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Old 02-15-2013, 07:22 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Nice thread.

New member at these forums, and thought I'd try to add to the conversation.

I consider myself a fan of Americana, but honestly find it a bit difficult to distinguish (if it is different) from genres such as Alt-Country, and I guess as this thread groups it, with Roots music.

I kind of started into Americana due to more recent Ry Cooder albums, namely what are identified as his California trilogy starting with Chavez Ravine, which Allmusic called Americana, while my favorite album of his is I-Flathead. I haven't explored much of his earlier work. As someone else stated, he can be a bit overwhelming.

I ended up exploring more Americana once I had found those three albums, and have found many albums that AMG calls Americana that I enjoy, although they are all much more recent than the list put up by the OP. The following list is also shows a small bias towards musicians with a Mexican American / Southwest bias, mostly because I grew up in an area where Mariachi music and Mexican music reigned higher than a lot. I'm not a big fan of strictly Mexican music, but I enjoy the Southwestern Sound.

That leads to a lot of my favorite "Americana" albums being rooted in the band Calexico and its members. They get themselves involved in a lot of projects besides their own releases.

My list of Americana and Roots albums I like:



Again, some of these probably aren't quite Americana, but they all work for me and I find them enjoyable. Most of the artists above are worth checking out if you are curious about the genre; just keep in mind that an artist like Robert Plant normally is not Americana (although the Raising Sand album with Allison Krauss fits, too).
Welcome to MB, then, emalvick, and thanks for adding your ideas to this Americana enthusiasts´ thread. One of the nice things about being enthusiasts is that we don`t have to worry too much about genres unless we want to.

The Ry Cooder albums that you mention are precisely the ones that I don`t know; the first Cooder album I heard was his 1976 album, Chicken Skin Music but I`m not up to date with his latest stuff. If you like a touch of TexMex in your Americana - as I do - you should like Chicken Skin Music as it has some great Norteño accordian playing by Flaco Jimenez. (Texmex ? Norteño ? I`m throwing these labels around as if I actually knew what they meant !)

Anyway, I really like Calexico too, especially their instrumental tracks. Talking of their side projects, I wonder if you know this track, in which they are featured guest artists :-



Comes from an album I keep planning to investigate called Tijuana Sessions vol. 3. Any comments/opinion about Nortec Collective ?
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Old 02-15-2013, 07:54 PM   #22 (permalink)
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I listened to a lot of those albums on the list in the 70's and 80's before the term Americana was even used in the music industry. Back then it was just country-rock or blues-rock. I wouldn't consider myself an expert. I'd say I'm an intermediate roots music connoissuer.
^ Yes, it`s pretty much the same for me too, Tbone. For instance Dwight Yoakam, who you mention, is a guy that I saw live in a London pub about 35 years ago. Thanks for the reminder ...

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And you don't have to be American to do American roots music. Mumford & Sons are blokes too and they came away with Album of the Year for an Americana album. And yes Shoot Out The Lights is an awesome album. I've worn out my vinyl of it decades ago. Never got it on CD so I haven't listenned to it since...?..omg...the early 90's. Shame on me. I'll have to listen to it again somehow.
Good point about the nationality, which I hadn`t really considered before - unfortunately, it makes Americana even more difficult to pin down.
Ok, that`s a serious recommendation for Shoot Out The Lights, so I really should check it out. Thanks.

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I'm not worried about the Grammys...they are what they are. I'm glad an Americana band won. Sort of redeems them for missing the boat on Tempest...but not much. I've tried writing a review on Tempest but I'm not very good. My words can't give it justice. A lot of fine writers on Amazon wrote some very insightful reviews.
^ Wouldn`t worry too much about the literary quality of anything you write. MB is only occassionally patrolled by Grammar Police, and you`ve been doing fine at expressing yourself so far.
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Old 02-16-2013, 10:20 AM   #23 (permalink)
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Thanks for posting so many recommendations, j.w.

Last night I listened to, and enjoyed, the O`Be Joyful track; well, you spoke highly of the band and they have an intriguing name. I was very impressed with the lead singer, but thought the backing was a bit "thin" somehow. Don`t you feel that they`re missing an instrument or two ?
They're a two piece, it makes a little more sense in the live setting...



