A discussion on genre from local roots, country, folk and Americana artists. 

Americana is one of those amorphous genres that’s open to interpretation. Got a banjo in your band? That’s Americana. Tell stories about your travels in God’s Country or whiskey-swilling through song? There you go, Americana. List Hank Williams, Wanda Jackson or Pete Seeger as an influence? Yup. Americana. We picked the brains of a few of our most difficult-to-pigeonhole bands in town who’ve at one point or another copped the Americana moniker as to what broadly defines the nation’s most American-by-definition genre.

I think “Americana” as a term for music represents more of an attitude than any particular style. It’s a musical umbrella that contains the authentic American houses of rock n’ roll, blues, country, folk, gospel, bluegrass, gypsy Jazz and so forth. But more than that, it’s a tip of the hat to all who share heritage and culture of this land, and with the American Spirit; socially, culturally, creatively, politically … Past and present. Reverence and rebellion. What we make it.

-Chadley Kolb, Coyote Kolb

A bunch of bullshit that can’t find a home anywhere else.

-Ward Hayden, Girls Guns and Glory

“Americana” is any type of American music that’s mindful of history, the equivalent of paying respect to your elders, be it your distinguished professor grandmother or crazy ranting grandpa.  These days, any band that uses a mandolin or even an acoustic guitar may be considered Americana, and we like to think of it as broader than that. We’ll draw from country music, and we’ll also draw from classic R&B, soul and blues.  To us, all of that is Americana, so maybe our umbrella is a bit bigger than those of most radio or record-store-label-makers, and maybe we stayed awake during history class.

-Naseem Khuri, Kingsley Flood

When I think of quintessential “Americana” artists, I think of people like Jeff Tweedy, Ryan Adams, Lucinda Williams or Townes Van Zandt. For me, the grandaddy of them all will always be Gram Parsons. He brought a gypsy spirit and a Beat sensibility to country music, catapulting it into the counterculture of the ‘60s. Even before Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, Gram brought country music into outer space. He was like Hank Williams on peyote, or if somebody had snuck a few hits of acid into George Jones’ mason jar full of white lightning. He had the whole package: a perfect storm of mischief and Southern manners, charisma for miles, an air of mystery and tragedy about him, a mess of really great songs, and of course that voice … aching, vulnerable, sanctified and utterly heartbreaking.

-Thom Valicenti, Mount Peru

A donkey jawbone, of course!

-David Wax and Suz Slezak, the David Wax Museum

That it’s somehow a fad.  If you look at the definition of the word “Americana” outside of music it is an artifact of our culture. To me, that is what music is. You can call it whatever you like, but it’s still rock n’ roll to me.

-Dan Nicklin, Oldjack

Very bright!  Popular music trends are constantly changing, but history has shown that people always come back to “real” music. Americana/roots artists have the advantage of appealing to a broad spectrum of people that appreciate pure and honest music.

-David DeLuca, Highway Ghosts

Americana is founded in positivity and people having a good time together with music and that will never get old—just in the future it’ll be a guy with an acoustic guitar and cutoff jeans and lots of chest hair singing songs about his spaceship.

-Bridget Kearney, Joy Kills Sorrow


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  1. Will James Will James says:

    Largely agree with Ward’s definition. Just too much that sound the same to me. LOVE Thom’s (Mount Peru) best ever homage to Gram Parsons though (who I don’t think would care for a lot of this stuff they call Americana). Looking forward to the third annual Gram InterNational in Boston (fifth overall). Any interested bands that weren’t insulted by this, email me. Cheers, Will James