With the Euros dominating the media agenda at the moment it got me to thinking how much do I really know about Americana music in the countries that are a part of 2020? I found myself to be staggeringly ignorant about music from across Europe. But then who would expect the majority of Americana to originate from America. Armed with my Euro wallchart and my trusty iPod I started to investigate to see if I could find contenders from across the continent. I’ll say straight away, not all countries are covered, I do not know if there is a thriving Zydeco scene in Ukraine nor who is who in North Macedonian power pop. For the purposes of this column, we’ll ignore England and see what we can find from elsewhere.
Scotland – easily a contender with many world-class bands, the difficulty here is which one to choose, as we need all the world-class talent on the pitch – the choice is a safe one, let us go with Teenage Fanclub. A Francesco Totti of a band, stylish, creative with a long career. ‘Thirteen‘ had a football on the cover, so it has got to be something from that, ‘Gene Clark‘. I’m pretty sure TFC have a shot at winning the whole thing.
Spain – there was a time when I did do some digging into the music scene in Spain and I uncovered some real gems, the one that has stuck with me through the years is Lori Meyers (The Andalucian Beatles). They play a (cliche alert) sunny brand of power pop, nothing flashy, just good tunes. For a time I could even understand a lot of the lyrics. Those days are long gone but my affection lives on.
Germany – having lived in the country for a while I really should have picked up more knowledge of the music than I have, of course, everyone knows about Kraftwerk, Can, Neu and Nena. However, my favourite German band is The Notwist; their ‘Neon Golden‘ is in my top twenty all-time list. They started out as a standard indie-rock band and then incorporated elements of electronica, hitting on exactly the right blend on ‘Neon Golden‘: here is a track from it that perfectly surmises what is good about them.
France – another country I have spent some time in, as a young man with a girlfriend from Lyon. She was interested in all things English so I did not get the chance to sample French culture as I would have liked. Les Thugs have been a long-time crush, and their song ‘International Anti Boredom Front’ could be just what you need with wall-to-wall Covid and football.
Sweden – The Scandinavian countries have been a very fertile ground for Americana and many years ago I was sent one of Nicolai Dunger’s records to review and it was excellent. If we were to put it to a vote I’m pretty sure Sweden would be the champions.
Denmark – Lovely little Denmark with your penchant for orchestral pop music (remember the theme to ‘The Bridge‘ by ‘The Choir of Young Believers‘) I think there is some sort of template taught to aspiring Danish musicians, see also Efterklang who have made a string (pun intended) of lovely records. But we will go with Slaraffenland who shake things up a bit with some rockier elements.
Wales – we can’t ignore our near neighbours, my brother lives there but has never ever recommended any music to me. Highly recommended by this site throughout their career is The Goat Roper Rodeo Band. How sounds like these leak (pun intended) out of Wales I do not know and I do not care. Better than Bale?
The Netherlands (not Holland) – with this last one, we unite the Euros with Eurovision. Is this the best Eurovision song of the 21st century? It still didn’t win but then quality isn’t really the criterion for victory. Here’s a version recorded with Giant Sand and apologies to all the countries who didn’t get a mention.