What is American Music? Your ultimate guide to the genre

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Americana is undeniably that of musics the fastest growing scenes. That youre a recent recruit or consider yourself an aficionado, there are always new learnings as Americana evolves; with what was once a niche pocket of art constantly citing new inspirations and embracing more traditional artists eager to explore its roots.

Here we provide an overview of the Americana scene, its origins, the exponential growth its live and discover how the Americana Music Association UK defends its artists.

So what is American music?

That’s a great question, the answer to which ist so clear. Not really a genre per se, think of Americana as an umbrella label encompassing a wide range of musical styles.

The Americana Music Association (AMA) explains that Americana, as ‘contemporary music that incorporates elements of various styles of American roots music, including country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B and blues, resulting in a distinctive roots-oriented sound that lives in a changing world out of the pure forms of the genres he can draw on. While acoustic instruments are often present and vital, Americana also often uses an all-electric band.

In a recent interview with OfficialCharts.com, American icon Lucinda Williams agreed that gender can often prove difficult to define. “I think it’s confusing for some people,” she said. “It’s easier to determine if you’re in the industry,” she says. “To me, at first when it first established itself, it seemed like everything that wasn’t more commercially accepted.

“It was the stuff that slipped through the cracks, the songs that didn’t get much radio play. It was the anti-commercial kind.”

When and where was American music born?

American music was born in the 19th and 20th centuries. The first commercial recordings of blues music, for example, were made in the 1920s and 1930s; although the true origins of the blues genre can be traced back to the songs of African-American workers

Again, country music became a commercial genre in the 1920s, while the late 1940s are often considered the commercial beginnings of bluegrass.

What is the state of Alabama’s affiliation with Americana?

A state steeped in music history, Alabama is a mecca for Americana fans. Both FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound Studios are considered essential touchstones in the movement and growth of the Americana genre, and Alabama has spawned genre greats like Hank Williams (often called the first superstar act of Americana) and WC Handy, who is widely recognized as the father of the blues.

Not only is it the home state of some of the scene’s most influential names – including Nat King Cole, The Commodores and Lionel Richie, Candi Staton and Wilson Pickett – it’s also home to iconic locations.

Take Huntsville, Alabama’s incredible new Orion Amphitheater, for example. A stunning new destination for 2022, it is set to host artists like Stevie Nicks and Luke Bryan in October. Learn more about Orion’s Amphitheater here.

Check out our Alabama travel guide, including the state’s must-see destinations for Americana lovers, here.

Taylor Swift’s Evermore contained significant American influence

Throw me a few names – who’s big on the Americana scene right now?

Americana’s influence on the modern music scene cannot be overstated, and some of the biggest bands in the world today have exited the genre with great success.

Chief among them is Taylor Swift – one of the most accomplished songwriters of her generation – whose two UK number 1 albums Folklore and Evermore carry a strong American influence, obvious to fans given that the records focus on intense lyricism and storytelling.

Indie darling Phoebe Bridgers also found success on the official Americana charts with her solid second album Punisher, and rock band The Black Keys continued to influence Americana throughout their career (as on record number 1 Fallout Boogie) and all-time great. Dolly Parton’s recently released album, Run, Ruby, Run, carries a distinct Americana tone and feel.

British acts are no slouch either; The Hampshire-born singer-songwriter scored a number one hit with his ninth album FTHC (Frank Turner Hardcore) and has already won Best-Selling Americana Album with No Man’s Land at the UK Americana Awards. Americana Music Association in 2019.

What is the Americana Music Association UK?

Established in 2012, AMA UK aims to provide a haven for American artists, championing their work and promising a safe space within the music industry.

We caught up with CEO Stevie Smith to get a deeper insight into the Association and why itis so important to the artists he assists.

American icon Lucinda Williams

Stevie – what was the catalyst for the launch of AMA UK?

The AMA was started by two booking agents in 2012, who wanted to make the genre more accessible. for artists and do the gender easier to understand for the public. The AMA in Nashville was the fastest growing music association in the US at the time, so we knew it could work here too.

Americana is such a thriving scene. Has AMA UK’s growth surprised you?

The growth rate was very fast – it was immediately clear that people wanted what we were doing. Artists who fell through the cracks suddenly felt like they had a home, and agents and promoters quickly realized that the Association had helped them create buzz around shows and tours. The start of Americanafest and the official ranking in 2016 was the tipping point that allowed things to grow rapidly. We now have over 1000 members.

What have been your personal highlights during your years as CEO of AMA UK?

The launch of the Official Americana Chart was a highlight. I come from a retail background and used to own a record store, so I knew how much a track record would make the genre a talking point; portion at increase sale of CDs and vinyls. He also legitimized the genre for radio and critics.

Another big highlight was the transfer of our awards to the Hackney Empire in year three – that year Robert Pant received the Lifetime Achievement Award and Mumford & Sons were the recipients of the Trailblazer Award – they ended the show in playing Gallows Pole together, which was an incredible moment that was only decided during soundcheck. The magic of live music happened that night, and everyone in the room knew it!

With thanks to our official Americana Chart partners Sweet Home Alabama. For more information, visit Sweet Home Alabama.

Article image: Jude Palmer

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