Directly after Wednesday night’s (Sept. 12) Americana Honors and Awards at the Ryman Auditorium, clubs all over Nashville started filling up for Americana Festival showcases, and the Cannery Row triple-venue of Mercy Lounge, High Watt and the Cannery Ballroom was no exception.
At Mercy — the middle floor of the building and also the middle-sized room — the place was packed and Canadian Corb Lund was crooning “September” from his new album Cabin Fever.
Going with a solo setup and just an acoustic guitar, the singer-songwriter and lover of all things Western had no trouble projecting over the busy crowd. In between jokes about the relevance of a Canadian singer at an Americana festival, he carried on with songs like “Gettin’ Down on the Mountain,” “Alberta Says Hello” and “Rye Whiskey/Time to Switch to Whiskey.”
Being a really good-natured guy, the highlight of the set came when his buddy Hayes Carll stepped onstage. The Texas/Alberta connection was in full effect for “Bible on the Dash,” a funny little story song off Lund’s Cabin Fever that Carll helped write. In case you’re wondering, the Bible helps a pair of frequent travelers get out of tickets and deal with border patrols.
Arriving onstage with a solo cover of “Lovesick Blues,” the petite Washington state native instantly connected to her audience. Flashing a sweet smile, all she had to do was say “hi” and the audience fell in love.
Tim and Phil Hanseroth, her longtime musical collaborators, quickly joined her with musical backing, and they jumped into “Raise Hell,” and the wide grins on all three stayed for the rest of her hour-long set. I’m not sure if the band is always that happy, but Carlile had a special reason for her good mood. On top of presenting an award with Rodney Crowell earlier in the night at the Awards show, she had an announcement to make.
“This is my last show as a single person,” she beamed. “I’m getting married on Saturday!”
After that Carlile seemed to float on the stage. She shared quirky stories and let her personality shine. But, of course, her powerful, clear voice and worldly lyrics were the real draw.
Her all-acoustic set included a few standouts from her gorgeous new album Bear Creek like “Hard Way Home” and “Keep Your Heart Young,” and she also delighted the crowd with older favorites like “What Can I Say,” “Closer to You” and “Looking Out,” inspired by an argument she once had with a preacher. Carlile finished off the night with “Dying Day,” a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and encored with Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” But with lyrics about finding your soulmate and making them believe it, “The Story” brought the show to its emotional climax. With a slight smirk on her lips, Carlile delivered the song’s final line and one that seemed especially appropriate for her last pre-marriage show.
“It’s true. … I was made for you.”