Wednesday 30 May 2012

An introduction to the Americana/Acoustic Scene by Opie Ever [Guest Post]

Recently DD (DivaDevotee) suggested I might want to write a bit about "acoustic" music for this blog. Flattering as that suggestion was, it was also a daunting one.

I mean, where to start about a scene which runs from traditional bluegrass harmony singing like this...

Ricky Skaggs and Patty Loveless - Daniel Prayed

Through top notch instrumentals:

Peter Rowan, Tony Rice - Shady Grove

Through people blending in other musical roots, sometimes even from China:

Abigail Washburn - Bring Me My Queen

To teenage singer/songwriter/multi instrumentalists who, besides producing their own material, deliver such emotionally powerful performances like these:

Sarah Jarosz- Simple Twist of Fate

Ruby Jane - Summertime

And that's not even getting into the wider scene of Americana, a mostly acoustic blend of all kinds of American Roots music. Ranging from:

Alison Krauss and Robert Plant- Gone,gone,gone


Brandi Carlile- Dreams


Shelby Lynne- Johnny Met June


The Civil Wars- From this Valley

All of these are of course picks from amongst my own favourite artists and because this is officially a blog about Divas, I tried to focus on female ones at that. But I do want to just throw the names of such male artists like Steve Earle,Justin Townes Earle, Darell Scott, Amos Lee out there.

Well, I hope this piece might inspire some to also discover and explore a whole big music scene seldom played or mentioned in mainstream media.

I for one, found great pleasure in discovering this world filled with people dedicated to music. pure, honest, from the heart, skilful and always performed live.



  1. Thanks for the post Opie, this isn't a section of music i'm entirely familiar with- though of
    course I am aware of the big players like Alision Krasuss and Shelby Lynne. It has such a unique and independent sound-from the harmonies to the instrumentation- being in some cases untouched by modern music at all.

    I  really love the Chinese inspired melody of the violin solo in "Bring me the Queen", as well
    as the song itself. I will definitely be searching for more from Abigail.

    Also I am currently enjoying the Civil wars' album, so it was great to see a live performance by them. Recommend them highly to everyone.

  2. Thanks so very much for the opportunity DD.  This was scary yet fun to do.

  3. Damn, Opie, you got on the shit fast! I wasn't expecting to see this article for a while! 

    Anyway, as for the songs, I listened to every single one (which is rare for me) and although I can't say I really liked them, it's interesting to listen to something different. However, I did like "Simple Twist of Fate." This was a great introduction into the genre as I didn't know where to start. 

  4.  Thanks Hannah. I am flattered you took the time to listen to every single one. :)

  5.  Yes, I also loved that Chinese influence. Abigail has some nice videos on youtube of her tour through China. She was actually about to study Chinese law in Beijing when she discovered the banjo and got sidetracked.

    I would absolutely second that recommendation of The Civil Wars. They are awesome and especially Live!
    Just FYI they are touring Great Britain end of October, early November I believe. Krauss is going to tour Britain in July and Sarah Jarosz is in Britain right now. Hoping she'll show up on Jools.

  6. Have you listened to Lana Del Rey's first album? The sound on that album really reminds me of this Americana genre. I could be totally off but take a listen and tell me what you think.

  7.  I have listened to some of it but seeing as I am a fan of all these people who sound live almost exactly like they do on their albums, I do not hold much of making a distinction between a live singer and a studio singer. I am fine if like Kate Bush, they have proven to be able to deliver live and just prefer to stick to the studio but in Lana's case that is not the situation. It colors my listening  to her. But I do like the timbre of her voice and what she tries to do with it. And she seems to be an original songwriter.

    But until she learns how to either achieve what she goes for live OR stops going for what she can't achieve I am not really going to spent a lot of time on her I think.

    But I do very much liked the studio versions of the songs I heard of her.

  8. I listened to every one too - and i loved bring me my queen, gone gone gone, and simple twist of fate
    and i have always loved The Civil Wars ever since i bought their album last year 

    i can't say i love this type of music - but I enjoyed your post and i can appreciate this music =D

  9.  Thanks for listening Misty! I am glad you enjoyed at least some of it. :)

    Starting to look like there are some definite favorites amongst the readers here.And it's fun for me to see which they are.

