What Is This Americana Thing Anyway…?

In the next instalment of our series which details how our writers and staff members found their way into the Americana genre we hear from the veteran reviewer Keith Hargreaves.

Music has been a constant from way, way back. I remember meeting friends older brothers slumped in a hashish haze listening to sounds that I had never imagined ( Khan, Gong, Floyd etc) and wanting some of that vibe. Early excursions into prog, metal, punk were balanced by a deep love for the Beatles album found in my parent’s corner cupboard -‘Rubber Soul‘ became a staple. Early gigs included The Selecter at the Electric Ballroom – a chaos of skinheads and the Anti Nazi League – all boots and bovver. Saxon at the Rainbow with Whitesnake. Zeppelin at Knebworth. Lizzy and Gallagher at Reading. The stint at Drama School yielded ridicule and inspiration in equal measure for my eclectic tastes, some roadie work for Marillion confused things even more. Red Wedge and beyond.

Lurking in the background was a growing obsession started one night listening to Annie Nightingale – She played ‘Cortez the Killer‘ and ‘Tonight’s the Night‘ – back to back. Got to get me some of that! The darker the better. A lonesome, lovelorn voice, guitar shapes that spoke to somewhere right in the very core of me. Fuck knows why. A middle England kid with a mullet and big ears but we cannot argue if we are chosen. The other growing obsession was a thirst for the new. The never heard of stuff that ticked boxes. Uncle Tupelo, Green on Red, The Jayhawks, Cracker, then Wilco, Dawes, DBT, Isbell, Crows  Wilson, Richmond Fontaine and still they come. There is always something else coming. I saw a poster for Chuck Prophet playing a local pub in Bedford  What!!?? Astonishing – a hero in a shithole but not just him, others followed, specifically Peter Bruntnell, Jason Isbell, Willard Grant, Lambchop. I needed to tell everyone about these hidden joys.

A web search of a review quote found Americana UK. Live reviews followed, including a controversial one of Mark Olsen and Victoria Williams in which I speculated that this relationship was not for the long haul and received some ‘interesting’ feedback for my observations. Then a call for a gathering – an Acoustic Dustbowl. A night of high drama and wonderful music  These were the people that Americana music had brought together and that now includes you, dear reader! My top 10 of Americana:

Jonathan Wilson “Dear Friend The Laurel Canyon troubadour for the 21st century – a Janus man looking back and forward.

Lambchop “The New Cobweb Summer Kurt Wagner’s hushed reverie shimmers like a hash dream.

Dawes “A Little Bit Of Everything Beautiful songwriting delivered simply.

Wilco “Impossible Germany Possibly the most talented band in the Universe.

Conor Oberst “Barbary Coast A dream of a track wracked with melancholy and the Felice Brothers!

Counting Crows “Palisades Park The video itself is a work of art but the track is everything the Crows are and more.

Neil Young “AlbuquequeA twisted song for drifters and the damned . The live version here is further out than the studio album cut – who knew that was possible?

The Jayhawks “I Hear You Cry”  A lost track from Sound of Lies – beautiful and heartbreaking.

Patterson Hood “Come Back Little Star Hood’s tribute to the late Vic Chesnut is as moving as it gets.

Jason Isbell “Elephant Highlighting all of Isbell’s qualities – sublime lyricist, guitar virtuoso and a vocalist of pure soul.

5 thoughts on “What Is This Americana Thing Anyway…?”

  1. ” a hero in a shithole” – if there’s ever another Americana UK T-Shirt, that should be on it ! I think you may have done the impossible and defined Americana, at least the live experience which so often seems to be seeing people who are both fantastically talented and fantastically underappreciated.

  2. Great batch of tunes dude!

    Jonathan Wilson was somebody I hadn’t had a chance to check out before now . . . so thanks for that!

    That Dawes track can take a fella’s breath . . .

      1. Looks like Mr. Young might be something of a gateway drug here. Looking forward to the next installment and some great choices there Mr. Hargreaves. Who is that in the picture with you?

        1. Jonathan Wilson front of stage End of the Road festival. Saw him wandering and thanked him for his music.

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