The opening night of the Americana Music Association Conference presents the biggest problem with attending the conference: selecting which showcase to attend. With three venues to choose from (the Basement, the Station Inn, and the Mercy Lounge), and more to be added during the week (five venues will be hosting post-awards parties on Thursday and closing day music on Saturday, while four clubs will feature AMA music on Friday), the choice of which place to attend becomes a major dilemma. This is unfortunate because, while the goal is obviously to showcase as many artists as possible, all of them simply cannot be seen because the venues are spread out and showcases are occurring simultaneously.
Devon Sproule opened the showcase at the legendary Station Inn. Accompanying herself on guitar, the Virginia native demonstrated a very clear voice well-suited for acoustic performance. She performed selections from her album Keep Your Silver Shined. This young lady has a very promising future.
The second performance of the evening was by wife and husband team Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart. These two make outstanding harmonies, but things tend to fall off a little when Stuart sings by himself. Earle, however, has a voice faintly reminiscent of Iris Dement. To his credit, Stuart is an outstanding guitarist. His performance on guitar, running between slide and a solos that he jokingly referred to as “Harrisonesque” (as in George) was worth the price of admission. The highlight of their performance was Earle’s song about 50 agonizing minutes when she had erroneously been told her son had been killed in an accident. She went into the audience to perform the song. The emotional number required no amplification, as the Station Inn was silent for her performance.
Americana Music Song of the Year nominee Darrell Scott opened his set with a tribute to Porter Wagoner, performing a bluesy rendition of “A Satisfied Mind.” His performance included “Train Man,” with a prolonged instrumental break so intense it almost felt as if the club was in the path of an oncoming freight train. His closing number, “The Open Door,” had a Jackson Browne feeling to it.
The “big name” performer of the night was Steve Forbert. Best known for this 1980 hit “Romeo’s Tune” (which he closed his set with), Forbert performed with a band (unlike the others, who were all acoustic and, with the exception of Scott, unaccompanied), which was unfortunate because the noise level of the crowd’s chatter rose exponentially with the amplification. This made it rather difficult to hear Forbert at times, which is a shame because he has lost absolutely nothing since that one hit from 27 years ago. While he has numerous albums from which to draw material, he limited himself to just six songs, including "Wild as the Wind," a tribute to Band member Rick Danko, an ecology number “Good Planets Are Hard to Find” (“sounds like a bumper sticker,” Forbert quipped), and two looks back at times past, “Oh, Yesterday” and “It Sure Was Better Back Then.”