An Americana Roundup: Five Bands That Capture the Essence of the Genre
Americana can be a number of different things, but most importantly it has to be acoustic goodness filled with inspired performance. Here we have five bands that capture that essence not in a nationalistic sense, but rather in a way that reflects American ideals in song. Do enjoy, dear friends.
The Sweet Lowdown – Chasing the Sun
-Okay so technically I suppose they are Canadiana, but let’s not split hairs here. Imagine the angelic voice of Sara Watkins, then bring two friends with her who sing the same style and same tone. Those chills going up your spine right now are there because you’re imagining the sound of The Sweet Lowdown. These three ladies are immensely talented. It’s the kind of album that you won’t want to rush through. The easy, calming instrumentation on “River Winding Down” is pretty much the audio manifestation of the concept of Americana. It will paint vistas of America’s geography right in your mind’s eye. Later tracks like “Birds and the Bees” will have you smiling at the charming sensibilities. The lonesome feeling on “Leaving” contrasts beautifully with the toe tapping joy of the “Hell Flu Jig” medley track. All told, this is an album and an adventure.
Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons – Take Yo Time
-From the opening lines of “Jazz Fiddler,” you can feel a tangible sense of excitement on this album. It might be an easy sell to call this a “vintage” sound, but they have the remarkable ability to make it feel very new. The characteristics of the music are of course a fiddle and banjo, accented with just the right kind of twang in the vocal lines. There are throwbacks to earlier eras, all while showing off a kind of string virtuosity that makes the album repeatedly listenable. From iconic blues to soul-wrenching mountain music, this is an album that surely embraces an Americana identity.
The Show Ponies – Run For Your Life
-This short EP is everything you love about Americana. There are some great strings, especially from the fiddle, as well as some stunning harmonies. On several occasions the band has the ability to use powerful vocals to knock you off your feet. Then on tracks like “Stupid,” there’s a quaint, easy listening feeling that draws you right back in. This is a joy of an album.
Dana Sipos – Roll Up the Night Sky
-If you enjoy the lonesome heartache of an artist like Sarah Jarosz, then you should really give Dana Sipos a spin. Her songwriting is intricate and sophisticated. It’s a stripped down instrumentation and a richly textured voice that makes the album work. From “Old Sins” through “Full Moon Sinners” it is apparent that Sipos intends for her listeners to think about the spiritual. “My Beloved” gives a narrative with a nice touch of romance, perfectly Americana. There are no skip tracks on this delightful acoustic album. The strings on “Road to Michigan” are just enough to steal the best of the album for me, but you really can’t go wrong with any of them.
Crow and the Canyon – Leaving Soon
-Some might call this album a strictly bluegrass album; I guess that’s not really wrong, but it’s good to have a bluegrass presence on this list. Besides that, Crow and the Canyon is one of the best full group sounds I’ve heard yet. There are no empty places in any of the songs. It’s a consistently well-polished sound. From the opening “Waterfalls” to “We Give,” there’s a continuously high standard of picking and singing. I appreciate the homage given to older styles, while keeping the cuts crisp and new as well. Just when you think you understand the type of sound they have, there’s a female lead on “Brooklyn to Milwaukee” that puts a whole new smile on your face. For variety, with a high standard, you can’t do better than Crow and the Canyon.