Country music has always had carpetbaggers trying to cash in on the mother lode that the genre holds. Bing Crosby wrapped his silky baritone around Gene Autry and the Sons of the Pioneers songs.Aussie Olivia Newton-John was named the Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year in 1974 (beating out Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, and Tanya Tucker!) and recently we’ve seen Jessica Simpson, Bon Jovi, Gweneth Paltrow the likes of Hootie (Darius Rucker) with very different levels of success.
Though more open in it’s path to entrance, Americana has also had its share of musicians that have come from their well-trod genre and gone over the figurative prairie and through the hollers toward roots and alt.country music. Elvis Costello, Robert Plant and John Fogerty have moved toward American though the move to get there is less of a career lurch than the aforementioned country list. I also believe that the motives of musicians that move to Americana are purer than those that move to the largess of Nashville’s Music Row style of country music. They payout is certainly less but the music is much, much better.
Recently I learned that Tommy Shaw of Styx fame making a bluegrass album. Whatever you think of 70’d rock Styx was a staple of that era and had some of the best songs of the era and Shaw penned some of the bands most enduring hits, including the rousing ode to the common bubba “Blue Collar Man.” Born in Montgomery, Alabama is a son of the South and , like comedian Steve Martin, Shaw has decided to tackle the most difficult form of roots music – bluegrass. As I once heard a wise man say “There are no slackers in a bluegrass band.”
“The Great Divide” was released on March 22nd and I have yet to hear the entire album, but based on what I see from the video clips I’m a believer and welcome Shaw’s skill and passion to the roots music fold.