Less than two weeks later, on August 16, comes NashBash, a one-evening country music festival held in the unlikely confines of the Ann Arbor Farmers Market at Kerrytown. The sheds provide some protection in case of rain, and a “Trunk-a-palooza” sale adds to the down-home atmosphere. From the start, the festival has been under the direction of Whit Hill, an Ann Arbor songwriter and choreographer who moved to Nashville a few years ago and has struck up acquaintances with some interesting fixtures of the city’s vibrant songwriting scene. You might catch a rising star: past NashBash headliner Angaleena Presley has been playing sold-out shows as part of country superstar Miranda Lambert’s trio Pistol Annies.
This year’s headliner, Kathy Hussey, skews toward the folk end of the folk-country spectrum that makes Nashville songwriting so interesting and provides periodic injections of sophistication into mainstream country music. For sixteen years she’s hosted a weekly songwriter night at Wilhagan’s bar in Nashville, so it’s a fair bet that she’s given some important culture shapers their starts. Her own music is deliberate, often startlingly detailed, and original in topic. In “Sing My Memory” she tells of a dying healer from whom she hears a gripping speech culminating in: “Love may come and love may go, life may ebb and life may flow. Remember me when I am gone; sing my memory in a song.” One of her best is “Red Maple,” a song about a beloved tree that is cut down by a home’s new owners. It spreads into the corners of its verse form like the living, breathing branches of the tree itself.