he Station Inn is Nashville's self-styled "World Famous" venue for bluegrass and roots music for over 40 years. Over time, the area around The Station Inn (much like the rest of Nashville) has changed, swapping gritty and sweaty for shiny and slick. The area, known as The Gulch, now features shopping and restaurants, with little of the Old Nashville present.
Except for The Station Inn. Sit at the card tables, get your beer at the window, talk to your table mate (who turns out to have a recording deal with Compass Records) and sit back and enjoy the show.
Dustbowl Revival, an eight-piece band with fiddle and mandolin on one side of the stage, and trombone and trumpet on the other, headlined. The middle of the stages features a vicious rhythm section of drums, bass, the occasional washboard and two lead vocalists - Liz Beebe and Zach Lupetin.
Beebe has an easy manner, deftly concealing until it's needed a powerful voice. Lupetin is a frenetic, but pitch perfect amalgam of Paul Simon and James Brown, complete with upward raised jazz hands as the need arises. With the uncommon pairing of brass and strings, and a raucous approach to their music, Dustbowl Revival brings great energy.
In contrast, The Jon Stickely Trio is serious business. Drums, fiddle (or is it violin in this context?) and acoustic guitar is all the trio needs to paint a startling complex portrait of roots-jazz, which captures the audience and causes marvel at the band's musicianship. Stickley is a master picker and composer. The fiddler, Lyndsay Pruett, has a spare technique, but wonderful range.
The band's songs are layered but precisely delivered. Familiar pieces in the Americana oeuvre, namely "Manzanita" and "Jerusalem Ridge" stood out, because the crowd had a bond with the shape of the tunes. Original pieces were equally powerful, if not as familiar.
The Dustbowl Revival set also featured a singularly Nashville moment: Billy Strings, the wunderkind flat picker and festival favorite, got up from the bar and hoisted Lupetin's acoustic guitar through a breakneck variation on "Old Joe Clark" which, was electric and inspired. Strings left the stage, returned to the bar, and departed 10 minutes later. He seemed an apparition, albeit one that could pick without peer. There's a homemade video of the whole thing on YouTube.
Just another Wednesday night at The Station Inn.