Initially….around the late 90’s… I quite liked the term Americana. It summed up a lot of the things I quite liked and put them together in the same section in a great local record shop. Going in for one thing I, invariably, came away with another one or two.
No term is perfect; I remember looking at a John Lennon solo album bought back in the 70’s and laughed (even then) at the advice – file under male/vocal. Yeah…alongside Johnny Mathis and Jim Reeves.
However it’s worth recognising that Americana has allowed people to claim back many of the things they loved about Country Music without feeling the need to adopt its more otherly and usually unnecessary paraphernalia. Americana still values the song, the voice and the simplicity of the music as well as honouring its roots but tends not over worry about 4 x 4 transport and ten gallon hats. It’s also nice to see the Chart Company finally acknowledging the demand for the music by initiating an Americana chart in the UK. I’m not entirely sure about all the people caught up in their category but was pleased to see that First Aid Kit were recognised for the biggest selling album of last year and C Duncan made the chart!
Last week’s initial Americana Awards was a pretty good night. There was a lot of love in the room for the AC from many an artist, record company and fellow broadcaster which was great to experience. There was some really fine live performances from Emily Barker, Gretchen Peters,Lewis and Leigh, Billy Bragg and big winners, Danny and The Champions of The World and there were some well deserved winners. I’m not over certain that I would have picked the same ones or even the nominees but then again I’m pretty sure most people in the room would have different lists in their heads. What was nice for me was that music which often goes under the music business radar was celebrated in fine style and all of us got to hear new things we’d not heard before.
I, inevitably, came away with a pile of records in my hand that I still can’t match to all the faces I met but have found some worthy additions for our playlist.
Interestingly over the last few years one part of Americana which has pleased me is the inclusion within the genre for old school R n B. We’ve seem Solomon Burke, Southside Johnny, Mavis Staples, Candy Staton and recently Frazey Ford all make records which have been warmly accepted in the Americana world but which in essence draw more from Memphis than they do from Nashville. Our guest artist on this week’s show draws not only from these city but his own Alabama roots in Muscle Shoals. Anderson East grew up in Alabama and moved early on in his career to Music City. It was only more recently that he became aware of the great music that was made at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals. So it was there he went to record a great ‘lost’ soul song by George Jackson called ‘Find Em, Fool Em Forget Em.’ Anderson is the real deal. He made a big splash recently at Celtic Connections and you can hear his story and his own songs in session this Tuesday night on Another Country from five past eight on BBC Radio Scotland.
It’s my last show till early summer and my special guest will be Iranian/Dutch writer Kader Abdolah. Lots of music to start your Valentine’s Day off in fine style too.
I’m coming off Twitter and Facebook for the 40 days of Lent. It will be an overdue break and, as I’m sure you know, life will go on. See you on the other side!