Nearly 300 acts played the 2019 installment of AmericanaFest in Nashville from September 10th through 15th, including 150 new artists who had never played before, all holding court in numerous venues across the city. In many ways, 2019 felt like the year that AmericanaFest was too much of a good thing, with the extra day and extended lineup taxing patrons and performers alike in the unseasonable heat of mid September. And though it will always be the big names that will draw the biggest headlines—like Keith Urban guesting with Foy Vance, or Tanya Tucker playing a rousing set with Brandi Carlile and others—those who truly know how to get the best out of their experience at AmericanaFest or any musical event know that discovery should be at the heart of their itinerary.
For some, Sierra Ferrell has been on their radar for a while. Her Gems on VHS video posted over a year ago with now over 1 million views is where some were first clued into her magical Appalachian country/ragtime swing/gypsy jazz style. Since then things have been going quite well for the West Virginia native. She recently signed to Rounder Records, and this allowed her to play one of the premium spots at AmericanaFest Saturday night at the Nashville’s Mercy Lounge.
To a packed audience, Sierra Ferrell absolutely dazzled with her incredible songwriting and singing, backed by a simple band of fiddle, upright bass, and vintage drums. Sierra has a spunk and power to her, yet it’s all encapsulated in a flawless delivery. There are such amazing layers and textures in her voice and style, and it’s all conveyed with confidence and grace. She’s both an amalgam of American roots, yet distinctly all her own. Though many of the songs showcased were things the audience has never heard before, there was an immediate connection through the power of the songwriting, and Sierra’s flawless approach to performance art. Playing just by herself, a simple fiddle accompaniment, or a full band, it didn’t matter. It all was rendered mesmerizing by the raw, yet refined talent of this young woman.
If you’re looking for a female version of Tyler Childers who embodies that Appalachian authenticity mixed with their own unique expressions, Sierra Ferrell is certainly a serious option. With the folks at Rounder behind her, the Paradigm Talent Agency handing her booking, and a seasoned manager in Dolphus Ramseur of The Avett Brothers fame in her corner, expect big things to be coming from Sierra in the future. And if her set at AmericanaFest 2019 was any indication, she deserves it all.
There are artists to watch out for, and then there are artists who everything seems to align for on their way to making music the right way. Sierra Ferrell certainly fits in that second category, and roots fans should be paying rapt attention.
Expect a new record arriving some time in 2020.