Sunday, 9 October 2016

Why has Americana become the critics' darling?

If you pay attention to the critics of the music press you might have noticed how they pay an inordinate amount of attention to Americana, a genre with a faint definition.

To many Americana may be the twangy guitars of Emmylou Harris or it may even be the bluegrass of Alison Krauss. As a genre it is alike Alternative Rock, in that it it's definition is rough and it can be used all over the musical landscape, with complete understand of what is meant. 

The Guardian in particular has been obsessing over the genre recently, it’s been hypothesizing about it’s future with odd frequency. It’s foretold how it’s future lies in British artists, and then the next week said the same, but instead claiming Australians are the savioursof the genre.

Yola Carter, one of the British 'Americana Hopes' (Photograph C Brandon/Redferns)

But what it is that has made critics suddenly so focused on the genre? Is it a new groundbreaking album. I personally don’t believe so, as although I’m not a self-described Americana fanatic, I do pay attention to albums that have recently gained high praise, and I can’t pinpoint an Americana album to attribute to this rise in attention.

At the same time I can’t attribute a new phenomenal artist either. The same forerunners of the genre remain the same, Jason Ibell, formerly of Drive-By Truckers, and also the likes of Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams and Gillian Welch.

The genre has became a buzzword, look over BBC articles on new bands and you’ll find the word ‘Americana influenced’ littered over profiles, and most of those bands don’t even have a American bone in their body.

Lake Komo, one of the capitalises upon the Americana obsession. 

Overall the sudden spike in interest confuses me, it has no explanation, at least not from my middle class English, London-based point of view.

But everyone in the industry seems suddenly interested in Americana, some seem to see it as the next great thing, overs see it as a genre which has not folded it’s long standing traditions.

But the fact of the matter is the genre is a weird one to be fixated on. Only recently some of the figureheads of thegenre made a big display in attempting to define the genre, and it appears that the wannabe musical capital of the world, Austin, has even fixated on the genre.

I feel like I’m missing out on something here, even the UK has caught the bug, this year they started a UK Americana awards, one that will, at least, continue into next year. It baffles me, because I always thought of Americana as not just a musically specific genre, but as a geographic one.

Perhaps this will set a trend where we will all hear Scottish highland music from Argentina and Mongolian vocal chants from Syria. Personally, I’m not sure if this is a phenomenon or a critics’ dream.