Americana one two three….

Numbers, they are great, aren’t they?  All around us all the time – there’s the wall that’s not quite upright, leaning at 5 degress, there’s the quickest way from point A where you might be standing and point B where you’d like to be along the hypotenuse of a triangle, there’s the integers in your Itunes library (other music services are available) nudging up forever towards infinity as it records the music you’ve acquired by hook or by crook.  Infinity, that’s a mind-blowing concept, isn’t it?  There are an unlimited number of integers….the largest can never be reached it sits way over there at infinity.  But, between 1 and 2 there are an infinity of non-integer numbers.  So, if I could count all the non-integer numbers between 1 and 2 and I assigned them an integer index number I would have an infinite number of integers in my index.  But, hey, this is funny, I can do the same between 2 and 3 and 3 and 4 and all the integer pairs up to….you’ve guessed it….infinity.  So, do I have an infinity of infinities in my integer index, and if I do how can that be since I defined infinity as the largest possible but never obtainable number?


But we all start somewhere lower down the number line with “one two buckle my shoe, three four shut the door” or some such.  Numbers and music, naturally entwined.  And base 10-digit owners that we are we are obsessed with Top 10s.  If we had three fingers and an opposable thumb on each hand would be obsessed with base 8 as a “natural” counting system?  Maybe so.  But we aren’t.

So, what we have here after that long preamble is Ten songs with the numbers one to ten in their titles.  It’s not the Top 10, there might be a better ten such songs out there, someone might tell us, who knows?  The one good thing we can confidently say is that there is not an infinite number of such listings – even if we survive the looming climate crisis and then in a few hundred million years expand out through space to survive our dying sun and then somehow last until the final gasping entropy death of the universe there will still not be sufficient time to produce an infinite number of songs with the numbers one to ten in their titles.   That’s a bit of a relief, isn’t it?

We’re going for the now traditional countdown approach, although in this list, of course, all songs are equal.

Ten Second News – Son Volt

Here is a song that pretty much provides the elusive answer to the perennial question “what is Americana anyway?“.   And although it is, that’s not just “depressing.”  Here Son Volt steer us well away from the Sunny Side Of The Street.

Nine Times Blue – The Monkees

Also appeared, of course, on Mike Nesmith’s recordings with The First National Band.  It’s smart and insightful and quite obviously proto-Americana.

Eight Miles High – The Byrds

Many would argue that this was the peak of The Byrds’ creativity with rock and modern jazz and Indian traditional influences all coming together for a song about a trip to London that was a real bummer rather than the triumph it should have been.

Seven Horses Seen – Micah P. Hinson

Not the greatest family talk ever: “Hey there little boy, now don’t you be afraid.  Your mommy doesn’t love you and your dad is just a slave.  He smokes up all the sheaves then he buys some more cocaine, you’ll find films of him banging broads and it could be your mother all the same.”  One of the stranger and darker singers on the Americana scene.

Six More Miles (To The Graveyard) – Hank Williams

The great-grandfather of Americana?  Arguably the inventor of a certain strand of singer-songwriter country that was wildly commercial but never really felt like it was selling out its roots.  A very clever balancing trick that few can pull off.

Five Miles From Town – Pharis and Jason Romero

No Americana list would be complete without at least one song with banjo in it.  No, really, it wouldn’t – and Pharis and Jason Romero have in the last few years come to the forefront of banjo led old-timey feeling with a modern sensibility in the lyrics.  They’re rather good.

Four Days Gone – Buffalo Springfield

Stephen Stills at his very finest from the final Buffalo Springfield album, capturing the paranoia of the draft dodger helped along his way by fellow Americans as he tries to escape “the government madness.”  It captures a lost generation.

Three Brothers Roll Into Town – Richmond Fontaine

Funny thing is that this whole list could have just about been done with Richmond Fontaine songs alone.  Which might be an idea for the future!  Here’s a typically joyful example of Willy Vlautin’s writing.

Two Old Friends – Neil Young

Having heard restrained Neil Young in Buffalo Springfield here’s an example of how even the sweeter end of his songwriting has a genuine grungy-rock touch to it.

One Country – Midnight Oil

Midnight Oil?  Americana?  Well – we have to admit that we do like a bit of a polemic, and we’re partial to a little power pop, but really this song from ‘Blue Sky Mining‘ makes its way onto this list through its own Americana merits.

So, that’s one example of one to ten, but as mentioned before there are a lot of other possibilities.  And there’s still eleven to twenty to do for anyone who fancies a challenge.

About Jonathan Aird 2748 Articles
Sure, I could climb high in a tree, or go to Skye on my holiday. I could be happy. All I really want is the excitement of first hearing The Byrds, the amazement of decades of Dylan's music, or the thrill of seeing a band like The Long Ryders live. That's not much to ask, is it?
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