Jazz Fest's Americana lineup is its strongest yet. Here's a who's who

shovels and rope photo
Shovels and Rope, by Leslie Ryan McKellar

Mumford & Sons strummed, stomped, and ho-heyed their way through Top 40, and helped draw attention to an Americana music community that is as healthy as ever. This year’s Jazz Fest is stacked with local and out of state talent. Here’s a guide to who's who.

Tommy Malone
"With a voice somewhat reminiscent of the late Stevie Ray Vaughn and a loose slide guitar style comparable to Bonnie Raitt, Malone brings his own unique New Orleans flavor to the blues. A professional musician for over 40 years, Malone released his highly acclaimed debut album Soul Heavy in 2001, then took the next 12 years to carefully craft his follow-up album, Natural Born Days. An accomplished guitarist, Malone’s music is full of rich textures, easy rhythms and soulful solos and slide work, all layers with deep, heartfelt lyrics, and a band that flawlessly supports it all with ease. His songs range from full on southern blues to smoky mountains gospel to Nashville-style country, all thread by his signature guitar sound and vocals."--AXS Music

Saturday, April 25, 12:30 p.m., Gentilly Stage

Little Maker
"Singer/songwriter Micah McKee (Silent Cinema, Empress Hotel) has been a fixture in the New Orleans music scene for more than a decade, releasing six or seven albums (he's forgotten the exact number) — but it wasn't until he formed Little Maker in 2011 that he came into his own. 'I don't think I've done anything great up until now,' McKee says. He credits Little Maker's classically trained musicians with sharing and realizing his vision: Rebecca Crenshaw's ethereal violin; Mark LaMaire's upright bass (often bowed); Pat Fee's thoughtful take on rock percussion; Greg Beamen's and Luke Hudleston's soaring horns. 'It took me many years to grow into what I was looking for,' says McKee, who played the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival with Little Maker in 2014. 'It turned out all I was looking for was being in a really pretty rock 'n' roll band.' " - Gambit

Saturday, April 25, 2:15 p.m., Lagniappe Stage

Shovels & Rope
"It's easy to feel the romance in the musical relationship between Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst. In the five years since the married duo came upon the name Shovels & Rope to describe the music they make from whatever's lying around the house, the pair has become a musical embodiment of how loving couples make it work: trading off instruments, forming loose and forgiving harmonies at the top of their lungs, and offering up songs that revel in life's energy, comical moments and dented beauty. But Trent and Hearst have also always been interested in the common and the problematic, telling stories not about bicycles built for two, but of old cars that carry lovers who sometimes court disaster, or lonely people whom life hasn't treated so well. In performance, Shovels &; Rope presents an ideal; on record, the band keeps it real and rough." - NPR

Saturday April 25, 4:20 p.m., Sheraton New Orleans Fais-Do-Do Stage

Ryan Adams
“Yeah, so troubled. I love it,' Adams says. 'Reality is troubled. Everything in the universe is working for fuel or food, the entire cosmos is a struggle, even on a quantum level there’s constant movement and abrasion. This is how it was born, it is how it will end, and that’s who we are. I think it is realistically romantic to get into the dilemma. Conflict and resolution, picking at old wounds, that’s my job. That’s the real thing.' ” - The Telegraph

Saturday, April 25, 5:20 p.m., Gentilly Stage

"Another band with a difficult-to-Google name, this three-piece nevertheless burns with confidence and swagger. Duz Mancini’s twangy, whiskey-soaked vocals give credence to the band’s alt-country, Americana milieu. Incidentally, the band began life as an Los Angeles-based outfit before settling home in the New Orleans indie rock scene. Considering their brand of music, here’s betting they were more than welcome." - Paste Magazine

Saturday, April 25, 5:20 p.m. , Lagniappe Stage

Luke Winslow-King
"Luke Winslow-King is a young man with an old soul. 'Blues will make you do things you would never do,' he declares on 'Home Blues,' one of 14 vintage-sounding songs on his latest endeavor, Everlasting Arms. If that is in fact the case, then coercion certainly works to his advantage. With a sound imbued with brassy flourishes and vampish barroom bluster, Winslow-King claims a classic pedigree honed from working on the road and lessons learned well. While he occasionally veers from the traditional template — 'Wanton Way of Loving,' his down home duet with wife Esther Rose King, and the slipshod slide guitar ballad “Last Night I Dreamed My Birthday” prove the notable exceptions — there’s no doubting his reverence to the roots." - Blurt Magazine

