Scenes from Ameripolitan 2023 (& Yes, the Waffle House Dress)
There are a lot of country fans and artists who love to complain about the country music of today. Music Row makes that an excessively easy pastime. What’s difficult is making a meaningful effort to try and do something about it. That is what Dale Watson, Celine Lee, and everyone involved with the Ameripolitan organization is doing with their annual awards and the weekend of festivities leading up to them.
One of the themes from the 2023 Ameripolitan Awards were recipients saying, “I have never won an award before.” This is also what the great singer and fiddle player Dawn Sears said when she won the first ever Ameripolitan award on the first ever Ameripolitan Awards presentation in 2014 just months before she passed away.
We never thought we would see artists like Rachel Brooke, and Croy and the Boys win Awards. “The Queen of Underground Country” Rachel Brooke was one of the very first artists Saving Country Music ever featured going back to 2008. The win for Austin mainstays Croy and the Boys was like a win for all of the great Austin honky tonk bands who get summarily overlooked in the national country music conversation. For artists and bands, an Ameripolitan Award is validation. It means that someone is actually paying attention, and appreciative.
To see a full recap and all the winners of the 2023 Ameripolitan Awards, CLICK HERE. But for two days before the awards show transpired, performances took place at the stately Guesthouse at Graceland in Memphis showcasing some of the greatest up-and-coming and independent talent from country, roots, and rockabilly—or “Ameripolitan” as we call it in this instance. There was also a fashion show Sunday afternoon, and yes, a crocheted dress done in the motif of The Waffle House made an appearance. There were also a few legends who appeared over the weekend.
Kinky Friedman is now 77 years old, and not exactly the wild ass he was when he was getting his episode of Austin City Limits banned. But it was cool to see an indisputable country music legend and groundbreaker take to the stage. What Kinky still has in spades is humor, and he used it to his distinct advantage to entertain the crowd. Dale Watson compelled Kinky to read a poem, which he did titled “The Navigator” about his dad. Afterwards Kinky whipped out a cigar and took pictures with anyone and everyone who asked for one like he wasn’t a guy who once mounted a serious campaign for Texas Governor.
Ameripolitan is not just about the “Outlaw,” “Honky Tonk,” and “Western Swing” categories. Rockabilly is also strongly represented, both in the performers, and in the population of attendees. Rockabilly Female winner Jane Rose, The Hi-Jivers, Bloodshot Bill, Sean K. Preston, and the Ichi-Bons from Canada were some of the highlights of the rockabilly weekend.
But perhaps the best performers of the weekend came Saturday night when a murderer’s row of incredible songwriters took the stage one after another in the Guesthouse at Graceland’s theater.
Kaitlin Butts put on a performance that is only fair to characterize as a “career moment.” Without her band, and in front of a crowd that’s not exactly the Texas/Red Dirt scene that she’s familiar with, Kaitlin came out with just an acoustic guitar, and stunned. It’s in these kinds of naked moments where an artist either rises, or is exposed. Off the strength of her songs, her voice, and her guitar playing, Kaitlin Butts proved she’s ready for any stage, crowd, or moment.
Kaitlin Butts received a standing ovation at the end of her set, and multiple grown ass men openly professed afterward at getting teary eyed in multiple moments. It felt like one of those performances we’ll still be referencing years from now.
About the only person on the planet that could take the stage after the emotion that was wrought during the Kaitlin Butts performance with any hope at success was one of the last true folk musicians in existence, the surging Willi Carlisle.
Starting off playing bones and harmonica, later playing guitar, banjo, accordion, and reciting spoken work essays in a space where you could hear a pin drop, Willi proved why he currently populates the short list of performers you absolutely have to see now while he’s still playing smaller venues. It’s been years in the coming, but the word about Willi Carlisle and the magic he sows live is out.
At this point, it’s fair to question whether Sierra Ferrell even needs the support of something like Ameripolitan as she sells out theaters coast to coast. But her participation in the 2023 Ameripolitan gathering was voluntary and enthusiastic, and that’s what was so cool about it. In fact, she was one of the most active participants in the entire weekend, not just performing Saturday night and proving somehow she’s even getting better over time.
