I’ve never been terribly sure about the ‘Americana’ label. However I found it handy for a while when we had a local record shop which highlighted Americana as a genre and I started to find records I might have missed. This was a long time ago and there is no such shop now and Americana has a UK base and even a UK chart. A Nashville friend once told me how little the Americana chart meant in terms of real sales in the US, so I’m slightly dubious of how purposeful it is here…but that’s another story.
I’ve often thought however, that as a genre, we (on the old AC) have perhaps not given as much space and time to the roots of Americana as we could or should. If there’s an excuse for this it’s the slight fear of over emphasising music which is only favoured by old blokes who dream of motorbike excursions across the midwest and shake their bearded heads in despair of those who drink anything other than craft beer. I once encountered one such chap at a Richmond Fontaine gig who pointed to the stage and declared, ‘You should be playing these guys.’ I countered with the inconvenient truth that we might be the only radio show playing them and that I might be the only radio presenter in attendance.
In truth there is no such attitude from the many Americana acts we do play. In fact many of them point out that there is more support for them on the wireless in the UK than they could expect back home. Nashville itself comes as a slight shock when you discover that lots of the music we associate with the city is wholly absent on the local airwaves. Also absent too is the thing we seem to do here better than America: curate eclectic playlists. To that end, one of the most gratifying aspects of the Americana genre has been their adoption of other roots music which can be criminally overlooked. In recent years there’s been an acknowledgement of older R’n’B artists and other fringe folk musicians on Americana week. Who would like to categorise Anais Mitchell, Sufjan Stevens, Valerie June or Rhiannon Giddens for that matter?
So, on this week’s Another Country we bring you music by the kings and queens of Americana scene. Steve Earle, Mary Gautier, Rodney Crowell and Lucinda Williams yes but also names we don’t play nearly enough: James McMurtry, Swamp Dogg, Don Bryant and Kaia Kater. Americana in the truest sense. Not a haven for old guys who’ve outgrown The Clash but a place which celebrates all cultures, colours and sexual orientations. Hey, in truth…this week’s show’s as good as it gets.
Join me live on BBC Scotland FM or BBC Sounds at five past eight this Tuesday evening.