AmericanA to Z: Danny Schmidt

The A-Z rolls around, once again, to the letter ‘D’, which offers a wealth of possibilities. This time, we’ll shine a light on a personal favourite, Danny Schmidt. Texas has produced more than its fair share of outstanding musicians and Austin’s Schmidt continues this long tradition of roots-based excellence. Since he released ‘Live at the Prism Coffeehouse’ more than twenty years ago, Schmidt has been lauded by critics for his songcraft and poetic lyricism. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z: Danny Schmidt”

AmericanA to Z: John Cougar Mellencamp

This A-Z  is taking a small liberty. For ‘C’  we are looking at, and appreciating, the transformation of John Cougar Mellencamp from AOR-radio-friendly hit seeking pop-rocker, to gritty roots activist. Somewhere in the early to mid-1980s John Cougar seemed to lose his desire to emulate highly produced ‘heartland rock’ and emerge under his own name. And along the way he dropped the (much needed for this feature)[C]ougar too.  Maybe 1983 was the time he felt it right to assert himself and not pander to what record companies wanted. Maybe he cottoned onto the connotations of the term Cougar. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z: John Cougar Mellencamp”

AmericanA-Z – Buffy Sainte-Marie

Beverly Sainte-Marie was born in February 1941 on the Cree nation’s Piapot 75 Reserve in Saskatchewan, Canada.  As a youngster, she fell victim to the hideously shameful Sixties Scoop – a catch-all name for a series of policies, originating in the early fifties, enacted by provincial child welfare authorities which saw thousands of Indigenous children taken from their homes and eventually adopted out to white families from across Canada and the United States. These children lost their names, their languages, and a connection to their heritage and sadly, many were also abused and made to feel ashamed of who they were. Continue reading “AmericanA-Z – Buffy Sainte-Marie”

AmericanA to Z – Hoyt Axton

OK, you’re left with X, Y & Z they said. Not wanting to give short shrift to any Zandt or Young icon, Hoyt Axton contains an x and a y, but is he Americana? Well he started as a folk singer, ended as a country fixture, and in between had a TV special called ‘The Hoyt Axton Country Western Boogie Woogie Gospel Rock and Roll Show’, which touches a lot of Americana bases. Without ever being a major star, Axton’s talents exhibited an almost Zelig-like tendency through his career, not just through music, but on screen. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Hoyt Axton”

AmericanA to Z – Suzanne Vega

Last week was Tom Petty and so AmericanA to Z reaches the letter U. And since Uncle Tupelo have been covered already, skips directly to V. It was that or The Upsetters, and really that was a stretch too far even for our generous definition of Americana. Instead, let’s go back to the mid-eighties and a sad time for female singer-songwriters. Joni had put out the reasonable ‘Wild Things Run Fast‘, had the patchy ‘Dog Eat Dog‘ ready to go and would follow this up with the ho-hum ‘Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm‘ – Joni’s doing covers and using co-writers? Not good. If she were ever really the next big thing Carly Simon had got into a rut of banal songs for movies – with ‘Coming Around Again‘ only a partial exception. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Suzanne Vega”

AmericanA to Z – Tom Petty

Tom Petty is one of the strongest and most resonant of all the artists connecting the 1970s to current Americana. In a desperately shortened career that still spanned over 41 years he wrote songs that appealed to the plaid wearing beer-drinking hell raisers, the shiny popsters with their beatboxes and hip shoes, the blue-collar workers heading out to their dead-end jobs singing to their dashboards about freedom and every other social grouping besides.  Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Tom Petty”

AmericanA to Z – Doug Sahm

Doug Sahm, AKA Sir Douglas, AKA Doug Saldana, AKA Wayne Douglas, a man of many names and one of the prime movers in concocting what we nowadays call Americana. The embodiment of Texas music, a child prodigy, Sahm made his debut stage appearance, aged 11, when he appeared with Hank Williams in Austin in 1952. Country music and Texas blues coursed through the young Sahm’s veins but it was the advent of The Beatles which gave him his break. A local producer, Huey Meaux, wanting to cash in on the fab four’s popularity, persuaded Sahm and his sidekick, Augie Meyers to don Carnaby Street togs and call themselves The Sir Douglas Quintet, their single ‘She’s About A Mover’, hit the US top twenty. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Doug Sahm”

AmericanA to Z – The Replacements

I’ll admit to not knowing what is and isn’t Americana. If I thought it was cowboy boots and Southern charm, I’d not be here. What I think of as Americana is more than that, and you know, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, so it’s a subjective thing. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – The Replacements”

AmericanA to Z – Dolly Parton

No, not Gram Parsons. Not even Elvis Presley (though if you don’t consider Elvis to be the epitome of ‘Americana’ then I will fight you right now). Dolly Rebecca Parton (of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee) has written, played and performed it all. And I’m prepared to fight you right now about that too. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Dolly Parton”

AmericanA to Z – Old Crow Medicine Show

Over the past 55 years or so (yes I’m that old!), I’ve been to hundreds and hundreds of gigs from tiny venues in pubs to Wembley Stadium, with everything in between. I have very few artists on my bucket list but one of the bands I haven’t seen and would really like to, is Old Crow Medicine Show. Now this could be remedied in March as they’re playing at the O2 as part of the Country To Country festival but the thought of seeing a band that should be playing at somewhere like the late lamented Borderline or something similarly intimate, at the vast barn that is the O2 means I’m going to have to wait a little longer to see them performing live. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Old Crow Medicine Show”