Intro to Americana – 5 Albums To Get You Started

This si a post for people that night have seen me at Jessica Northy’s excellent online talk show TwangOut. I asked my incredibly well-informed Twitter followers what 5 albums they would recommend to someone just coming to Americana for the first time. Here’s their choices. Of course for a genre as rich as this 5 is just scratching the surface so please leave your choices in the comments section and let’s make this a post for anyone wanting to discover this great music.

Lucinda Williams : Car Wheels On A Gravel Road – This album is Lucinda’s opus and has firmly established her as the Queen of Americana

Uncle Tupelo – No Depression – For many people, including me, this is the band that started them on the road to Americana. After their break up in 1994 principle members Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy went on to form Son Volt and Wilco respectively.

Whiskeytown – Strangers Almanac – Ryan Adams veers between spinning gems and a insufferable self-indulgence. 16 Days from this excellent album show’s him at his best.

Gram Parsons – Grievous Angel – If there was ever a singular person you could point to as the Patron Saint of Americana, it would be Gram Parsons. He influenced the Rolling Stones, the Eagles and Emmylou Harris, who joins him on Love Hurts, with his brand of Cosmic American Music.

Old 97’s – Too Far to Care -This is my personal choice. Yes Rhett and the boys are a pivotal ban, but more importantly theyre from my home town of Dallas!

Americana Music and the Big Tent

This morning the Americana Music Association  shared a link to an online (Meet the New Stars of Americana) past covering the Americana scene in Red Hook Brooklyn and touching on the Americana genre in general.

I take a view much like I believe Jed Hilly and the AMA do, since they sent this article out via twitter and their own official email blast, that any press is good press and it helps to lift all Americana boats in the ocean of mass-media and National consciousness.  It takes a real aberration of opinion, like calling Robert Plant the King of Americana or declaring the predecessor to Americana, to be dead , to rile my feathers enough to take use this blog as a virtual soap box..

But the article is pretty much what i would expect from Spin magazine. A 20-something speaking using context of indy-rock and language of 20-somethings to establish shared taste and like-mindedness. Ever generation does this. Have you listened to most 20-somethings on the  train talking to one another? It’s like razor wire, like, for your, like, ears. Right?!

I’m just glade that in this instance Uncle Tupelo , Whiskeytown and Bill Monroe are the topic of conversation instead of the whatever skinny-jean and hoodied is the flavor of the week.

If there’s anything in the article that peeves me it’s the reference to Americana pioneer Gillian Welch, who co-produced of the 9 million unit selling O, Brother, Where Art Thou and Alison Krauss, the most awarded woman in Grammy history (26 awards of  38 nominations) as “niche acts.” I think most musicians would love to have that niche. there is also the painfully ham-handed application of sub-genre definitions – “chillbilly, bootgaze, artisanal rock, outhouse, tin can alley, or hobohemian.”

Fans of Americana share, aside from band-wagoners, share a lot of the same attributes as folk, blues and jazz fans. there is a reverence to a purity and reverence to an idea of “tradition” that sometimes gets in the way of innovation and creativity. But in the case of Americana, a mongrel genre at best, the litmus of genre purity, or as I like to call it the “more authentic than thou” argument, makes no sense for a field that can claim genre-bending acts like Those Darlin’s , Hank Williams III and the Legendary Shack Shakers as members.

Washboard lessons held in Brooklyn, John Deere caps and pearl-snap shirts from Urban Outfitters  and a vague grasp of bluegrass history is no threat to Americana.  Age, geography, wardrobe or other litmus tests aside from the musical variety which I partake in ad nauseam, is pure horseshit.

Willie Nelson Twitter Interview

  • Willie Nelson will join for a live “Twitterview” next Tuesday, Aug. 25, the same day as the release of his newest album American Classic. You can watch the live chat with Willie, starting at 7:00 PM ET on Tuesday, if you follow Willie Nelson and  on Twitter.
  • Joe Pug will be joining Steve Earle on his upcoming European tour. Pug’s  debut LP “Messenger” will be released in early 2010.
  • Austin’s jazz and western swing band Hot Club of Cowtown has released their new, Wishful Thinking.
  • The New York Time reviews a show at Joe’s Pub by Works Progress Administration (WPA). the expandable collective, featuring core members Luke Bulla (Lyle Lovett), Sean Watkins (Nickel Creek) and Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket) and on this night featuring Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek) pedal steel guitarist and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Greg Leisz (Bill Frisell, Dave Alvin, Lucinda Williams,  Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell, Whiskeytown, and Robert Plant and Alison Krauss and many more)
  • Chet Flippo sees compelling storytelling in videos by Toby Keith and Brad Paisley in his newest Nashville Skyline post. I see trite, if mildly clever,  symbolism  mirroring the trite song they represent. For shear technical and style excellence I still have to go with this one.


Whiskeytown’s 1997 Strangers Almanac to be Released as Deluxe Version

Ryan Adams, musical legend or precocious twit? I think there’s an argument to be made either way – but one thing there’s no argument on is that Adams early Band, Raleigh, NC’s Whiskeytown, made some of the best damn music in it’s short existence.

Whiskeytown’s 1997 major label debut, Strangers Almanac will be re-released in a deluxe, 2-CD edition on March 4, 2008 on Geffen/UMe/Mood Food/Outpost.

During the time of the recording the band was led by a 22-year-old Adams and was in a certain level of turmoil: There was a new rhythm section (bassist Jeff Rice and drummer Steven Terry joined Adams, Cary and Wandscher), band member fiddler-singer-songwriter Caitlin Cary was in a relationship with the former drummer Eric “Skillet” Gilmore, Adams had been offered his own solo deal and they had no guitars because they had been misplaced during the trip to Nashville. The acoustic guitar heard on Strangers Almanac was bought in a pawnshop.

Disc one is the original album plus five previously unreleased live public radio performances. 17 of the 19 recordings on the second disc were previously unreleased recordings and are from the pre-production sessions for Strangers Almanac (commonly referred to as the Barn’s On Fire sessions). Intimate acoustic demos of “16 Days,” “Avenues” and “Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart,” are included plus several original songs making their premieres in the Whiskeytown catalog: “Kiss & Make-Up,” “Indian Gown,” “Barn’s On Fire,” “Streets Of Sirens,” “Breathe,” “Nurse With The Pills” and “10 Seconds.” Also included are covers of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” Gram Parsons’ “Luxury Liner,” Johnny Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone” and an early version of the True Believers’ “The Rain Won’t Help You When It’s Over.”

If this release comes anywhere close to the treatment reached by the Lucinda Williams’ Car Wheels on a Gravel Road and The Allman Brothers Band Eat a Peach deluxe editions it should be a great addition for Ryan fans.