Sierra Ferrell was also hanging out all weekend, modeled half a dozen or so outfits during Sunday afternoon’s Ameripolitan fashion show (photos below), was there watching her fellow performers play, and the rumor from folks was she was up until darn near morning participating in marathon picking parties.
There were so many excellent performances over the weekend, and apologies to some of the performers who are not mentioned or pictured below. There was just too much good music, moments, conversation, camaraderie, and community happening to take it all in, though holding (mostly) everything under one roof (some events happened at Hernando’s Hideaway down the road), made for a much less hectic event than in previous years.
After going dark during the pandemic, Ameripolitan came out big in 2023, and it feels like the momentum could take it to even bigger places in the coming years.
All photos below by Kyle “Trigger” Coroneos
February 21, 2023 @ 9:48 am
Tops to the young lady for wearing the waffle house dress, 2 years from now it will probably be the only thing remembered from this event. Which is sad, I will always support the indie artist and when every they get the chance to be recognized, I am all for it.
February 21, 2023 @ 10:27 am
Reads like a good time.
Are any of the performances open to fans or is it invite only?
February 21, 2023 @ 11:05 am
Anyone can attend. In fact, I’m surprised how this has become a mostly artist-attended event. This was one of the best collections of talent that I will see all year, and in intimate settings. Of course, we’ll have to see how the lineup shakes out next year. But I would strongly encourage general fans to go.
February 21, 2023 @ 12:20 pm
here’s the thing- the lineup will be whatever you guys vote it to be! The performers are just the current nominees and a few of the previous year’s winners.
The best way to support this movement is to keep track of artists who belong under the Ameripolitan heading, support them, nominate them for next year, and vote for them and for the DJ’s and venues who support this music- honky tonk, western swing, outlaw country, and rockabilly.
Do tell people about Ameripolitan. Make playlists. Tell people about Ameripolitan DJ’s and explore what they’re doing on internet radio and wherever you’re lucky enough to hear them on terrestrial radio.
Don’t vote in your random Americana friend who has a social media following just because you can game the social media. Don’t vote for only the person you’ve heard of without listening to all the other artists. This event and this movement is fan-driven and it’s done by musicans for their fans. It’s one of the ways people have been ‘saving country music’ for the past 10ish years.
February 21, 2023 @ 10:48 am
Thanks for covering the fashion designers and looks, Trig!
February 21, 2023 @ 11:08 am
I really wish I could have covered more, but really, this is not my expertise, though I have a lot of respect for this side of the music, and how important Western fashion has been over history. Really, the fashion show deserves it’s own deep dive with photos and bios on all of the designers involved. There were professional photographers shooting the fashion show, so hopefully this stuff makes it online as well.
February 21, 2023 @ 12:21 pm
how about a guest article from someone?
February 21, 2023 @ 12:41 pm
I would be up for that. Or perhaps when I get caught up, I might do something more in-depth on the fashion side of stuff in the future.
February 22, 2023 @ 8:58 am
Who? Some gay dude
Joan Rivers daughter?
February 22, 2023 @ 9:07 am
I have a whole row of books in my history book collection on country music that deals almost exclusively with Western fashion. Again, it’s not my expertise or my passion, but I have a lot of respect for it because it is definitely an important element to country music. I don’t think you have to be “a gay dude” to acknowledge that. The Nudie Suit and Western wear were a major element to country music, and preserving that stuff in the present tense is as important as the music in my opinion. I’m glad there are folks that are out there that are passionate about this.
February 23, 2023 @ 12:12 pm
Congrats on dumbest comment of the year and it’s only Feb.
February 22, 2023 @ 11:34 pm
That’s great advice from Stellar. What a great show! My fav music event I ever went to in my life.
February 26, 2023 @ 5:00 pm
Loved every minute of this event. Def will go back next year.
