- Other things besides music are considered Americana - kitschy art, covered bridges in Vermont, turkey on Thanksgiving, Tennessee v. Alabama on third Saturday of October, Jimmy Stewart, etc.
- Most other music labels are confining. Jazz, pop, hip-hop, country, metal, classical. Mention any of those genres, and one can just about conjure up a "name that tune" of some song within it. Americana doesn't work like that. The tent is huge and can accommodate a wide swath of artists and bands, acoustic and electric, megastar and unsigned, young and old, etc.
- Singer-songwriters often fit within the genre. Some new country acts such as Miranda Lambert are welcome. Some quirky country artists such as Lyle Lovett have a seat at the table. Lots of old country artists kicked to the curb by Nashville are now senior friends in Americana such as Charlie Louvin. Artists on the lower end of the age spectrum (e.g. Avett Brothers) and on the upper end (e.g. Guy Clark) are equally at home.
- Even the musical chops of the performers vary widely - yet places many competing styles within Americana. Lots of acoustic Martins - but a healthy dose of electric Strats. Electric bass is welcome right alongside the upright bass (exhibit 1: Kurt Ciesla from Corb Lund and The Hurtin' Albertans)...
- It comes from all over - Texas and Tennessee are logical places to start. But try North Carolina, Oklahoma, California, Florida, New York, and the remaining states I didn't mention. Oh while you are at it, throw Canada into the mix. In this case, you've got a completely separate nation from which "Americana" originates. Even an iconic, British rock star who didn't start out as Americana ended up there by pairing himself with Allison Krauss (e.g. Zep's Robert Plant).
Fellow blogger A Truer Sound invited about 30 bloggers to throw our 2 cents in about our top 20 Americana releases of 2009. I was humbled about being asked to participate because I'm a blogging lightweight compared to these champs of music coverage.
We settled on The Bird List as the name of the poll results for a couple of reasons.
- One, because Americana is so hard to define, the singers, bands, artists, and fans generally give the finger to the recording, retail, radio, and marketing establishments. Its not Music Row, formulaic country. Its not LA rock or pop. Its not all Texas honky tonks or the Grand Ol' Opry. Its big arenas and smoky bars. Much of it can and should be stocked in multiple sections in a music store. Most of those involved with performing or listening refuse to be pigeon-holed.
- Two, a charter member of what is now known as Americana is The Man in Black - Johnny Cash. While most often considered as a country singer, his embrace of so many other types of music and people was a finger in the face of the establishment. His iconic in-your-face bird shot has adorned many a t-shirt.
My selections were cobbled together with the other contibutors. A super-secret, fancy-schmancy scoring algorithm was applied, and bada-bing, bada-boom the sho-nuff, consensus, inaugural 2009 The Bird List is available for your viewing and commenting. Please chime in here or at the official home of the list.
TMC's Top 20:
- Guy Clark - Sometimes The Songs Write You (link is to show review)
- Corb Lund - Losin' Lately Gambler (link is to show review)
- Tom Russell - Blood And Candle Smoke
- Scott Miller - For Crying Out Loud
- Lyle Lovett - Natural Forces
- (Bob) Walkenhorst & (Jeff) Porter - No Abandon (link to blog entries re: both)
- Eric Brace & Peter Cooper - You Don't Have To Like Them Both (Peter: Tennessean writer by day, active musician by night)
- Daddy - For A Second Time (link is to show review but check them out too at ReverbNation)
- Steve Earle - Townes
- Charlie Robison - Beautiful Day
- Robert Earl Keen- The Rose Hotel
- Gurf Morlix - Last Exit To Happyland
- Miranda Lambert - Revolution
- Blue Rodeo - The Things We Left Behind
- Marshall Crenshaw - Jaggedland
- Todd Snider - The Excitement Plan
- The Flatlanders - Hills & Valleys
- Reverend Horton Heat - Laughin' and Cryin' with Reverend Horton Heat (OK, I admit it. This was a Nashville homer pick. The CD is great. But I went to junior high and high school with...[cough, name drop] Paul Simmons, RHH's drummer. So this release had to make my top 20, right?)
- Jeffrey Foucault - Shoot The Moon Right Between The Eyes (you cover Prine = you are in my top 20)
- Roseanne Cash - The List
Until then, sample these releases at Amazon or iTunes if you aren't familiar with them. Bum a bootleg off me or others to intro you to some of the songs before you buy official releases.And keep your eyes peeled for them to hit your town. Who knows - you might get to catch some great live music without breaking the bank.