2013 will go in the books as the year that Americana and roots settled comfortably into the mainstream. Kids are wearing dust-bowl duds and there is a brisk trade in acoustic guitars and banjos. Bands are taking a page from the Mumford, Avetts and Lumineers book of hand-crafted songs with rousing melodies just begging to be sung at live shows. It’s no longer a rustic throwback fad.
The genre grows more diverse, from folk-pop, Laurel Canyon rock, psych folk, hard-sore honky-tonk and everything that doesn’t neatly fit in other buckets. As genre defying as the music can be it all comes down to the only tis that matters, Great songwriting, evocative, absorbing narratives and memorable melodies that endures the ages.
But first you must find an audience.
ABC music row drama Nashville has done a fine job in highlighting great roots music, under the guidance T Bone Burnett , and now Buddy Miller, as well as classic country references and Americana and roots performer cameos. The show’s cutest stars (and real-life sisters,) Lennon and Maisy Stella, performed the Lumineers omnipresent top-40 hit hit “Hey Ho.” This gave the song an already bigger audience then it originally had. Is that possible?
This July Americana stalwarts Old Crow Medicine Show backed ex-Hootie & the Blowfish front man, and current country music star, Darius Rucker on Old Crow’s version of Bob Dylan’s “Wagon Wheel” at the Grand Ole Opry. The song was recorded with the band and included on his latest album resulting in one of his most popular singles as a solo artist and reaching number one on Billboard Hot Country Songs in its 12th week.
Old Crow Medicine Show then had the honor to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry this fall by Opry members Dierks Bentley and Marty Stuart.
That’s not the only example of music row looking to Americana for material and a shot of inspiration. GRAMMY-winning singer Leann Rimes reached into the Americana well, and beyond her music row comfort zone, on her latest “ Spitfire.” She lends her extraordinary pipes to a searing version of Buddy Miler’s “Gasoline and Matches” in a duet with Rob Thomas. Country music chanteuse and Pistol Annie Ashley Monroe tapped legendary Texas singer-songwriter Guy Clark to collaborate on the title song on her latest “Like a Rose.”
If your looking for evidence of Americana’s mainstream presence you need go no further than SPIN’s list of 20 Best Country Albums of 2013 had Blake Shelton and Brad Paisley mixed with The Civil Wars (12), Jason Isbell (11) and Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell (9) Holly Williams (8) Sturgill Simpson (6) Cailtlin Rose (2).
Entertainment Weekly, the beacon of popular taste, counted a majority of Americana artists on their list of top country releases of 2013 with Jason Isbell and Lindi Ortega taking the number 1 and 2 spot respectively.
As in recent years I even had a hard time limiting myself to a top
10,15, 20+ on my Cream of the Crop – Twang Nation Top Americana and Roots Music Picks of 2013.
T Bone Burnett again joins forces with the Coen Brothers to contribute soundtrack stewardship to thier new 60’s neo-folk focused film. The soundtrack features old folk songs performed by Marcus Mumford , The Punch Brothers along with the film’s actors Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan , Adam Driver and Justin Timberlake, who might use his his work here to jump dart his desired foray into country music.
As the music advances it’s important that a music that celebrate the past honors those that came before. George Jones, the greatest voice in country music and the innovator, Ray Price were both lost to use this year.
We also lost “Cowboy” Jack Clement, As a record and movie producer, songwriter, performing and recording performer and studio engineer, Clement was responsible for for shaping American music in the 20th century.
Premier rock and country journalist Flippo, who documented much of the major changes in country music including the Outlaw movement and one of the original Outlaws Tompall Glaser, both left us in 2013.
Though gone they will boot be forgotten for their contribution to the rich and progressive music we love.
Here’s to the music we love and the performers that endure much to offer their craft to make this world just a little bit better, kinder and more interesting. Here’s to a community that still buys albums, t-shirts and packs local shows and helps these talented folks make music a career.
Here’s to the New Year.