So Just What Is This ‘Americana’ Music?
Basically, Americana is Country Music. Hold on! Wait! Don’t go clicking away yet!
We’re not talking here about the cliches of Line Dancing, Stetsons and songs about losing Wife, Dawg and Car (not necessarily in that order).
What we’re talking about is music with attitude, whether that be protest songs, introspective ballads or just plain old bad-ass hell-raising good time music – country yes, but Americana is also rock, blues, traditional bluegrass and even soul. Music without boundaries, held together by a common thread of realism, honesty and heart.
You like Springsteen and Neil Young? Well, Steve Earle is probably the most high profile name in Americana. If you’re a fan of The Boss and Neil Young in equal measures and you haven’t come across the phenomena that is Steve Earle then do yourself a favour and get hold of ‘Guitar Town’ or ‘Copperhead Road’ and see what you’ve been missing.
A whole new generation of singer-songwriters influenced by pre-‘Achy, Breaky Heart’ country music are making their mark today, inspired by another anti-hero Townes Van Zandt (a better songwriter than Dylan, many would say). And don’t think Americana music is a closed-shop club of world-weary men. Take a listen to Tift Merritt as an example of a young girl with vocals as soulful and powerful as Aretha, or Patty Griffin, who can fell a person at fifty feet with her soaring vocals and incisive lyrics, and can blow you away with the hardest rocking alternative guitar music around.
So you don’t want deep and introspective? Okay, Shooter Jennings might be just up your street – the son of Waylon, Shooter has hung out with Guns’n’Roses and obviously listened to Ted Nugent as a kid. Good time music, next generation. Take a listen on a road trip and you’ll be singing along. Guaranteed.
Americana has its own association, and it is close to having its own Billboard chart. But Americana is independent; the Americana Music Association could just as easily have been named the Awkward Musicians Association. It is a free spirit, embraces all comers and loves the diversity of the dobro, mandolin, Les Paul and Stratocaster. It is conservative and liberal in equal measures and pretty darn hard to pin down.
So, enough words … track down the music and judge for yourself.