I am trying to make sense of all the various sub-genre descriptions of music within the broad Country genre. No Depression appears to believe that Americana and Alt-Country are interchangeable. But where does Country-Rock sit and then what about Alt-Country Rock. AMG says that Americana has different roots from Country-Rock, and doesn't seem to have a category of Alt Country-rock. Personally I believe that Americana is a much broader genre, currently on a par with Country as a major category, and one that includes all the sub-genres including Alt-Country, Country-Rock, and Alt Country-Rock, as well as several others. However I am open to other suggestions.   

If anyone can respond I would be very grateful


Tony Simmonds

[I have written a doctoral thesis based on Country-Rock and I am now trying to plan a book on Americana]

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Do you think Neil Young & Crazy Horse is "Americana"? Why or why not? (That release may be the tongue-in-cheek answer to your question.)

@ Will James:

I would say Jerry Lee, Little Richard and Chuck Berry could definitely qualify. Jerry Lee took a mixture of Country/Black Juke Joint and Gospel music and mixed it together to create his sound. Little Richard mixed Gospel, Juke Joint Blues and Piedmont Blues styling’s and made up his sound. Chuck Berry Mixed Kansas City Blues/jazz and Country to get his sound.

I personally don't consider Rock n Roll in itself a core American music because by it's nature it's already a mix of core music’s. So Led Zeppelin wouldn't qualify IMO because their sound is not core based.

Everyone has their own definitions but I try to take music back fairly far. The reality is that at a certain point it's purely conjecture. It's like someone saying certain music came from the Caribbean and assuming it's African American yet most of the slaves coming to the colonies in the late 1600's to early 1700's were actually Irish slaves sold into slavery by Cromwell. There were also African slaves arriving at the same time. So who did what is up for a good guess at best.


My own feeling is that there was American folk music that was seperated during the time during and after Reconstruction. Then we have rejoined the music in the past few decades. JIMO

Zepp isn't blues-based? Coulda fooled me.

I'm almost being forced to say I like the way the industry used to do things. I don't need a scholarly dissertation to know to go to the r'n'r bin for Chuck Berry. I'm not saying these discussions aren't fun for some, but, hey, "It's only rock and roll but I like it."

And I love country. And imo, both seem to be dead or dying, and in general I don't see Americana as a replacement for either. (I do point to exceptions such as JTE's performance of "Harlem River Blues" on Letterman, ck YouTube, pure country with just the right amount of pure, genuine and yes innocent energy. That one performance, not everything I hear him do. That's how you do it.)

oops - forgot to add @Tony Simmonds


Tony,  for whatever it's worth, this question pops up around here a few times annually and I myself was guilty of raising the same question a while back. Follow this link to the piece I wrote: http://www.nodepression.com/profiles/blogs/pet-peeve-the-term-ameri...    If you are interested enough to read through 8 pages of comments I think you'll see that "Americana" means very little, despite being widely used and misused.  Rob Bleetstein, who first used the word "Americana" to describe music was among those who commented and his reply is cut and pasted here.  Clearly the word "Americana" took on a life of it's own after Rob's initial intent - as a playlist. 

Far be it from me to stir the pot on this old subject. Ahem.

Comment by Rob Bleetstein on January 12, 2011 at 1:57am
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When asked 'what is it?"  I always liked to refer to it as "every element of country music that you no longer hear on country radio." outside of Jamey Johnson these days of course. But my motivation back in 1995 was to just get the music we love on the radio as the country format continually spiraled into hell and the artists we loved had no real outlet. It could've easily been the alt.country format and alt. country chart, but by '95, the word alternative was used and abused.  So we needed something and Americana is what stuck. Call it whatever you want, as long the music is good and being made and people get off on it, that's what matters.

Could it be that part of what determines the Americana Genre is intent?   ....For instance, bands like Old Crow Medicine Show, Ray Lamontagne, Steve Earle etc etc are "Americana" in the sense the blend music with an intent of paying respect or homage, or whatever you want to call it to the past...I almost feel like a big part of Americana is Nostalgia, both in feel, sound, and lyrics.....

However, I would then consider artists like Jerry Lee, Little Richard and Chuck Berry are not Americana base on the fact they were blending sounds pushing the envelope in new directions developing Rock'n'roll.   

Artists like The Band, would still be considered Americana because of lyrical nostalgia and homages.

This is just kind of a developing theory of mine so, go easy. lol

Kind of sounds like "the medium is the message" in a way, doesn't it? That's a whole other discussion in and of itself, but a good one worth having. I think there's something to it.

The genres of Country, Rock, Country - Rock, Folk , Bluegrass, Jazz et al have been overlapping for decades. Takes a lot of guts to write a thesis trying to make sense of it all!  A definition of Americana becomes all the more difficult when you add in the foreign influences in instrumentation alone. The Guitar is ancient. A fretted Guitar like instrument was found in a tomb 3,000 years old. The Mandolin can trace it's roots to Arabia, refined in Italy after the Moors invaded. Gibson in America took it further with new very radical designs. (A flat back i.e.)  The Banjo is a North African instrument. The fiddle from middle-ages Europe. Americana?  Seems to me it's the Melting Pot of musical genres, like our country itself. Is Americana one thing, or everything? Better left to the scholars, like Tony. Good luck sir. Daunting task.



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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.