America has been serving up slices of Americana since the mid-19th-century. The genre is an all-encompassing term for a variety of music styles that found their roots in America, including blues, bluegrass, country, and roots-rock. More often than not, Americana is a fusion of one or more forms of roots music, and it is commonly synonymous with folk-based country and singer-songwriter music.
Some of the most iconic Americana artists include Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams and Steve Earl. Steve Earl remains popular to this day; his 2021 album, J.T., was listed as one of the best Americana albums of the year. Other artists that featured alongside Earl on the albums of the year list included Brandi Carlile, John Hiatt, Jack Ingram and Strand of Oaks.
Prior to 2010, Americana was considered a niche genre, yet in a transition that no one anticipated, Americana moved into the mainstream. The artists responsible for pulling the genre into the limelight included The Lumineers, the Avett Brothers, and of course, Mumford & Sons. Despite being a British band, Mumford & Sons became one of the best-selling Americana artists in recent years. They made history when they became the first British band since Coldplay to make it big in the US and sell more than a million albums. Yet, Mumford & Sons held their hands up to admit that without The Lumineers, their success wouldn’t have been possible.
In the late 90s, the Americana Music Association was established in Nashville; and they still have their finger on the pulse to this day. In 2021, they named Black Pumas as the group of the year, Brandi Carlile as the artist of the year and Charley Crockett as the emerging artist of the year. It’s not surprising to see Black Pumas named as one of the Americana artists of the year; the Austin-based act has amassed over 100 million streams with their most popular soul psych song, Colors. They also picked up three Grammy nominations in 2020.
Americana received another uptick in interest with the release of the blockbuster film, A Star is Born, which followed a roots music raconteur (Bradley Cooper) on his quest for fame. Bradley Cooper’s character may have been fictional, but plenty of Americana history and culture was poured into the critically acclaimed film that became an overnight sensation; both Lukas Nelson and Brandi Carlile appeared in the film. It seems that as long as there are artists committed to planting roots of Americana into their music, it will never go out of trend.