Has Americana become too big to explain? Are we hanging on to it like flotsam in a flood, because we're not sure what'll happen if we let go?
     We played The Hideaway in St. Petersburg, Florida, last year, and the act the following week had posted her music as Post Brontosaurus Indie Folk/Crunk.
     Waylon's kid calls his music XXX. Then there's Roots Music, Indie and alt. Country. In our PR, we sometimes call our Lucky Mud music pre-Nashville Americana. May as well call it Cluster Folk. We'll be playing a gig in Ireland in November at a pub that has one night of music billed as What-the-Folk?
     I'm watching more and more conversations here on ND that begin with an interesting thought, but quickly hit a downhill slide of recrimination and petty bickering. I don't count myself out of the fray, but I've begun to worry.
     Many, many years ago someone asked me if The Osmonds were rock and roll. Seems silly, until you try to explain the Drive-By Truckers, Robert Plant and Hank, Sr., as Americana.
     Is there a way to dissect Americana without killing it?  It seems like a legitimate question, not just a word game, but I ain't sure. Should I just shut up and enjoy the ride?Any thoughts, or has this horse been beaten way past dead? Just asking.......

Views: 261

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Hi there, Just listened to you Bad Girls. I'd say, just keep doing what you're doing, let go of the flotsam and enjoy the ride!  I love your music. It's an on going conversation. One where we can all get lost in semantics, over-labeling, over-analysis and opinion. All of that is fine. I'm learning, as I get older, not take any of it too seriously.thought it's not easy being a life-long obssessive compulsive music fan..but, then, there goes another label!  For me, Americana seems to be less a 'genre' as a kind of gathering of the music somehow rooted in our cultural origins. It's the music I've always enjoyed that I never could find a specific catagory for so I always had to add a hyphen, but I knew it when I heard it.  A good example for me is The Band's second album. For me, it was just music that couldn't be put into a specific catagory or genre, but belonged to American folk, blues, rock and even some jazz. So, for me...not genre, but gathering.....at the river, if you will.  

"Gathering--- at the river"  a lovely analogy that fits my music loving self's passion  quite well. In general I find  labeling to be subjective, confining and limiting.

This is my first post, inspired by the sincerity of this thread. Terry Roland's response is beautiful... and spot on. The Band always comes to mind for me too, because they were tough to pigeonhole and were free to experiment to their hearts' content - without losing touch with that roots connection that made them so great. Americana doesn't need a fine point put on it; we know some of the things it's not (super-slicked over formulaic pop/country/R&B etc), and if there's a diversity of ideas about what it is, that, to me, is a sign of health.

Somewhere in the late 60s, after The Byrds had made their stand, other bands began showing up in the same genre. Poco, Hearts and Flowers, Mesa, Mason Profitt. Suddenly, we had Folk Rock. It began growing, from Pure Prairie League to Marshall Tucker until it became as much Southern Rock as Folk. Charlie Daniels, back when he was the old Lefty (otherwise known as Long-Haired Country Boy) slipped in with a few songs. Groups like Dr. Hook, early on when they were brilliant and crazy and singing Shel Silverstein songs, bent the genre even more. Cover of the Rolling Stone/ True Love/ Sylvia's Mother.

     This doesn't mean the genre got weaker, just harder to explain. Then again, I think about crap like this way too much.  Thanks for giving me company.   I appreciate your thoughts.          Mike

Is Lucky Mud's music Americana? Is that the question?

It's up to you. To many it's obviously become a symboly of righteousness and purity in artistic expression. That's good I guess. To me, "Americana" is an adhesive backed piece of paper on the shrink wrap on a jewel case on a CD which may or may not contain something worth listening to. It's an underlined word in blue that links me to a music player that may or may not sound like country or rock or folk. It's a brand, golden arches, the 'swoosh'. It's not the burger or the shoe. (though the burger and the shoe taste about the same)


Is it Americana?