February 21, 2023 @ 10:50 am
This is such a cool event and gathering of authentic artists doing what they love. Curious Trigger if Dallas had his full band there? I ask because I was able to catch them about a month ago and was completely blown away by his harp player. His harmonica was front and center for every song and was a primary sound, not for accents or the occasional solo. Almost like an organ or keys, his playing drove the melody of the songs. Whoever he is, pretty damn amazing musician.
February 21, 2023 @ 11:10 am
Dallas had everyone there but the drummer, who I think was at home because the birth of a child. Yes, Mike Owens his harp player is pretty great. New guitar player is really good too.
February 21, 2023 @ 11:11 am
Dallas Moore had his full band there. His new guitar player is great. His harmonica guy was indeed playing.
Robert's Country Blog
February 21, 2023 @ 10:59 am
I could not make it this year, so I am glad to see the photos. I’ve seen several of these acts at past Ameripolitan shows and elsewhere. I’ve seen Dallas Moore more than any of the others pictured.
February 21, 2023 @ 2:50 pm
Trigger, Rosie is the “Rockabilly FILLY,” not Philly like the city.
February 21, 2023 @ 3:28 pm
Sounds like a fun time.
Here’s a chorus for an unwritten song (rap?):
Good job buddy, way to go
You gave me something like vertigo
I see you now in other faces
In jails and psychiatric places
(Sorry, I’ve had my creative juices tapped lately, and my muse blocked me, which might make sense if you read the above)
February 21, 2023 @ 3:47 pm
The phrase “Lightning in the bottle” gets thrown around somewhat carelessly, however it is clearly evident and more than applicable here. This is ground breaking. What we are witnessing here is a complete rebirth of country music and it is a healthy and vibrant as ever. A very special thanks to all of the artists involved and have taken it upon themselves to keep the flames of tradition alive. It could not have come at a better time as the genre as in which we know it is approaching its 100th birthday, although it is tricky to say which year defines as year 1 for country. For years I used to worry about the state of the genre, but now I see it is truly in capable hands.
February 21, 2023 @ 9:07 pm
And The Big Barn Dance Music Festival in Taos, NM won for best festival! (I’ve been to every one.)
February 22, 2023 @ 3:48 am
i wish i’d hear more about Kristina Murray, she’s a true gem.
February 22, 2023 @ 5:44 am
This looks like a lot of fun! Given the fashion side of this event I’m surprised Nikki Lane wasn’t there.
February 23, 2023 @ 12:17 pm
I love Nikki but it seems that they try and feature newer and different artists each year unlike most awards shows that trot out a lot of the same people year after year. Nikki won back in 2018 for Outlaw Female.
February 22, 2023 @ 9:43 am
Wow-wee! That’s a mighty fine collection of eye-catching photos! Nearly everyone is dressed like a big time country star. Those shows had to be fantastic! Thanks for the article and pix. Cheers & Twangs!
February 22, 2023 @ 2:06 pm
tHANKs for posting…we are fortunate to live close to Southgate House Revival, Dallas Moore and Jeremy Pinnell…sorry we missed this year…hope to see you again soon…LJ
February 22, 2023 @ 5:39 pm
My kind of country music. You can keep those Lukes, Zacks, Carries, Blakes, Garths etc who churn out that Country Pop crap.
February 23, 2023 @ 12:07 am
We’ve come every year since the Ameripolitans moved to Memphis. The common thread is love of music and mutual respect from what we’ve experienced. Someone used the term ‘underdog’ about the musicians involved and I thought it works. Some artists could use a bigger audience and this event is helping , little by little. Each year we know we will be turned on to new bands, come to see those we discovered through the event before and meet more like- minded people along the way. This year Mitch Polzak and his band, The Televisionaries, and Jenny Don’t and the Spurs are three new additions to our watch list for shows in and around our town of St Louis…. so many bands, you cannot miss.
February 24, 2023 @ 4:37 pm
I want to marry Miss Tammy Savoy. What a classy lady.
And I want to forget that I ever saw Jane Rose.