What a year it’s been in America. Today we’re looking at the latest and greatest in Americana music. Like America, Americana music is quite the melting pot. It’s a genre that has evolved from all walks of life basically having huge musical jam sessions together for hundreds of years.
“Americana is 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.”
– According to the people who run the awards.
I think what I love about Americana is how American it is. I know that’s a given, but really. Americana music is this blend of soul and grit, pop and humor. It’s everything that makes America great. It’s all these artists coming together to often tell that American trope of hard work and heartbreak. And hard work and heartbreak often involve a little jazz, a little tug of simple strings, and that deep soul-crushing feeling of getting back up and trying it all again. Americana music often embraces the grit and hurt of life with a glimmer of hope.
So, here are some Americana bands I love.
May all your favorite bands stay together.
Dawes has been around for a while. And maybe most of you have heard of them (lead singer Taylor Goldsmith is engaged to Mandy Moore). I postponed listening to this band because an ex-boyfriend suggested them shortly before we broke up. Man do I regret that (postponing listening to Dawes. Not the breakup). Dawes, in my mind, is classic Americana. They’re Americana folk rock and they’re lyrics are so great. Their lyrics often cover love and human interaction with a hint of cheekiness and honesty, and always a catchy melody.
“I hope life without a chaperone is what you thought it’d be. I hope your brother’s El Camino runs forever. I hope the world sees the same person that you’ve always been to me. And may all your favorite bands stay together.”
Intro: Time Spent in Los Angeles, All Your Favorite Bands
For fans of Neil Young, The Eagles, Crosby, Stills, & Nash, Avett Brothers, Deer Tick
Lake Street Dive
Lake Street Dive is on fire. Admittedly, at first, I didn’t care for “Good Kisser” but then it very much grew on me. And suddenly I was hitting notes I never thought I would hit while driving. Hugo was very impressed/annoyed. Such a great revenge song. Subtle, cheeky, soulful. Free yourself up and check their latest album out.
Intro: Good Kisser, I Can Change, Baby Don’t Leave Me Alone With My Thoughts
For fans of St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Anderson East, The Lone Bellow
Brandi, I love you. I’ve been listening to Brandi Carlile since hearing her song “The Story” on a Paste magazine CD sampler back in the good old days. For years hence, she has never failed to disappoint. Brandi writes incredible songs with so so much feeling you swear she’s crying. Because she likely is. I was given tickets to see her live in concert earlier this year and she was incredible. She immediately jumped to my top 5, yes top 5, best concerts I’ve ever been to. She plays every show like it’s her last. Her latest album is about forgiveness. The title track is about forgiving a minister who refused to baptize her because of her sexuality. That’s a whole interesting story in itself, but she goes on to dive into an entire album about the complicatedness of forgiveness. It’s powerful. Her emotional range pretty much always mirrors her vocal range. The woman can belt it out.
Intro: The Story, Every Time I Hear that Song, The Joke
For fans of Patty Griffin, Grace Potter, The Weepies, Wailin’ Jennys, Civil Wars
If there’s any lesser known artist on this list, it’s Lilly Hiatt. If you like Brandi Carlile and Lake Street Dive, you’ll love her. For some reason, her songs always come back to me. In the way that you just have that one line stuck in your head and you can’t figure it out. That’s her. I’m a fan of her Trinity Lane album.
Intro: Trinity Lane, Records
For fans of Shovels & Rope, Brandi Carlile, Margo Price, Nikki Lane
Woof. If you haven’t heard “If We Were Vampires” go listen now. I dare you not to cry. Jason Isbell deserves an entire documentary for his musical journey. You may know him from Drive-By Truckers, but his solo career with The 400 Unit (named after a rehab ward) has recently propelled his name into the spotlight of Americana even further. As Rolling Stone said, he blew up his life, went to rehab, then became the face of Southern-gothic heartache. Now he’s touring the country with his wife, Amanda Shires, whose solo career is also taking off, and their daughter Mercy.
“If We Were Vampires” won Song of the Year at the Americana Awards in September.
Intro: If We Were Vampires, Cumberland Gap, Hope the High Road
For fans of Josh Ritter, John Prine, Conor Oberst, Langhorne Slim, Ryan Adams
Gary Clark Jr
Hurray for the Riff Raff
I’m With Her
Hiss Golden Messenger
The Secret Sisters
2018 Americana Awards and Honors ** This one is the best
Niche Genre – Modern Protest Songs
In the name of Americana, Bob Dylan, and Election Day, I wanted to give some shoutouts to modern-day protest songs. This is an art that is slowly coming back as politics heat up. And though it’s sad that it takes messy politics for people to write songs with clear opinions, I think it’s valuable to share. Though protest songs have been around for ages, Bob Dylan himself had a big hand in bringing them into the zeitgeist when he first sang “The Times They Are A-Changin’” in 1963. So here’s a short list of some modern protest songs:
“The Times They Are A-Changin’” – Brandi Carlile cover
“Casanova” – Rayland Baxter
“Jumbo” – Punch Brothers
“Woman” – Cat Power, feat. Lana Del Ray
“You are the Problem Here” – First Aid Kit
“Make America Great Again” – Frank Turner
“Nina Cried Power” – Hozier
“This is America” – Childish Gambino