasjan would have won last year). Fresh off his new album, Room 41, Paul was the star everywhere he went. Simply put, he has that old school Johnny Cash sound and both the swagger and sense of humor to pull it off in a way that isn’t a gimmick or throwback. Here’s an example:

Foy Vance | North Ireland

I was in an elevator headed to see The Mavericks at the Ryman and we met two charming Irishmen who insisted that we see fellow countryman Foy Vance later that evening. I take the universe’s suggestions very seriously and wow, did it pay off. Foy Vance was incredible. Ever hear of some guy named Ed Sheeran?
Well, Foy Vance wrote “Make it Rain.” Come on.

Jason Hawk Harris | Houston, TX

Another Bloodshot artist, Joshua Hawk Harris, rounded out the Bloodshot Showcase before Vandoliers closed the place down. Get on the Jason Hawk Harris train right now and sit back and enjoy getting to tell everyone you were on it early.

Kendell Marvel | Nashville, TN

I’ve heard the name for a while, because Kendell Marvel writes for artists like Chris Stapleton. I caught him once with a band and once solo and his solo show gave me goosebumps. It’s the most pure country artist I caught in Nashville this year (other than Keith Urban sitting in with Foy Vance), but I loved it. Hope he comes to OKC soon. Oh wait, he is: Chesapeake Energy Arena opening for Chris Stapleton.

Pretty wild to look over this list and listen to the wide variety of the music styles here and acknowledge that somehow, they all fit under the banner of “Americana.” No complaints from me though, I’m already excited for next year.

Want more? Catch About What You’d Expect on KOSU and The Spy FM on Saturday, September 21st at 9 p.m. for an auditory recap.