It’s funny that the most American of musical genres — country — would need a sub-genre called Americana. What’s worse? Nobody seems to actually know what it is.
Wikipedia defines Americana as “an amalgam of roots musics…sounds that are merged from folk, country, rhythm and blues and rock and roll” then goes on name Rodney Crowell, Porter Waggoner and Bruce Springsteen as examples. Really? Why include Barry Manilow, too?
For the purpose of this article, here’s a simplified definition: if it doesn’t come out of Nashville and it’s not sung by a super model, it’s probably Americana.
Take one of my favorites from the MP3.com music library: American Anodyne. These self-proclaimed “Bastard Sons of the New Depression” aren’t from Nashville and they ain’t pretty. They’re Americana.
Another example: Clint Nation and his Band. In “Time For A Change,” he and his partners, Cameron Channel and Cam Winkler, say: “I want a steel guitar and a mason jar and music that is real and true. I want my whiskey strong as the night is long and singers who have paid their dues.”
They’re also not very pretty. They are Americana.
Hans Theessink plays Americana even though he’s not from America. He includes horns in his brand of Americana, including liberal use of the very American instrument: the tuba.
And last but not least there’s the strangley named band, Arliss Nancy. They may well be pretty but their music isn’t: it’s a gutsy, burning, devilish swirl of rock, blues and country that grabs you by the ears and demands your attention.
That may not be Americana. It might just be great music.