What It Means to Be Americana
In an era so famously divisive about what it means to be American, we tip our hats to what it means to be Americana.
A farmer once described radio listeners to me as cattle, connecting with their herd– commuting each day, in unison, joined by a common frequency broadcast inside their vehicles. Often times, there is overlap– or crossover, in radio speak- in those audiences and formats.
Many NonComm stations are Triple A. But, not all Triple A stations are NonComm. Lots of Triple A stations play Americana. But not all Triple A artists can be defined as Americana. With all these distinctions, audiences, and stations often-times served by swirlingly simultaneous conventions, it’s befitting to pay each their tribute.
Defined by… some authority, Americana has been described as “contemporary music that incorporates elements of various American roots music styles, including country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B and blues, resulting in a distinctive roots-oriented sound that lives in a world apart from the pure forms of the genres upon which it may draw. While acoustic instruments are often present and vital, Americana also often uses a full electric band. (Let’s meanwhile, tip our hats as well to the unnamed professorial responsible for that primer!)
As ever, Play MPE has been pleased to… Play our part in sharing some of Americana’s finest with the world this year.
Legacy Recordings gave us Johnny Cash: Forever Words, featuring Alison Krauss & Union Station, Ruston Kelly & Kacey Musgraves, Kris Kristofferson & Willie Nelson, Brad Paisley, Elvis Costello, John Mellencamp, Chris Cornell–and, as they say, more.
Not to be outdone, mind you, countless other recent gems, including those from: Son Volt (Thirty Tigers), Motel Mirrors feat. Amy LaVere, John Paul Keith & Will Sexton (Last Chance Records), Red Wanting Blue (Blue Élan Records) Rita Coolidge, Greyhounds (Bud’s Recording Services), Rosanne Cash (Sony Legacy), Anna & Elizabeth (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings), Dave Alvin & Jimmy Dale Gilmore (Yep Roc Records), Joshua Hedley (Red Light Management—Third Man Records), Loreena McKennitt (UMe), Secret Sisters (New West Records), Kacey Musgraves/Golden Hour (MCA Nashville). (For good measure, Kacey is sitting high atop the Billboard Americana chart as of this writing).
With all that talent in just a cluster of a recent sampling, it’s no wonder that Rolling Stone gave some real estate to the format in 2017, rightly noting its rising popularity: “(in) the last few years (it’s)become a commercially viable format in the pop marketplace.” Also noted is the presence of a Grammy category and -behold- a Merriam Webster definition.
Recently made available on Amazon Prime, Sir Doug and the Genuine Cosmic Groove. The award -winning documentary was written and directed by Texas music journalist Joe Nick Patoski, an homage to the life and music of Doug Sahm, called one of the greatest and under-celebrated pioneers of modern roots music. (John Allen, President of New West Records shared this about the former child prodigy: “I think he’s the definition of Tex Mex. His band was phenomenal.”)
Americanafest is just a few short months away, and promises to be an appropriate celebration, with well over 250 artists performing, September 11-16 in Nashville. Those already announced include the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Leeann Womack and Friends, Alejandro Escovedo, Mary Gauthier, and Kim Richey to name just a few. As always, Laurie Gail, Play MPE’s VP of Label & Radio Relations, will be in attendance. Hit her up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To whet your Americana appetite further, check your Play MPE account for the hottest Americana releases from the previous month:
1. Various Artists – Restoration: The Songs Of Elton John And Bernie Taupin MCA Nashville
2. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour MCA Nashville
3. Old Crow Medicine Show – Volunteer Columbia Nashville
4. Neko Case – Bad Luck Anti
5. Various Artists – Johnny Cash: Forever Words the Music Legacy Recordings
6. Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore – Downey to Lubbock Yep Roc Records
7. Neil Young – ROXY – TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT LIVE Reprise Records
8. Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johannson – Bad Dreams Capitol Records
9. Son Volt – Waking World Thirty Tigers/Transmit Sound
10. Glen Phillips – Amnesty Compass Records