- - Monday, September 29, 2014


I was sitting at a table at Ebenezers Coffeehouse near Union Station late last week when a trendy woman with black-framed hipster glasses took the seat next to me.

We were both alone, so we started chatting to fill the minutes before the singer-songwriters took the stage.

The conversation led to my recent trip to the Americana Music Festival in Nashville, and my new friend said she envied me for having the chance to immerse in music that isn’t available anywhere else.

I couldn’t say this to her, but I’ll say it to you: Stop saying that. Stop thinking that. It’s not true.

What made her statement false was that we were at Ebenezers for an incredible musical lineup: Brooklyn-based Brett Gleason, playing the most soulful indie rock on piano this side of Tori Amos; new D.C.-area resident Paige Allbritton, whose aching acoustic Americana is Patty Griffin crossed with Lisa Loeb; and North Carolina native Jason Harrod, whose folk/bluegrass sound has won him a national following.

And that was no rare event here in D.C. You just have to put a bit more effort into seeking out shows here than you do in Music City.

Besides a great evening of music, the experience at Ebenezers reminded me you might not realize that you can create own Americana Music Festival wherever you are.

Here are some of the best national, regional and unusual shows this week:

John McEuen: Americana lovers remember when they first heard the 1972 album by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” Yeah, it’s that big a deal. So is Mr. McEuen, who continually records, performs and produces albums such as Steve Martin’s 2010 Grammy Award-winning bluegrass recording “The Crow.”

When Mr. McEuen was recently in town, he told me about his multimedia show that takes fans inside “The Circle” recording that featured country luminaries Mother Maybelle Carter, Doc Watson, Roy Acuff and Merle Travis, and on the 1977 tour that made The Dirt Band the first rockers to visit Russia. Former Dirt Band members Les Thompson and John Cable join him for Thursday’s show at Jammin Java, 227 Maple Ave. E, Vienna, Virginia. Doors open at 6 p.m. for 7:30 p.m. show. Tickets $25. Call 877-987-6487 or visit www.jamminjava.com.

Lori McKenna: She lives in Boston, but she’s a bona fide member of the elite Nashville songwriters whose works are recorded by the biggest names in music. Many fans know her songs from the country stars who have given them voice — Sara Evans’ “Bible Song,” Faith Hill’s “Stealing Kisses,” Keith Urban’s “The Luxury of Knowing,” and Little Big Town’s “Your Side of the Bed.”

Ms. McKenna has hit the road to perform her own songs, including those from her latest album, “Numbered Doors.” She’s on tour with classically trained singer-songwriter Carrie Rodridguez. Hear them Thursday at the Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria, Virginia. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $25. Call 703-549-7500 or visit www.birchmere.com

Dead Men’s Hollow: You know how Emmylou Harris, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Ricky Skaggs talk about the incredible music they heard in Washington, D.C. when they were starting out? That still happens here, and the six-piece Dead Men’s Hollow is a perfect example. The group plays an alluring mix of bluegrass, folk, country and gospel.

When I first heard them play live a few years ago at Lake Accotink Park in Springfield, Virginia, I remember thinking that their 18 Wammie Award nominations and six wins were just not enough. That’s truer now than ever, as the band continually turns toward projects that immerse them in traditional country, folk and more. Find out for yourself at the group’s 10th anniversary celebration 3-6 p.m. Saturday at Iota, 2832 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Virginia. Admission is free; food and non-alcoholic drinks are provided; a cash bar is available. Call 703-522-8340 or visit www.iotaclubandcafe.com.

Recess Monkey: I have to tell you about a fun one for the kids, too. How about teachers-turned-rockers-for-kids (adults will like it too, really) just in time for Fire Prevention Week?

Recess Monkey plays Sunday at Jammin Java, 227 Maple Ave. E, Vienna, Virginia. Doors open at 11 a.m. for the 11:30 a.m. show. Tickets $12. Call 877-987-6487 or visit www.jamminjava.com.

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