To put it simply, Americana music is a mixture of music genres, including folk, country, and blues, that construct the U.S. musical character. The Americana Music Association describes Americana music as contemporary music that globes acoustic elements from multiple genres, resulting in a sound that can be easily recognized. Even though it relies mostly on acoustic instruments, sometimes it can also include full electric bands.
Even though the term “Americana” is used to describe the U.S. culture, Americana music is not present solely in the United States. Numerous bands from Canada play the same style, although the Canadian media sometimes calls it “Canadiana”, rather than Americana.
Americana Folk Music
By definition, traditional folk music is music transmitted orally, with an unknown composer, that has entered and remained in the customs of a specific country. Traditional folk songs usually have no copyright on the songs, as their author is usually unknown.
In the U.S., folk music first entered the scene in the late 1800s, with the emergence of the American Folklore Society, which started studying music that was deeply rooted in American history, including Native American music.
Americana folk music, however, did not become a cultural movement until the 1930s, when multiple artists emerged and started hosting folk festivals.
In the early years of America, folk music engulfed spiritual African American music, as well as work songs, sung by cowboys, railroad workers, and sailors. After the American folk music revival, regional forms of folk music started emerging, such as Appalachian music in East Tennessee, Cajun music in Louisiana, and Tejano in New Mexico.
Americana folk music is characterized by the use of acoustic instruments, often including the banjo, guitar, mandolin, fiddle and even harps. Amongst the most popular Americana folk musicians are B.B. King, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and Jean Ritchie, as well as bands including The Mamas & the Papas, The Simon Sisters and The Kingston Trio.
Americana Country Music
Americana country music originates in the U.S., dating back to early 1920. It takes its origins from American folk music, as well as blues and often includes ballads, as well as dance tunes. Songs are generally simplistic, with folk lyrics and accompanied by mostly string instruments, such as guitars, banjos, harmonicas, and fiddles.
Even though it is not known for sure where country music originated from, Bristol, Tennessee is recognized as the birthplace of country music, based on historic recordings from 1927, found in the area. Country music is still very popular in the US, with different variations of the genre reaching popular radios and events. In fact, in 2009, country music was the most listened to rush hour genre on the radio.
Artists such as Vernon Dalhart and Jimmie Rodgers were considered pioneers of country music, with many others following their footsteps. Nowadays, artists such as Johnny Cash, Ray Prince and John Denver are still widely popular in the US and not only. Mainstream country artists such as Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers helped popularize country-pop, which is still widely listened to nowadays.
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