Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Americana Week: Day 3

Americana, when it refers to music, is a loosely defined collection of musical styles, but the common denominator may be that each of these styles is clearly rooted in American traditional music. Thus, you've got Cowboy Americana, Folk music, Blues, Bluegrass, work songs, etc. You might call it "roots music." Over the years it continually draws in new influences (from new immigrant communities, for example), and changes in musical technology have also clearly impacted these traditions. The point is, it is a diverse musical form and it is clearly not a "dead" tradition. In fact, we seem to be enjoying a time of particular creativity in the Americana movement. Younger musicians are rediscovering "old time" music and playing with the tradition in very creative ways. This happened in the '50s and '60s under the influence first of bands like The Weavers and then Joan Baez, Peter Paul & Mary, The Kingston Trio, etc.

In my opinion, we are living in a kind of roots music renaissance. Musically speaking, this is one of the most enjoyable periods of my lifetime. I'm particularly partial to the Appalachian strain of roots music, sometimes called "Bluegrass," although that's actually a prominent subset. Here's an ensemble of some of my favorite practitioners, led by Tim O'Brien on vocals. I love the lyrics here, O'Brien's wonderful singing, and the musicianship is of course exceptional.

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