Will "Americana" mean more clicks, more plays, more sales, more shows booked, more tickets sold? If not, do you still care what it's called? I would certainly affix the label to the Lucky Mud tracks I heard just because people who are looking for it may find it there.


Last night I attended the Jim Dickinson Folk Festival at the Levitt Shell in Memphis. Lineup = Sons of Mudboy, Jimbo Mathus & the Tri-State Coalition, Lucero, North Mississippi Allstars, and Mojo Nixon & the Yalobushwackers. If we were to try to classify the genre throughout the night, there would be more genres than bands. The main thing they had in common was that if you threw all the musicians into a cement mixer and pulled out any 3 of them at random, that group could play distinctly American music for hours.


     To be honest, mine was a poorly-asked question. I somehow pulled the collective 'our music' out of the air to frame  it as a question. Truth is, as I get near finishing a project, either a novel or a new CD (and this time it's both at the same time), I tend to pace like a raccoon in a cage. I fret, drink too much and get restless.

     Then I come up with poorly-asked questions. This one is always with me because I've been playing the same style of music for a whole lot of years, and within the last couple it's been termed Americana. It's like ADD - I'm the poster-child for it, but there was no such thing in the time I grew up. We were just called rambunctious, or a pain in the ass. Suddenly, it had a name and I didn't warm up to it. So, I like what you said to me. 'if you threw all the musicians into a cement mixer and pulled out any 3 of them at random, that group could play distinctly American music for hours'.

     That's the best answer I've heard, and I'll quit griping about it (for a while).

     Thanks,       Mike

This is a bit like the old Buddhist parable of the blind men describing an elephant ..

The first one touches the trunk and says that the elephant is like a snake (long and twisting and quite   rough to the touch)

The second blind man touches the elephant's leg and says that  it is like a  tall tree ..



So the moral is ...it's all up to one's perception both the examples shown here are correct from each standpoint ...but because so much is contained under this umbrella  it's often  difficult to pin it down


Is it possible I just got spammed by Steven Clark with a nonsensical statement containing a link to generic viagra? What the hell just happened?


I always think of these guys as something akin to a flea infestation. Time to break out the spray....I sure would hate to think of this as a trend. This site is way too cool for that crap.

Thanks for letting me know about the spammer. I suspended him from the site which automatically removes all his comments. Appreciate everyone keeping a look out for that sort of thing and letting me know asap if you see it so we can keep it away as much as possible!

I think "Americana" is a useful enough label. When I drop it in a search engine, I generally find people who have a similar asthetic sense regarding music. Unfortunately, the vague criteria regarding how this term groups musical styles together, makes it a problem when you start the process of "ungrouping" or dissecting what someone else slaps with that label. At that point, for me at least, listening becomes more important than labeling. Is what I'm hearing something that I like?

Generally, I consider Americana to be music that interpolates American roots music forms (blues, folk, southern/mountain string band, western swing, gospel) primarily for personal expression rather than commercial purposes. I may have left out some of the roots forms (ragtime?) and haven't mentioned the second-generation  (rock and roll, bluegrass, soul, rockabilly, etc.) or third-generation (grunge, punk, reggae, etc.) influences that I hear in my Americana, but I think as a general rule what I said is pretty close. So - if yer music gots some roots and yer gonna play it whether anyone else is listening to it or not, I'd probably consider it "Americana"  

For what it's worth, I'd be happy that your music is good (which it is) and not spend too much effort thinking about what genre label to put on it. Those terms are becoming more and more meaningless with each passing day.


Perhaps it's because I am a Tom Waits addict, but I've never had much use for genre labels. What genre exactly is a Tom Waits album? Seems to me it differs from song to song.


I'm with Miles Davis on this one, "Call it Anything."


Or, keeping in the vein of this forum... as Steve Earle put it "There's two kinds of music, good music and bad music."



If you enjoy this site please consider helping us with a small donation!

Don't like PayPal? Mail a check to: No Depression, 460 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108

When you shop at Amazon please enter through this search box and No Depression receives a referral fee



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