The Top 10 Greatest Ever Americana Artists: The Full List

As inevitably happens with lists of this kind people will disagree. Where is X? How come Y is above Z? Well as promised you, our wise and wonderful readers, will have the chance to cast your votes tomorrow and it will be fascinating to see how much overlap and indeed how much divergence there is between writers and readers. However, in the meantime we thought it might be interesting to let you see below the surface at who didn’t make it. We’ve already published our 11-20 but this time we go further and give you our Top 44. That is everyone who appeared on more than one list. A few caveats to bear in mind though:

  • Each writer chose their own criteria. I personally decided to leave out country music artists on the basis that it was a distinct and separate genre, otherwise my list would almost certainly have included Johnny Cash, Hank Williams etc. Another writer made no such distinction and included Buck Owens and George Jones amongst others.
  • Perhaps more tellingly than that was the approach taken towards the likes of some of the big-hitters – Dylan, Young, Springsteen etc. Whilst a few did include them within the americana umbrella, most did not, presumably viewing them as artists with a much wider appeal than just the americana audience.
  • I have only included artists that received more than one nomination. Bob Dylan was chosen at Number 1 by one writer but featured in no other list. Those 10 points would have been enough to see him sneak into the Top 40. The two-nomination prescription also ruled out two other artists who are far less known, and whilst they clearly meant a great deal to the writers who nominated them, there was no support for them from elsewhere.
  • The way the voting figures were configured favoured artists with a wide appeal. Lucinda Williams, our winner, appeared in twelve individual lists compared to the runner-up (the next best) who appeared in seven. This meant that she scored heavily despite only being chosen as a personal Number 1 by a single writer. Jackson Browne on the other hand was chosen at Number 1 by two writers but failed to get a mention in any other list and therefore only reached 17th overall. Where artists were tied on points, the number of nominations was taken into consideration.

It was great fun. Thanks to all the writers for their lists which stimulated a lot of interest and debate. We hope you enjoyed it, but it is not, nor claimed to be, definitive. Don’t forget to look in tomorrow to see how you can have your own say.

THE LIST

  1. Lucinda Williams
  2. Willy Vlautin
  3. Steve Earle
  4. The Band
  5. Gram Parsons
  6. John Prine
  7. Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia
  8. Townes Van Zandt
  9. Jason Isbell
  10. Drive-By Truckers
  11. Emmylou Harris
  12. Guy Clark
  13. Wilco
  14. The Byrds
  15. Ry Cooder
  16. Chris Hillman
  17. Jackson Browne
  18. Felice Brothers
  19. Mary Chapin Carpenter
  20. Rhiannon Giddens
  21. Uncle Tupelo
  22. Lori McKenna
  23. Gretchen Peters
  24. The Jayhawks
  25. Peter Bruntnell
  26. Ruston Kelly
  27. Tom Petty
  28. Nick Lowe
  29. Neil Young
  30. Levon Helm
  31. Dave Alvin
  32. Cowboy Junkies
  33. Joni Mitchell
  34. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
  35. Nanci Griffith
  36. Rosanne Cash
  37. Patti Griffin
  38. Mary Gauthier
  39. Karen Dalton
  40. Bruce Springsteen
  41. Sparklehorse
  42. Courtney Marie Andrews
  43. Buddy Miller
  44. Gillian Welch

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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Andrew Riggs

Great list although there is a discussion to have about the top 10.
Bernard Shakey.

Andy Trott

My hand goes up. Yes i’m guilty of being a little irritated by the placings. In reading your comment here Clint it makes sense now how you came to this. Your excellent team of writers have a far wider range of “likes” than i thought. As you said , of course it would cause disagreement. But then that is what makes Americana so far ranging and yes, wonderful. Can’t wait to cast my votes!!

Alan Peatfield

Yep …. I agree with both Andrew and Andy.

Rob Turner

H’mmm, it seems to me that unless the same criteria are applied by everyone then the list becomes little more than a random selection of artists in no particular order, and the exercise somewhat pointless. If nothing else it has prompted discussion.

Last edited 1 month ago by Rob Turner
John M

Guaranteed, you can’t please everyone. But no John Hiatt?

John Bernard

No Songdog????

Sylvan

Exactly what I came to say.

Jeff C

That was what I thought too. Without John Hiatt, it’s hard to take this seriously.

Michael (“Mike”) Doyle

While I hoped to see Guy Clark in the top 10, he showed up number 12, just below Emmylou Harris. Not too shabby for my favorite Americana singer-songwriter! Also as a lifelong Arkansas resident, I’m happy to see Lucinda Williams #1. She has deep roots here. My mother babysat her father Miller Williams, and her minister grandfather “married” my mom and dad. Levon Helm was also from our state.

Dmoore

Bob Dylan the original Americana artist, the band, the byrds, CASH, John mellencanp??? I think there should be a top 100 to pay justice to them all.

Boris Cross

I’m an English person I wonder what actually constitutes Americana what do people think?

Eric B Sutter

John Mellencamp and John Fogerty should be on the list.

Brian

No Tom Russell is a surprise

Scott Hawkins

Joe Ely and The Flatlanders

Stephen Robert Gordon

and all of these people on this list will all hail John Prine as the genius of this list.

Chris Stern

Paul Simon? Buddy Holly? Lyle Lovett? Eric Taylor? And a whole lot more