A few months back, on a trip to see the eternally delightful Laura Cantrell at The Musician Pub in Leicester, I picked up the brochure of forthcoming events. I noticed that Ms. Cantrell had been listed under the general heading of "Americana." I'd first had the pleasure of being turned on to her music while I was covering The Cambridge Folk Festival. I hadn't ever had much to do with Bluegrass or Country, or even Alt-country, but inspired by terrific Festival performances by Rhonda Vincent, Suzy Bogguss, the Yonder Mountain String Band, and Laura Cantrell, I'd begun eagerly exploring a new (to me) sonic area.
Generally I tend to resist the dividing of music into types. I like that established separations are being worn down, producing exciting hybrids and juxtapositions. But, of course, the categorising (or re-categorising) of music continues unabated, with new genres appearing on a seeming daily basis: emo, nu-metal, handbag house, happy hardcore, all these tripping easily off the tongues of teenage kids and (somewhat more amusingly) middle-aged record company execs.
And there are, certainly, times when classification of this sort can make life easier. For instance, when recently I saw an advert for a 'Triple Bill of Americana' taking place locally, I recalled the Musician Pub's brochure and thought: "Aha. If these chaps can produce an evening of music as lovely as Laura Cantrell's, then I'll be in for a treat." I hadn't heard any of the artists scheduled to play. I was deciding to attend based only on the word Americana being used to promote the show.
That's when I started wondering about this whole Americana thing. What exactly is Americana music? If the term referred previously to "books, papers, maps, etc., relating to America, especially to the history and geography of the United States," what kind of sound does or does not qualify? I thought I might have a go at gathering some definitions of my own.
But first, I had a concert to go to...