Cary Ann's last solo record is a "full instrumentation" affair, they did it with Butch Walker. You may enjoy it more.



Will definitely check this stuff out.
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Old 02-16-2013, 10:34 AM   #24 (permalink)
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And you don't have to be American to do American roots music. Mumford & Sons are blokes too and they came away with Album of the Year for an Americana album.
I object to them being nominated in the Americana category. I think that record kind of has some irish folk roots with the banjo & the strumming, which some Americana may share, but the song arrangements aren't Americana, the melodies aren't Americana... I just don't think it stands up to scrutiny. The melodies are like a contemporary christian take on Dave Matthews, & the arrangements are like Coldplay with a stomp beat. And the lyrics are like a particularly self-righteous take on U2/Coldplay. And they pull all of emotional strings that the Vineyard worship bands do (the strings, those big piano chords on the diamonds, the big crescendos & the drop outs), which is the church the guy's parents started.

It's about as Americana as Taylor Swift is country, only less. They're really just dressing the part, & adding in a couple of Avett Brothers harmonies & calling it day. It's pop music masquerading as Americana. And I think a lot of great Americana records could've gotten some exposure in that category when Mumford & Sons were already all over the show.
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Old 02-18-2013, 02:30 PM   #25 (permalink)
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I object to them being nominated in the Americana category. I think that record kind of has some irish folk roots with the banjo & the strumming, which some Americana may share, but the song arrangements aren't Americana, the melodies aren't Americana... I just don't think it stands up to scrutiny. The melodies are like a contemporary christian take on Dave Matthews, & the arrangements are like Coldplay with a stomp beat. And the lyrics are like a particularly self-righteous take on U2/Coldplay. And they pull all of emotional strings that the Vineyard worship bands do (the strings, those big piano chords on the diamonds, the big crescendos & the drop outs), which is the church the guy's parents started.

It's about as Americana as Taylor Swift is country, only less. They're really just dressing the part, & adding in a couple of Avett Brothers harmonies & calling it day. It's pop music masquerading as Americana. And I think a lot of great Americana records could've gotten some exposure in that category when Mumford & Sons were already all over the show.
They performed a song from their twice nominated album Babel and participated in the Levon Helm tribute. Is that what you mean by all over the show?

The Americana music genre has only been around in the mainstream music industry since ‘95 and it has only been a Grammy category since 2010. In that short time I think the Grammy's are doing a good job promoting the genre. I’m no expert in what categorizes an artist or album as Americana but I do know that Mumford & Sons is recognized as Americana by the Americana Music Association (AMA) which is the authority on this music. I’d assume the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences would concur with them before choosing their Americana album nominations.

I preferred Babel getting Album the Year rather than Best Americana Album since that allowed Bonnie Raitt’s Slipstream to rightfully win it. I would have rather seen her perform over Mumford & Sons any day but seeing her perform at the AMA awards made up a little for not seeing her perform at the Grammy’s.

At least you got to give thumbs up for the immense exposure Babel is giving to the genre after winning Album of the Year. I personally would have much rather seen Bob Dylan’s Tempest take their spot but grievances aside the Grammy’s did no wrong this year for bringing Americana to the forefront of popular music.


Here's Bonnie Raitt at the AMA awards 2012 with John Hiatt.


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Old 02-19-2013, 01:45 PM   #26 (permalink)
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Interesting, I never would have considered Mumford and Sons Americana, but I am no authority on the genre nor was I aware that they had even been nominated as an Americana album. Thankfully, best album is non-genre specific.

Actually, I only figured out I liked Americana when Amazon started recommending me Americana albums based on ones I had bought that I just bought because I liked the music.

As for the genre gaining exposure... even though there wasn't a formal Americana category, I feel that the successes of albums like the Plant & Krauss album a few years ago amongst others would do more for the genre than Mumford and Sons.

