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With The Americana Music Festival (aka Americanafest) happening last week in nearby Nashville, this would be a great time to look at what Americana music is.

The first definition we will use is from the article by Harry Lipson in the online music journal, No Depression: the Journal of Roots Music, “How do you define Americana music?”

Americana music is the fertile ground where Rock, Roots, Bluegrass, Celtic, Southern Rock, Appalachian, “Austin alternative country,” Folk, and the Delta blues collide and flourish.

Here is another definition from Wikipedia:

Americana is an amalgam of American folk 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, and other external influences. Americana, as defined by the Americana Music Association (AMA), 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.

Americana band performing at Americana Music FestivalHere at Tresbear Music, we see ourselves as influenced by a number of music genres, including Americana. My music, consisting primarily of acoustic instrumentals, is specifically influenced by Americana music along with its roots in folk, country, and blues. Bob Nobles, a native Texan, will shortly be releasing a vocal CD, “Windmills and Wheatfields.” He has direct roots from the Texas country tradition that he grew up in. Americana has grown up here in Nashville in the shadow of commercial music, but has a proud tradition emphasizing its reflection in a country music that is hard to find on the radio. More likely Americana will be seen up close and personal in small venues and honky-tonks. We are happy to welcome the diverse genre that is Americana music to Nashville to celebrate its existence and continued success.

As Emerging Artist Winner of the Year at the Americana Music Award Show was quoted as saying about Americana, “I think for me you know Americana means just more rooted music. It’s nice that there’s a place for that and you’ve got the pop world and it’s pretty glisteny and it’s nice that they seem to care about art and lyrics and people playing real instruments.” She mentions rooted and implies that Americana is an attempt to reach back into the roots or beginnings of different genres of music. listed the top Americana artists of all time. The top five have recently included:

  • The Band
  • Bob Dylan
  • Neil Young
  • Johnny Cash
  • Lucinda Williams
  • Steve Earle
  • Jason Isbell

A quick look at that list and one quickly sees artists that have been successful in a number of genres of music. While most have had commercial hits, all have maintained a strong following outside of commercial music. All represent very fundamental approaches to music and have stayed close to the roots of the genres they represent to the point where they stand on their own across genres. Bob Dylan toured and recorded with The Band and recorded with Johnny Cash. Jason Isbell won both the Album of the Year award and Song of the Year award at the 2016 Americana Music Award Show in Nashville.

Tresbear Music continues to incorporate Americana music in our music.

Resources – Americana music: Genres of influence

Americana music banner graphic

Americana online radio stations

Americana 2016 honors & awards