Sunday, April 26, 2:05 p.m., Lagniappe Stage

The Deslondes
"What does it mean to be a wandering troubadour in 2014? Believe it or not, sometimes it means riding the rails, just like in the old days. Sam Doores spent a restless childhood traveling with his family between San Francisco, Washington and Texas; his mother's copy of Woody Guthrie's book Bound For Glory convinced him to try the life of a modern-day hobo, eventually settling in New Orleans. The sound he's cultivated with his bandmates in The Deslondes is streaked with history's dust. But the Deslondes are also wanderers in the virtual sense — deft assemblers of a sound that traverses decades and styles with humble grace." - NPR

Sunday, April 26, 3:25 p.m., Lagniappe Stage

Creole String Beans
"Complete crowd pleasers, the Beans party band excitement will get the audience up and dancing, guaroonnteeed! With their mix of swamp pop, creole-flavored faves and a pinch or two of obscure chestnuts, they cover all the bases when it comes to Southern Louisiana flavor. Originally conceived as a backing vehicle for Rick Olivier (vocals/guitar) and Rob Savoy (vocals/bass) who wanted to nourish and promote the South Louisiana roots music they so loved, The Beans grew into a full rockin’ band with the inclusion of Bryan Barry (drums/vocals) Brian Rini (piano, organ,vocals) and The Terrytown Horns: Derek Huston/baritone sax and Travis Blotsky/tenor sax." - AXS Music

Yvette Landry
"Based on the start of her set on the Samsung Galaxy Stage Thursday, men need to watch out around Breaux Bridge honky-tonk singer Yvette Landry. In one song, she burns down her no-good man’s house, and in the next she wants lay him six feet under in a “house with no windows.”

Landry’s songs take place at night, where passionate people love, rage, and make self-destructive decisions, often fueled by alcohol. Even on a lovely, cloudless afternoon, she and her band conjured up a smoky bar with neon beer signs hanging in every window." - The Advocate

Thursday, April 30, 1:30 p.m., Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do Do Stage

Sturgill Simpson
"The truth is, Simpson, 35, isn't preaching anything — least of all the gospel of what does and doesn't qualify as country music. That may come as a letdown to those who have pegged him as a country music Jesus, the one who will vanquish 'bro country' artists to the dirt roads from whence they came.

'In my opinion, he's as authentic as it gets,' says Shooter Jennings of Simpson. Jennings, the son of Waylon Jennings, has been a fan of Simpson's work since his days in the group Sunday Valley and is wowed by the musical similarity to his legendary father — however unintentional it may be.

There are so many people who play guitar like my dad, and so many people that imitate that sound, but nobody actually gets it,' Jennings says. "Sturgill isn't imitating at all, and he sounds like my favorite era of my dad, the Seventies, when he would sing quieter and more conversational. That's what struck me about Sturgill from Day One. And still does.' " - Rolling Stone

Thursday, April 30, 3:35 p.m., Gentilly Stage

Amanda Shires
"A multi-talented fiddler schooled in Western swing as a whippersnapper member of the Texas Playboys, Amanda Shires nowadays writes and sings dark, deceptively pretty songs as a solo act. Here, she works with Jason Isbell, who she recently married (with songwriter Todd Snider presiding). Her palette has broadened – check the warped Latin groove on "Bulletproof" and the perversely come-hither suicide reverie "Box Cutters." On "A Song For Leonard Cohen," she fantasizes a date with her artistic hero in which she gets him drunk and then sticks him with the bill. He'd still be a fool to turn her down." - Rolling Stone

