The Top 10 Greatest Ever Americana Artists: Readers’ Picks 1-10

Photo: Nick Barber

The Readers have spoken and in the end the result wasn’t hugely different to that of the AUK writers. Eight artists were in both Top 10s. In came Wilco and with a huge leap, Gillian Welch. Out went the Writers’ runner-up Willy Vlautin along with Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia.

The Readers’ winner was Steve Earle and it was a very comfortable victory as he recorded a whole third more votes than the next two, Jason Isbell and the Writers’ winner, Lucinda Williams. Those two were separated by only a single vote in an incredibly tight contest for runner-up.

On a personal note this whole process has been a huge pleasure to curate over the last few months. Thanks to all of the AUK writers who made their selections and wrote so eloquently in support of them. Even greater thanks to you the readers who read, commented and supported our efforts. Thanks also to those who voted in such great numbers.

Finally, as one of the three AUK writers who also placed Steve Earle at Number 1 in their personal list I salute your collective good taste! In fact my own Top 10 contained seven of the artists in our readers’ list, so its nice to be roughly in tune with you all.

That’s it then, I’m now off to locate the guy who voted for Jimi Hendrix and to force him onto the AUK musical re-education programme. This takes place in a gulag located in wetlands just north of Manchester where he will be fed black pudding and Eccles cakes, and if that doesn’t break him we will resort to that most sadistic of actions – yes we will confiscate his umbrella. Join us next week for a new series of Essentials.

1 (3) Steve Earle
2 (9) Jason Isbell
3 (1) Lucinda Williams
4 (6) John Prine
5 (4) The Band
6 (8) Townes Van Zandt
7 (13) Wilco
8 (44) Gillian Welch
9 (5) Gram Parsons
10 (10) Drive-By Truckers

About Clint West 319 Articles
From buying my first record aged 10 and attending my first gig at 14, music has been a lifelong obsession. A proud native of Suffolk, I have lived in and around Manchester for the best part of 30 years. My idea of a perfect day would be a new record arriving in the post in the morning, watching Ipswich Town win in the afternoon followed by a gig and a pint with my mates at night,
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Martin Johnson

Balance has been restored to the americana world. I was surprised, and a little saddened, by the lowly showing of Gillian Welch in the AUK Writers Top 10, but our readers have come good and placed her at a very respectable 8.

Rick Bayles

Good to see Steve back where he belongs.

Jeff Jones

I know he’s a tw@ but surprised there was no room for Ryan Adams in the top 30. An artist who had 2 albums in the top 20 americana albums readers list.

Jason Smith

3 if you include Whiskeytown

John Gjaltema

No Joe Ely? Really? That’s impossible! He’s my number one artist in americana. And has been since Honky Tonk Masquerade came out in 1978. The most important record in my life. Five stars! And it’s not the only album in his career that’s worth five stars. So are Joe Ely (1977), Lord Of The Highway (1987), Letter To Laredo (1995) and Panhandle Rambler (2015). As a member of Flatlanders he also made albums that are worth five stars: One Road More (1980, recordings from 1972), More A Legend Than A Band (1990, same as One Road More, but missing 4 songs), Hills And Valleys (2009).
A definition for americana could be: where Johnny Cash and The Clash meet. So if you know Joe Strummer was a fan of Joe Ely how can he not be (number one) on this list? Too bad the plans Joe and Joe had to make a record in Mexico together never happened.

Michael McGurn

Yeah. Gillian Welch was a GLARING omission from the writers poll, so very glad to see that your readers have displayed much more good sense.

Kevin Harrington

No Lyle Lovett??

Andrew Riggs

Good to see Ryan Adams mentioned below. GP is the mystery based on one album and his stature as an artist with one album behind him, surely these lists need to reflect more recent artists. It’s only a personal opinion but room needs to be found for less well known Americana (whatever that is) artists.

Jon Woolven

Here’s an extract from Wikipedia about Gram Parsons:
“He recorded as a solo artist and with the International Submarine Band, the Byrds, and the Flying Burrito Brothers, popularizing what he called “Cosmic American Music”, a hybrid of country, rhythm and blues, soul, folk, and rock.”

So in other words, he was a founding father of Americana. He released two solo albums: GP and Grievous Angel. Whichever one of those you haven’t come across before, you’re in for a treat if you do.


and I was thinking Gram should be #1 basing that on his two classic solos, the FBB Gilded Palace of Sin, and the Byrds SHOTR . He pretty much created the genre and its those LP’s I come back to the most often. Also where’s Uncle Tupelo.

Andrew Riggs

Just my opinion GP hung out with the Stones? oh yeh. He looked the part.

Allan Scott

What about John Stewart? A massive oversight in your list.

Neil Procter

Yes. He was my number one .

Jeremy Courtnadge

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a definition of Americana music, here or anywhere, so picking a top 10 or whatever is all shots in the dark. Still, it’s all a bit of fun. Dave Alvin should, of course, be first and, as somebody else said, Gram Parsons nowhere. If he’s in, why not Clarence White? And I realise this is near heresy, but I genuinely don’t get all the fuss about Jason Isbell, although I’m maybe in a minority of one. Each to his own. Maybe my ears need seeing to.

Guy Lincoln

Make that a minority of two Jeremy.

Andy Trott

So, it is done! As someone rightly mentioned below — it’s just a bit of fun! I confess to getting a bit rattled with the writers list. Should not have as there is no such thing as a conclusive list. Like all voting, not everyone is going to agree. Hopefully what might come out of this is more reader participation(?) Then everyone can voice their choices, if only for an occasional thing.

Stevie T

Dude. Really? No Avett Bros, huh? And John Prine should top the list. And I’m pretty sure that Dylan had a few that could fall into the Americana genre – which is pretty hard to delineate. Of course that’s just….like…. my opinion man.

Last edited 1 month ago by Stevie T
Chris Stickland

Where is Dylan. I haven’t followed this list before but surely Dylan is the master of this genre bar none? His entire career has been based sround American roots music be it folk blues or rock so why is he not there. And for that matter where is Townes van Zandt?

Chris Stickland

Sorry just spotted Townes is there! 😁

Jon Woolven

As much as I admire Bob Dylan, I don’t tend to categorise him as Americana. It’s perhaps because he was already so famous as a folk and then rock musician before the term became established. I realise that’s arbitrary and the boundaries between all musical genres are blurred and impossible to pin down. I certainly wouldn’t dispute with you if you see it differently.

Howard Modell

Dylan always gets overlooked, no matter the genre. I’m sure he doesn’t mind.

Jonathan Aird

He’s got the Nobel prize and an Oscar as well as his ten Grammys, which must be some consolation. Obviously not actually as good as topping this list, but then “If you can’t bring good news, then don’t bring any!” 😉

Sheila W

How could you leave out Guy Clark???


Wilco? How dare you.

Pete Feldon

I would have like to have voted, but I got a few days behind with reading my posts. Next time can we have a bit longer to vote please. Two of my votes would contributed to pushing Peter Bruntnell and Gillian Welch up the list. Disappointed not to see Ry Cooder in the top 30

elaine correa

Rodney Crowell?


What no Jim White!! (Shakes head and stumbles away saddened)