It might have rained Friday night in Nashville, but that didn’t put much of a damper on the Americana Music Festival festivities around town.
For one, Lisa Marie Presley’s 10 p.m. set at 3rd and Lindsley was every bit as provocative and mesmerizing as the title of her latest album – Storm and Grace – would suggest.
Presley might be a diminutive figure, but she knows how to work a stage, making her sultry presence known from the start.
Donning tight black leather pants and a dark fitted double-breasted jacket, Presley’s unmistakable voice curled out on to the crowd like wisps of smoke as she launched into “So Long” from Storm and Grace, which led into her latest single “Over Me.”
As the evening wound down, Presley kicked up the energy with “Un-Break” and “Sticks and Stones,” which featured Presley pounding out tribal beats on a pair of glittering drums next to her microphone stand.
The 45-minute show was a perfect storm – gentle at times, but always darkly looming before surging over the crowd.
Shortly after Presley ended, Holly Williams took the stage to wow her late-staying audience with several original songs that were steeped in singer/songwriter classics.
Flanked by Annie Clements on an upright bass and husband Chris Coleman on guitar, Williams didn’t waste any time getting the crowd moving with her latest single “Drinkin’,” which comes off her 2013 album The Highway.
Like her father Hank Williams Jr. and grandfather Hank Williams before her, Williams is a supreme lyricist capable of weaving a tale that makes a song as much about the story as it is about the musicianship.
Regularly peppering her set with anecdotes that were an undoubted look into her life experiences, Williams talked about the time she wrote a song about an old moonshiner (“Railroads”), the time she and her hubby wrote a song in his man-shed behind the house (“I Want You”) and the time she recorded a song with the legendary Jackson Browne (“Gone Away From Me”).
Williams also spoke directly to the John Prine fans in the house by playing an amazing version of “Angel From Montgomery,” her voice ringing out sweetly through the venue.
Williams closed on a somber note, pulling out “Waiting on June,” which also appears on The Highway with a guest vocal from Academy Award-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow.
The tearjerker was one she wrote about her grandparents on her mother’s side, and their life together. It’s safe to say that it either got a little dusty in the room or there were several eyes that refused to remain dry.
Earlier in the evening, British singer/songwriter Peter Bruntnell opened up the festivities at the High Watt at Nashville’s Cannery Row.
With a dark background and equally dark suits, the three-piece band led the crowd through a set of somber tunes that evoked Whiskeyhorse.
Bruntnell, another Englishman who has adopted the spirit of Americana well, was promoting his latest album Retrospective, which pulls from a catalog that goes back to 1995.
It was a solid beginning to the night, and a great way to continue a week’s worth of celebrating the music that has captured the minds and hearts of so many fans.