>Thursday, April 30, 4:25 p.m., Sheraton New Orleans Fais-Do-Do Stage

Kristin Diable
"Kristin Diable is a singer-songwriter whose voice writes her autobiography. In her unabashed delivery, she's got the ambition and self-awareness of a New Yorker, testament to the years she spent there as a young adult making contacts and a name for herself in the music industry. In the rhythm behind her and the twang of her long vowels, she's got the easy, yeah-you-right swagger of her Louisiana roots. At the soundboard of producer Dave Cobb, her bluesy Southern rock, largely unadorned on prior releases with her band The City, gets the slick '70s-schooled Nashville sound for which it was meant. To show for the bookoo lot of it, she's got a rollicking throwback of a new album, Create Your Own Mythology." - NPR

Friday, May 1, 11:20 a.m., Acura Stage

Maggie Koerner
" While touring with Galactic last summer she brought her lyrics to a much deeper level. 'Every morning, I’d wake up on the bus and they’d have CNN on, and we’d see what’s going on in Ferguson. It was like what year are we living in? It was like MLK’s time. I realized we need more songs like (singing) ‘Stop children what’s that sound’ ('For What It’s Worth' by Buffalo Springfield). We don’t need more bullshit music.' " - Broadward Palm Beach New Times

Friday, May 1, 2:15 p.m., Lagniappe Stage

Shooter Jennings with Waymore’s Outlaws
"Apples don’t fall far from the tree. Though Shooter Jennings, son of the late Waylon Jennings, has spent the past several years mining a more rock attitude, his inflections, tone and ability to craft a country song are undeniable.

If not as resonant as the original Outlaw or as combustive as the man nicknamed “No Show Jones,” Jennings understands when to attenuate a vowel, how to slide to a note and the way hitting slightly behind the beat can add emotional punch. If these songs move from heavy throb metal to atmospheric Moroder-esque variations on the traditional country, his voice solidly places his wanderlust in the heart of George Jones’ essence." - Paste Magazine

Friday, May 1 4:25 p.m., Sheraton New Orleans Fais-Do-Do Stage

Mississippi Rail Company
"Mississippi Rail Company, the brainchild of both Tulane and Loyola University alumni, provides a fresh, modern take on New Orleans “roots” music, although Geoffray does not like to lock their sound into a specific genre. The group’s all-encompassing repertoire draws from traditional jazz, rhythm and blues, gospel and classic, Southern sounds." - NOLA.com

Saturday, May 2, 11:15 a.m., Acura Stage

"Some purists may wag their fingers, but Barry Ancelet, a professor of French and folklore at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette — and one of the deans of Cajun culture — says he isn't worried.

'These guys understand the songs — they understand the culture they came from,' Ancelet says. 'They're not just playing songs. They're not just imitating sounds. They're retelling those stories new every time. They improvise, which means you actually have to make it part of you. These guys are fluent in the music and, at the same time, they're fluent in the culture. They understand the words they're singing. They understand where this comes from. They're interested in creativity, but at the same time in continuity. They're finding ways to do something new that's still connected to what's old.' " - NPR

Sunday, May 3 12:25 p.m., Sheraton New Orleans Fais-Do-Do Stage

The Mulligan Brothers
" Under any circumstances, fan can hear more of what made The Mulligan Brothers so appealing in the first place: The easy Americana flow of music that uses traditional textures without falling into a fake rootsiness, balanced against lyrics that are often sharply contemporary. Where the previous album had 'Cecilia,' a tale of forbidden interracial love in the Old South, the new one has 'Calomine,' a haunting, inside-out murder ballad." - AL.com

Sunday, May 3, 3:40 p.m., Lagniappe Stage

Kacey Musgraves
"Same Trailer is full of songs delivered in her signature sing-talk tone, mixing driving wit (the doublewide ode 'My House') with kiss offs ('Step Off') and nods to casual, booze-induced sex ('It Is What It Is'). Like 'Merry Go ‘Round' and the free-loving 'Follow Your Arrow,' many of the tracks hit topics that would otherwise be taboo in the current state of country music. But like Loretta Lynn’s 'Rated X' and 'The Pill' and Johnny Cash’s 'Cocaine Blues,' in a lot of ways it’s just her refocusing the genre back on the outlaw, the struggle, to where it used to be before it turned into 'all trucks and tanlines.' ” - American Songwriter

Sunday, May 3, 5:45 p.m., Sheraton New Orleans Fais-Do-Do Stage