On the first day of the Americana Music Festival in Nashville, Oklahoma rocker JD McPherson might have had one of the most packed showcases of the evening.
Taking the stage at the Mercy Lounge around 11 p.m., McPherson and his stellar band faced a near-capacity crowd eager to hear his brand of rockabilly and rhythm and blues.
McPherson certainly gave the fans what they wanted, channeling Ray Charles, Little Richard and Brian Setzer.
He brought out a little Chicago swing with the love-lamenting “Dimes for Nickels,” and had everyone shaking their hips with the infectious “Fire Bug.”
McPherson reigned in the energy slightly when he played “A Gentle Awakening,” which features a ghostly plinking of piano keys in between verses, but then brought it right back up with “North Side Girl.”
“North Side Girl” was especially poignant, considering he had just played it mere hours before on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium, where the Americana Music Honors and Awards show was held.
McPherson teased the audience by revealing that he was working on a new album in Valdosta, Ga., but he essentially stuck to his 2010 debut full-length Signals and Signifiers (which received a major-label release through Rounder Records in 2012).
That was fine, however, as McPherson and co. continued to hit on all cylinders, even challenging everyone to get wild and crazy during a raucous finale of “Wolf Teeth,” which had a continuous build-up and melt-down that left the masses exhausted and satisfied.
Earlier in the evening, Nashville-by-way-of-Ohio rocker Patrick Sweany took the stage at the Basement. Considering that the awards event had just finished around his 10 p.m. start time, the attendance was solid, and Sweany did everything in his power to keep their attention.
It’s impossible to miss Sweany’s throaty growl on the microphone, not to mention his versatile finger-style technique on the guitar.
Sweany can conjure up the dirty gods of earthy blues at one moment – like in the new track “Working for You” or “Every Night and Every Day” – and channel Motown at another.
The Motown bit was hammered home with Sweany’s closer, “Them Shoes.”
A staple of his live shows, Sweany soloed like a champion on his brilliantly red Telecaster and even broke the song down into a moody version of “Soul Man” from Sam and Dave.
All in all, Sweany turned in an impassioned set that was a perfect way for the adopted son to kick off Music City’s Americana celebration.