Americana Music: Voices, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound

Americana Music: Voices, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound

by Lee Zimmerman


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With roots in Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta, New Orleans, the Piedmont, Memphis, and the prairies of Texas and the American West, the musical genre called Americana can prove difficult to define. Nevertheless, this burgeoning trend in American popular music continues to expand and develop, winning new audiences and engendering fresh, innovative artists at an exponential rate.

As Lee Zimmerman illustrates in Americana Music: Voices, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, “Americana” covers a gamut of sounds and styles. In its strictest sense, it is a blanket term for bluegrass, country, mountain music, rockabilly, and the blues. By a broader definition, it can encompass roots rock, country rock, singer/songwriters, R&B, and their various combinations. Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, Carl Perkins, and Tom Petty can all lay valid claims as purveyors of Americana, but so can Elvis Costello, Solomon Burke, and Jason Isbell. Americana is new and old, classic and contemporary, trendy and traditional.

Mining the firsthand insights of those whose stories help shape the sound—people such as Ralph Stanley, John McEuen (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), Chris Hillman (Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers), Paul Cotton and Rusty Young (Poco), Shawn Colvin, Kinky Friedman, David Bromberg, the Avett Brothers, Amanda Shires, Ruthie Foster, and many more—Americana Music provides a history of how Americana originated, how it reached a broader audience in the ’60s and ’70s with the merging of rock and country, and how it evolved its overwhelmingly populist appeal as it entered the new millennium.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781623497019
Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
Publication date: 01/23/2019
Series: John and Robin Dickson Series in Texas Music, sponsored by the Center for Texas Music History, Texas State University
Pages: 332
Sales rank: 1,235,044
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

LEE DAVID ZIMMERMAN is a freelance music writer whose articles have appeared in several leading music industry publications. A former promotions representative for ABC and Capitol Records and director of communications for various CBS-affiliated television stations, he lives in Maryville, Tennessee.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1

Part 1 Back to the Beginning 6

Chapter 1 Routes and Roots 7

Chapter 2 The Instrumental Essentials 9

Chapter 3 Mississippi and the Birth of the Blues 15

Chapter 4 Bluegrass Breaks Out 24

Chapter 5 Talking with a Legend: Dr. Ralph Stanley 28

Chapter 6 The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Completes the Circle 31

Part 2 Byrds, Burritos, and Changing Times 37

Chapter 7 David Crosby: A Byrd's Timeless Flight 39

Chapter 8 Chris Hillman: The Byrds and Beyond 43

Chapter 9 Richie Fumy Remembers: Seminal Member of Buffalo Springfield, Poco, and Souther-Hillman-and Furay Shares His Story 50

Chapter 10 Poco Primes Country Rock 58

Chapter 11 Timothy B. Schmit: From Poco to the Eagles, Still Flying High 65

Chapter 12 The Eagles' One Time Wingman Don Felder Shares His Story 70

Chapter 13 Graham Nash: Past but Present 74

Chapter 14 Dwight Yoakam Goes Back to Bakersfield 77

Chapter 15 Holly Williams: Heir to a Legend 87

Chapter 16 Sam Bush: From Bluegrass to Nu-Grass, and Stopping in Nashville in Between 90

Chapter 17 Kinky Friedman: An Irascible Icon Speaks Out 98

Chapter 18 Guy Clark's Melancholy Musings 104

Chapter 19 Billy Joe Shaver: A Rebel with a Cause 112

Chapter 20 Ray Wylie Hubbard's Past Perfect 115

Chapter 21 David Bromberg: Sideman as Superstar 119

Chapter 22 Delbert McClinton Peruses the Past, While Contemplating the Present 122

Part 3 The Transition Is Complete: Americana Today 127

Chapter 23 John Gates Takes a Rural Route off the Mainstream Mile 129

Chapter 24 Steve Forbert and the Art of Compromise 132

Chapter 25 A Lot to Lovett 139

Chapter 26 No "Baggage for Bela 143

Chapter 27 Jay Farrar Talks about a Prodigal Son Volt 147

Chapter 28 Chris Isaak Aims for Arcane Americana 151

Chapter 29 Shawn Colvin: Covers Girl 154

Chapter 30 The Mavericks: Renegade Rockers 158

Chapter 31 The Steep Canyon Rangers: Bluegrass Boosters on a Steady Ascent 166

Chapter 32 The Punch Brothers Get Punchy 169

Chapter 33 Yonder Mountain String Band: A Testament to Telluride 176

Chapter 34 Greensky Bluegrass: Breaking Down Barriers 182

Chapter 35 The Avett Brothers Redefine the Template 187

Chapter 36 Amanda Shires Emerges on Her Own 195

Chapter 37 Donna the Buffalo and the Populist Stampede 204

Chapter 38 A Rose by Any Other Name 207

Chapter 39 Derek Trucks Talks Multitasking, Working with His Wife, and Lessons Learned from the Past 212

Chapter 40 Dave Rawlings: Man as Machine 220

Chapter 41 The Dawes Pause: Looking Forward with a Nod to the Past 231

Chapter 42 Ruthie Keeps It Real 237

Chapter 43 Mekons Blur the Line between Past and Present 240

Chapter 44 Band of Heathens as a Band of Brothers 249

Chapter 45 Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band Go Back to the Roots 254

Part 4 Americana Abroad 262

Chapter 46 Julian Dawson: Despite English Origins, He's Found His Nashville Niche 263

Chapter 47 The Dreaming Spires Share Their Search for the "Supertruth" 266

Chapter 48 The Sadies Look South 269

Chapter 49 The Falls: Love, Life, and Life on the Road 271

Chapter 50 Ireland's Arborist Details His Circumspect 273

Chapter 51 Jenn Grant Channels Her Mother's Inspiration and Her Own Determination 275

Chapter 52 The Henrys' Unlikely Exposition 277

Appendix. Essential Albums That Trace the Transition 279

Index 282

Galleries of images follow pages 82 and 226.

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