Americana fans are troopers, they braved the hard, pouring rain. It was awesome to see a bunch of people still digging it as if the sun was out and shining. And I can understand why, every one of these acts set the stage on fire.
Here’s a bit of what happened on Day 3 of Discovery Den…
Before the rain came down, Andrew Combs set the tone in more friendly Austin weather. From the first verse of the first song, he and his band reminded me of early Whiskeytown, but more sophisticated and studied. He’s blending a lot of old school country and soul into his own tone. He sound-checked with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” from Nashville Skyline, but he didn’t play it live. Would love to hear his full take on that one. Combs’ rhythm section was solid.
Whitehorse took the stage in the rain with hunched shoulders and wet hair. The married duo switched up their guitars and time behind a drum kit to create looped beats. On a few songs Luke Ducet played a beautiful white Airline guitar that looked and sounded like the albino brother of Jack White’s red guitar made famous with White Stripes. Melissa McClelland played an acoustic guitar, bass and sang beautiful harmonies with her husband. These two are not only amazing musicians, singers and songwriters – but their penchant for live production value is incredible. How can two people sound like an orchestra? Do drum loops make it Americanica? His guitar sounds so good, it’s almost like a third voice.
Hard to believe that newgrass quintet Della Mae started out as a joke band. This accomplished group of players thought it would be fun to start an all female string-band to play bluegrass in a fast, high-testosterone style and call it “Mangrass.” Once they started playing, they realized that there was a real chemistry between them. A chemistry so real, that they didn’t want to be a novelty band anymore so they got serious and Della Mae was formed. One of the highlights of the set was a dedication to the ladies in the crowd by singer/guitarist Celia Woodsmith – a catchy, empowering song titled “Shambles.” At one point in the set Della Mae boasted five-part vocal harmonies! I sure hope they play Hardly Strictly Bluegrass during the early fall in San Francisco.
Jed Hilly from Americana Music Association came on stage and introduced Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear as “The buzz band of 2015.” This isn’t hyperbole. They truly deserve all the flattering adjectives being thrown at them. The Kansas City duo comprises of Ruth Ward and her 26-year-old son Madisen Ward. Their songs contrast simple lyrics with complex themes and as a songwriter, I know that’s a really hard balance to strike. Their big break came at the last Americana Music Fest where they played a showcase for Jack White’s label Third Man Records and their momentum has been snowballing since.
Whitey Morgan And The 78s came on at 1:00 AM. To say that they were worth the wait would be an understatement. Sturgill Simpson is constantly compared to Morgan, maybe it’s the Waylon Jennings thing. While Simpson totally shies away from the outlaw rebel country vibe, Morgan is the opposite. From the get-go he oozes the kind of outlaw, biker, twang-rock lifestyle fabric that some people are just born into. Somewhere down the line, the name Whitey Morgan will be mentioned alongside David Allan Coe, Johnny Paycheck, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash. He’s honestly that good.