Five Americana Bands Making a First Impression

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Rising talent always enhances the annual Americana Music Association festival in Nashville. Among the artists appearing for the first time at the event this year, here are five you should particularly seek out.

Hurray for the Riff Raff
“As a kid, I was obsessed with old musicals, and Judy Garland was a major inspiration,” lead singer Alynda Lee Segarra told me when the band released Young Blood Blues in 2010. “Then I discovered Townes Van Zandt, and he really changed the way I think about writing songs.” Last year’s Look Out Mama even more deftly spotlights her disparate influences. A new album is expected in early 2014. (Sept. 19 at 9 p.m., Mercy Lounge)

Nikki Lane
The South Carolina native’s “Gone, Gone, Gone” video has logged nearly 100,000 views online. Watch. Then dig deeper. “Western Bound” is her true high watermark so far. “I’m western bound/Headed back to my hometown,” she sings forcefully. “Where the street lights are heavy/Lighted like a merry go round.” You’ll want to ride shotgun. (Sept. 21 at 11 p.m., Mercy Lounge)

Willy Mason
Go ahead: Judge him by company kept. The 28-year-old supports his excellent new album, Carry On, before and after AMA Fest on the road with Mumford & Sons and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. Few tours offer as much exposure right now. In other words, the Martha’s Vineyard native’s star will shoot even further skyward soon — very soon. (Sept. 19 at 4:30-7:30 p.m, Downtown Presbyterian Church as part of the Communion Showcase)

JD McPherson
His album Signs & Signifiers stirred waves far and wide. Good reason: The deeply soulful Oklahoma native’s thrilling debut rattles (“North Side Gal”) and rolls (“Fire Bug”) with unmatched potency. Every moment’s exciting. Infectious. Memorable. Try “Country Boy.” Even the most stately must loosen their spirits when that sax kicks in. McPherson’s singular vocals will light up the room. (Sept. 18 at 11 p.m., Mercy Lounge)

St. Paul and The Broken Bones
Yeah, I’ll be muscling my way into Lucinda Williams’ festival-closing show with everyone else. Brian Wright’s Thursday gig at the Basement undoubtedly will be a highlight. Two nights later there is Tim Easton. Killer music awaits all week. That said, I’m looking forward to St. Paul and the Broken Bones the most. Lead singer Paul Janeway belts like Otis Redding and has the voice to back the claim. They knocked my socks off at their stunning South by Southwest gig in Austin last spring. Still haven’t found them. (Sept. 18 at 11:59 p.m., the High Watt)