  10. Just to clarify when I said first album I meant "Lana Del Ray A.K.A. Lizzy Grant" not "Born To Die" (in case anyone was confused). I understand what you're saying but I was not classifying her in the genre of these singers, I just meant the songs from her Lizzy Grant album sound like the style. 

  11.  Aha In that case, no. I don't think I heard it but will seek it out now and give it a listen. :)

  12. I posted links above! 

  13. Yes I saw but I am going to go off line and wanted to hear the whole album. I downloaded it and will listen to it in a bit. :)

  14. Yes I saw but I am going to go off line and wanted to hear the whole album. I downloaded it and will listen to it in a bit. :)

  15. Yes I saw but I am going to go off line and wanted to hear the whole album. I downloaded it and will listen to it in a bit. :)

  16. Yes I saw but I am going to go off line and wanted to hear the whole album. I downloaded it and will listen to it in a bit. :)

  17. Seriously! I don't like this new format...

  18. @Hannah Opie Ever It's going to be rolled out soon but I thought i'd implement it now so I could help them with changes/suggestions. As for the "delete" function opie, I found it in the little down pointing triangle. Not sure if only I have that because I'm the moderator. I've deleted your comments though :)

  19. Me neither but I am sure we will get used to it eventually.

    I listened to that Lana album. Not enough of each song to give a well informed opinion on the music in general ...yet.
    But enough to say that does definitely NOT fall under the header Americana.

    Americana really doesn't use any electronic sounds and is a mix of roots music. And it is always music which is played the same in the studio as it is on stage so to speak. Meaning if you hear a fiddle on the record, a fiddle player was there in the studio and will be there on stage( Unless the artist chooses to tour with a stripped down version but never is than that fiddle replaced with an electronic version. The artist will simply leave the fiddle out. Americana tunes are not composed in studio. They are composed on guitar or piano or banjo or fiddle and will usually sound good when played with even that one instrument.

    I'd say Marina and The Diamonds acoustic videos come closer to Americana than Lana does.

    Maybe a good example is Lucinda Williams' album Blessed. It came out in two versions. With full band and with just a guitar.

  20. I guess that's just you because you are mod. For me it only gives me the option of flagging a comment as 'inappropriate"
    That is if you are referring to the little arrow on the side? I am presuming the two at the bottom are like/dislike buttons?

    Thanks for removing the double posted comments. This system also doesn't clearly indicate whether the comment was posted or not.
    so far I wouldn't call it a success LOL

  21. Loving your work Opie! Nice.....

  22. this new system is making me wanna

  23. I agree...exactly. I think I've heard Lana's music described as chamber pop - which I think is a better description of her style. For me Americana is gospel, country, bluegrass, blues music and folk untouched by so much of what's trendy now and technology. It's historical and pure and you can more or less hear those historical's early American (think Appalacha and all those setttlers who sang church hymns and brought over their music from Europe) and it's acoustic and just lots of hymns and folk sounds, etc.

    Eventually we got lots of other genres out of it:

    Country music (which is now more pop than ever), Rock n'Roll (Elvis grew up in Tennessee and attending church there and singing these early songs for example and Chuck berry,etc which influenced the region), and R&B guys like Muddy Waters and BB King, etc.

    Americana is a combination of return to those roots w/ more acoustic sound at times but it's also given us new hybrid genres that are all independent...indie rock or alt. country for example. That' how I see it. Thank you for the excellent guest post and for Diva Devotee for bringing us so much awesome stuff!
    You described it best though when you said "Americana really doesn't use any electronic sounds and is a mix of roots music. And it is always music which is played the same in the studio as it is on stage so to speak."
    Lastly, a band I really like, that is considered po/singer-songwriter on my iTunes, is a little bit Americana influenced on this song. Here it is:

  24. Thanks Essie.
    I totally agree with your definition and your explanation of why you like this music. :)

    I thought Everly- Bethany Joy Lenz seemed more bluegrass/gospel influenced but yeah, that IS Americana.

    I liked that description for Lana as well "Chamber pop"..nice!

    You seem to be a real fan of this genre(s)? If so , perhaps you would like some of the stuff I uploaded over on youtube...

  25. Thank you! And thanks for the link!