Tuesday, January 31, 2012
A Belated Music Monday: Americana Bonanza!
It Tuesday, and that means that once again its Music Monday. We're operating on musician time here, show starts at seven or whenever the bassist shows up. Though, to be honest, I watched an interview with the president yesterday and came away with a migraine and Music Monday became less important than laying on the floor and digging my eyes out of my skull with my thumbs. I'll save all the gory details for a facebook status.
This week I'm tackling Contemporary Americana. This isn't a simple genre to define, because at its heart its just "american music." This makes it very broad, and very open to interpretation. Perhaps with a broad enough stroke Lady Gaga become contemporary Americana. In fact, if you ask me the TRUE contemporary Americana is Hip-hop, but this isn't about defining how culture will be remembered in the future, its about what we want to listen to at work this week. Contemporary Americana is a blending of blues, folk, bluegrass, country, rock and roll, soul, jazz, swing.... its as much a melting pot of culture as you would expect of America. There seem to be a few essential ingredients, though. First, you need a little twang; not too much, though- this isn't country! Second, storytelling; the american storytelling tradition is a musical one, and this music is its medium. Third, hard times; tragedy, trials,tribulations, overcoming adversity. It just isn't the american dream without a little strife.
Lets kick this hootenany off with what is my opinion the single most overplayed contemporary americana song of our day. Little Lion Man, by Mumford and Sons. And only because someone is going to cry foul if its not mentioned. Its a good song, but as you'll see there is a ton of other great music we can be enjoying instead of wearing out the welcome of what really is a great song.
Next up, another well respected, talented and overplayed band. Once again, we simply can't talk about this genre without mentioning them: Old Crow Medicine Show. I firmly believe that if it wasn't for this band the popularity in Americana music would not have had the surge it has had in the last few years.
And while we are talking responsibility, I'd like to give a mention to the Squirrel Nut Zippers. This is a band who was breaking ground with hot jazz and nostalgic sound back in the 90's before it was en vogue. "The Ghost of Stephen Foster" is, in my opinion, their magnum opus. No other song, including "Hell," really distills their twisted irreverence and honest homage down to such a searing jam.
Americana has some Rock and Roll to it as well, and we can find that in Eilen Jewell. If you don't fall in love with her voice I'll call you a liar.
And speaking of voices you'll fall in love with, let me introduce you to Meschiya Lake. I have the wonderful fortune of having known her when we were younger and I can tell the spitfire of her youth has been forged and honed into the precision vocal passion you'll here in this track. If you ever find yourself in New Orleans, look up where she is playing and treat yourself. No... you know what... fuck that. Plan a trip to New Orleans to see her. You'll thank me.
While I'm name dropping, you need to go get yourself some Haley Bonar. I'll admit this probably has a more deserved spot on a blog of indie artists, but her music isn't so easily defined, and she is a hometown homie who still asks our mutual friends how I'm doing so this is my way of saying "Hi! I'm doing fine!" She has a new album out, "Golder" go check it out.
Another critical new release from a hard to classify Americana artist is "Old Ideas " from Leonard Cohen. If you aren't familiar with Leonard Cohen, you can pay me now and thank me later.
Getting back on track, lets get down to that real roots sound. That undeniable americana comes distilled like smooth corl liquor from "The Devil Makes Three." If you can catch these guys live, don't pass it up, they are just as great live as they are on tape.
The Puppini Sisters.
Now check out The Scarring Party. I guess I'd call this Americana Noir, a darker, grittier, almost experimental noise at times, branch of the genre.
Southern Culture on the Skids gets a place in this weeks chart by combining groovy american fuzz guitars with one of my favorite topics: Zombies. You can download this song for free from their website, which is a testament to how much this band loves their fans.
Few things are more american than big rigs, so lets squeeze in a trucking song from The Little Willies.
Is Texas america? Or is Texas just Texas and they let america think that Texas is part of america? I don't know, but there is some damn good american music coming from Texas. Fool's gold by the Damn Quails is a great example.
So there you go, that should be enough new grooves to keep you chewing for the rest of the week. Plug a few of these into pandora and remember some of the things we have to be proud of, as Americans. Just because our government has run off with the keys to the car doesn't mean we stop driving; We're Americans, we know how to hotwire this old beast.