Pinning down an Americana genre isn't really easy, which I'm fine with. I like the fact that it blurs the genre lines between rock, country, and folk. Creativity is best when it respects no boundaries.
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Old 02-20-2013, 02:16 PM   #27 (permalink)
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Yeah, people who buy Mumford & Sons records are going to buy Dave Matthews Band records or Coldplay records or the Lumineers or U2 or whatever. No one's going to buy Bonnie Raitt or John Fullbright's record because Mumford & Sons won album of the year.

There's a whole slew of pop music that's positioning itself as Americana, & it's far worse than it is good. Taylor Swift soaking up all of the country music exposure is not ultimately good for an artist like Jamey Johnson. That kind of homogenization--the appeal to the lowest common denominator--is terrible for the people who want authentic americana or country music. These acts aren't "gateway" artists, there's not enough (or any) authentic americana or country in them to actually segue into the authentic acts. This is the "countrypolitanization" of Americana. But it's not even that, because it's so far from Americana. It's just a bunch of people agreeing to call it Americana because they wear suspenders & play a banjo.

Drives me nuts.
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Old 02-20-2013, 09:12 PM   #28 (permalink)
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Interesting, I never would have considered Mumford and Sons Americana, but I am no authority on the genre nor was I aware that they had even been nominated as an Americana album. Thankfully, best album is non-genre specific.
Not directly specific when it's awarded but it's generally known from the performances during the awards show from what genre or sub-category an Album of the Year comes from. Americana is more tricky right now because it hasn't been around that long but people are getting more and more familiar with the category. Especially rap, soul, country and rock fans who say..."What!?!...who the hell are THEY?..my favorite artist lost to an Americana band?...that sucks."

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As for the genre gaining exposure... even though there wasn't a formal Americana category, I feel that the successes of albums like the Plant & Krauss album a few years ago amongst others would do more for the genre than Mumford and Sons.
Actually Plant & Krauss' Raising Sand DID do a lot for the genre. And there actually was a formal Grammy category in 2009 for Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album and Raising Sand did win it as well as winning the Album of the Year. In 2010 they split that category up to make a distinction between the use of acoustic vs. electric instruments. Best Contemporary Folk Album reflects predominately acoustic instruments and Best Americana Album reflects predominately electric instruments. Even though acoustic instruments are often present and essential to Americana music it often uses full electric bands as well.

But now it's already been over four years since Raising Sand and most of us like me have moved ahead witnessing a great growth in popularity of this young genre. Mumford & Sons' Babel winning Grammy Album of the Year is just another great moment in it's short history. Some people may not like it because they have their own opinions of what they believe Americana music should be. But what people think it should be and what it actually IS are two different things.


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Pinning down an Americana genre isn't really easy, which I'm fine with. I like the fact that it blurs the genre lines between rock, country, and folk. Creativity is best when it respects no boundaries.
It was effectively 'pinned down' in 1995. The whole idea of creating an Americana genre in the first place was to not continue to have blurred lines between the established mainstream genres but to incorporate those elements of American roots music (country, bluegrass, folk, rock ‘n’ roll, R & B and blues) into a distinctive roots-oriented sound. A sound that stands apart from the styles of music from which it draws. And by definition now that Americana music is a genre it does have to respect the boundaries that are true only to American roots music.
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Old 02-21-2013, 10:49 AM   #29 (permalink)
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It's still yet to be explained to me how Mumford & Sons are "true to American roots music." The influences seem to be U2 (Irish), Dave Matthews (arguably South African), Coldplay (British), & Vineyard praise & worship (Australian/British).

It's pop songs, the influences are international. You just don't hear these epic crescendo arrangements (which is pretty much the only thing Mumford & Sons can do) in American roots music. I guess the 5-string banjo is an American innovation, but is that really enough to qualify?

I mean, at the end of the day, the Grammy awards are a democratic process, & the results are more an indictment of the voting pool than they say anything about the acts themselves, & I'm not trying to suggest that there's anything empirical about the nomination one way or the other, but I still feel like this should come across like Jethro Tull beating Metallica for best metal record to any real Americana fan.

I'm not trying to say what Americana is or should be, necessarily, only what it isn't.
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