The Friday BBQ Spotifys have been few and far between lately, but leave it to a pandemic to enable me to not only start doing those again, but also give me the time to lay the groundwork for something I’ve always wanted to do – a weekly radio show of Americana music. And just to review for those of you who don’t already know – Wikipedia defines Americana music as “an amalgam of American music formed by the confluence of the shared and varied traditions that make up the musical ethos of the United States, specifically those sounds that are merged from folk, country, blues, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, gospel, and other external influences.” I prefer to extend that to Tejano, Southern soul, R&B, indie, and alternative, and basically anything from all those pieces that is hard for corporate music to categorize into 3 or 4 major groups, which means it most likely never gets played on regular radio.
And that’s too bad, because there’s a lot of great Americana music out there. And as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t even have to have been recorded in America. I once saw a Japanese duo open up for Lyle Lovett, and they were so good that I could close my eyes and imagine them being from The Great Plains. Listen to First Aid Kit from Sweden sometime. They wrote a song for their idol Emmylou Harris that made her cry.
Up this week is a relatively predictable set of Americana choices, with a couple of mild surprises. In coming weeks, and when the radio show begins, I’ll venture more out on the fringes. Who Knows is from Upstate, a band from New York’s Hudson Valley grounded in gorgeous harmonies. The Anacondas from Great Britain are channeling 60’s surf music with Kalahari. Orgone is an American band from Los Angeles – the group’s sound draws from 1960s and 1970s-era funk and soul, and they’re feeling the spirit of New Orleans with Goodbye Nola. The Way Down Wanderers blend bluegrass music with the underlying emotion of hip-hop with Path to Follow, and Ryan Montbleau starts to realize he can’t tie one on like he used to in 75 and Sunny, and maybe that’s just fine. Next up, rock/folk stalwart Deer Tick is trying to reclaim lost love in Twenty Miles.
Blue-eyed soul is rhythm and blues and soul music performed by white artists. The term was coined in the mid-1960s, to describe white artists who performed soul and R&B that was similar to the music of the Motown and Stax record labels. One of its best proponents is Kat Wright from Burlington, Vermont, and she’s seeking redemption with The River. Then, folk/blues aficionados The Wood Brothers are wrestling in Happiness Jones with the notion that happiness is not really a helpful state of being. Left My Woman showcases the harmonies of triple lead singers in Nashville country-rockers The Wild Feathers, wrestling with the touring life of musicians. This list concludes with a group of Americana blues rock legends. When perennial top-ten female guitarist Susan Tedeschi joined forces with fellow blues guitarist husband Derek Trucks to create the Tedeschi Trucks Band, they quickly won the 2012 Grammy Award for Best Blues Album. Don’t Know What It Means is an anthem for self-actualization.
Enjoy this dose of Americana, and have a terrific safely-masked socially-distanced late-spring weekend everyone.