By Lisa Morgan

As with Coachella, I have my “Top 5 Must See” artists at this annual buffet of diverse American music. The selections vary from commercial, cross-genre, radio-pop (i.e. the fast food and dessert items) to traditional roots Americana (the meat and potatoes). Just as there was some heated debate at Coachella regarding EDM vs Rock, and DJ vs Musician, arguments can be heard throughout Nashville, country music’s capitol city, about traditional vs new or “bro” country. I, having a strong bias toward the roots versions of any genre, so I thought it would be interesting to hear from the heart and soul of Music City, her songwriters, and see who their picks would be.

Travis Meadows:
Singer/Songwriter with cuts on albums by Eric Church, Dierks Bentley, LeAnne Womack, Blackberry Smoke, Lynyrd Skynyrd (to name a few) as well as three incredible albums of his own, chose the following:

Eric Church: “I’ve never seen him live, but I love his records.”
Jason Isbell: “I really respect his writing.”
John Prine: “Because he is the stuff legends are made of.”
Skynyrd: “Well, ’cause they’re Skynyrd.”
Shovels & Rope: “They are really cool. I love their energy and style.”


Levi Lowery:
Singer/Songwriter on Zac Brown’s Southern Ground Label with his new self-titled release Levi Lowery available on iTunes. Lowery has songs cut on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s God & Guns, has been nominated for CMA Song of the Year for “Colder Weather” co-written with Zac Brown, is the winner of the BMI Top 50 Songs of the Year for Zac Brown co-writes “Colder Weather”, “The Wind” and “Day for the Dead”. Lowery is a seriously epic fiddle player as well (reference: his cover of Black Sabbath’s War Pigs and Flywheel on the above referenced album).

John Prine: “Everyone should see this living legend.”
Jason Isbell: “He made the best record of 2013 (all genres included).”
Shovels & Rope: “Because my wife would kill me if we missed it.”
Holly Williams: “A wonderfully talented singer/songwriter that doesn’t need a coattail ride.”
Sarah Jarosz: “Beautiful songs, beautifully played and sung.”

Granville Automatic:
The Associated Press describes their songs as “haunting tales of sorrow and perseverance.” Songwriters Elizabeth Elkins and Vanessa Olivarez have over 100 songs, beautifully painting and encapsulating the stories and spirit of the South. Melodic historians of the otherwise undocumented stories of the men, women, ghosts and horses that through ugliness, greatness, dust, struggle and strength built the foundation for the proud and the free. Their video for “Never on a Sunday” as premiered on CMT, delicately exposes a familiar story with charming and graceful penmanship, iced with the creamy frosting of Miss Olivarez’s otherworldly, angelic vocals. Elizabeth Elkins’ picks are:

Holly Williams: “The last time I listened to ‘Waiting on June’, I didn’t stop crying for about an hour. It is perfectly written.”
Jason Isbell: “He has set a new standard of songwriting that makes me cuss at the stereo when I’m listening.”
Radney Fosters Bluegrass Trio: “Radney is both dreamy and an amazing songsmith. He is absolutely inspiring.”
The Wild Feathers: “Several lead singers, great songs, killer harmony. I’m in.”
Calico the Band: “Our good friend and producer, Ted Russell Kamp, sits in on bass, and new fiddle player Aubrey Richmond is amazing.”

As it would turn out, every single one of my own “must see” picks is listed above, with two exceptions. My Stagecoach experience would not be complete without seeing our resident songbird who cannot be contained in the genre cage ~ Miss Shelby Lynne. I plan on being present as she was for our local bands when Goldenvoice called on her to give her time, judging for the Tachevah: Palm Springs Block Party. But all courtesy aside, I would be doing myself a huge disfavor if I allowed myself to miss the voice and the music that first inspired me 20 years ag

Speaking of decades of inspiration, it would be an absolute sin to not take the opportunity to experience live, the music and essence of the Queen of Rock, Wanda Jackson. She was the first female rockabilly artist in the 1950’s-1960’s to make a noise and be heard, and boy was she. Also known as the First Lady of Rockabilly, Jackson was the original Original, blazing a trail like no woman before her. She combined country music with the fast paced rockabilly beat to create her own sonic signature that sent ripples across music history still felt today. Shower this 2009, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee with your thanks and praise. We don’t get to keep these great ones forever.

With temperatures predicted to be in the mid 70’s to mid 80’s, barring any extreme wind, it should be a fantastic day to soak up the music and get introduced to some soulful new and familiar artists. I’ll see you there!