Jason Isbell, John Hiatt, Lucinda Williams and Dave Alvin! What do they have in common? They are all known Americana singers. This American music genre developed during the 1990s as a roots-oriented reaction to the slick commercial sounds that dominated mainstream country during the decade.
The term Americana has been traditionally used as a catchall for traditional American music. It has become more accepted as a legitimate musical genre over the past several years. The very first Grammy award went in 2010 to Levon Helm for his Electric Dirt. In 2016, the Grammys awarded the last Best Americana album, which went to Jason Isbell for his Something More than Free studio album.
But while alternative country-rock developed out of punk, alternative rock, and the country itself, Americana sprung from less raw and edgy source material, specifically those sounds that are merged from folk, country, blues, rhythm and blues, rock and roll and other external influences.
In fact, much of what fell under the Americana umbrella was, in fact, a revival of dormant country styles, including Western swing and rockabilly. Though considered an alternative radio format, Americana did not break with country tradition; instead, it embraced it — something, ironically enough, that the music hitting the Nashville charts throughout the era did not do.
While acoustic instruments are often present and vital, Americana also often uses a full electric band.
One of the most worth listening Americana works is Jason Isbell‘s Southeastern – without question one of the very best albums of the year in any genre. Listen to Jason Isbell performing Travelling Alone, a beautiful moody song.