Recognized as The Birthplace of Country Music, the interstate city of Bristol, TN/VA, will play host to the beloved Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion Festival, which is gearing up to go down next weekend, September 10th-12th.
As this is the 20th anniversary of the festival, audiences are being treated to a stellar lineup that will have you drawn in all different directions. From much loved groups like Blackberry Smoke, to out of this world up-and-comers like Sierra Ferrell, to our staple favorites like Rhonda Vincent and American Aquarium, it can be hard to decide who you’re going to go see.
Although all the artists on the lineup are worth your time, here are some of our suggestions for when you’re considering rocking to the rhythm and rolling in the roots next weekend.
Although the festival is called Bristol Rhythm & Roots, it is certainly not afraid of groove. That is made evident by the inclusion of Mo Lowda & The Humble. Hailing from Philadelphia, this band has a sonic quality reminiscent of groups like Foals and U2. Their use of reverb-soaked melodic electric guitar borders on atmospheric, but the ghost-like yet grounding vocals and hollow drum work really anchor the group’s overall sound. Mo Lowda & The Humble released their latest album, Ready Coat, in 2020, and the album, in particular their song “Ready Now”, makes for a killer soundtrack to celebrate the end of summer.
Although having been performing and making a name for herself in the Americana scene over the last several years, Sierra Ferrell is a fairly fresh face for festival lineups. Her artistic presence and timeless talent was made all the more apparent on her breakout 2021 album, Longtime Coming.
Playing into the recent trend we’ve seen of artists embracing the western fantasy, Ferrell lassos the concept and brings it back to make it her own. She gives us the much needed reprieve from the Gunfighter Ballads inspired sounds of late, in favor of a more Bob-Wills-meets-the-Big-Easy vibe. With a voice that has a near physical and enchanting quality about it, she’ll either have you dancing in circles or daydreaming of riding off into the sunset. Either way, you’ll be having a good time, and that’s what Sierra Ferrell is about.
It’s hard to hang in the scene and not have heard about American Aquarium.
The southern rock band has been roaddogging since 2006, and coming out with knockout record after knockout record like clockwork. As a result, American Aquarium stands as an icon of the Americana music genre. With lyrics rooted in southern identity, social change, and storytelling, the band backs their position as one of the hardest working bands in America and also rocking out the hardest. Frontman and primary lyricist, B.J. Barham, brings an incredible energy every show he plays and a dedication to his fans that is admirable.
As a very consistent touring band (with the exception of the past 18 months), it may be easy to say, “I’ll just see them next time they play”- but even then you’d be missing out. There’s no other feeling like screaming out the lyrics to “Losing Side of Twenty-Five” with hundreds of others singing it around you. And it’s worth getting to experience it every chance you get, especially these days.
Town Mountain may not be one of the most recognizable names on the bill, but they are certainly one of the most remarkable additions.
If you’ve had your ear even a foot to the ground, you’ll know that we’re currently living in a new era of bluegrass. Although still string-centric, we’ve traded the proverbial front porch sound for pedal-heavy modulations and rock-and-roll riffs that would make Kiss jealous. And it would be a grievous disservice to not recognize Town Mountain as a significant presence within this rock and roots revival. Flitting between original works, revamps of classic bluegrass tunes, and one of the best covers of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” in existence (that is not a hyperbole, it’s true), Town Mountain is not only bound to bring the heat, but are set to just burn the barn down while they’re at it.
A true force to be reckoned with, Amythyst Kiah is making 2021 her year. Kiah has always been a solid musician, having been working solo in addition to playing in critically acclaimed folk-group Our Native Daughters, she is no stranger to the stage.
Recently though, she seems to have skyrocketed into a whole other plane of artistry. Fresh off the release of her latest record, Wary + Strange, Kiah has secured spots opening for Brandi Carlile, a profile in the New York Times, a Grammy nomination for her single “Black Myself”, and at last stands to be one the strongest contenders for Americanafest’s award of Emerging Act of the Year. Kiah’s unparalleled stage energy, thundering vocal presence, and striking lyricism make for a show you won’t want to miss.
Photo by Sandlin Gaither Music Photography