If you have been paying close attention to the music festival scene over the last month or so, you may have seen that there is a common thread running through the acts. This can be closely linked to the resurgence of the Americana music genre over the last year or so. For the uninitiated, Americana music is the combination of folk, country, blues and rock and roll music. With such a wide selection of sounds and influences, the genre mixes both acoustic and electric instrumentation to create something that is fresh, original and organic.
When you immediately think of Americana artists, Mumford & Sons are most probably an act that will spring to mind due to their folky acoustic roots sound.
However (as I have recently discovered), there is a whole stack of other awesome artists out there waiting for you to discover. In the last month or so, a few new festivals have surfaced on the musical landscape. One such festival that is solely focused on Americana music in Australia is Out on the Weekend, which is set to take place on the 18th of October.
Featuring the likes of Johnny Fritz, Raised by Eagles, Emma Swift, Henry Wagons and Justin Townes Earle amongst a stack of others, this festival is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to talking about Americana music. Taking inspiration from the title track of Neil Young’s 1972 classic Harvest, Out on the Weekend is sure to unearth some artists that you are bound to fall in love with.
The reason for mentioning the Neil Young record is that even forty-two years after its release it is still seen as a classic piece of Americana music and an influential album for upcoming country bands alike. With many guest appearances on the album from the likes of Crosby, Stills and Nash, James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, the album spent two weeks on top of the Billboard charts in the US and gave rise to the classic songs ‘Old Man’ and ‘Heart of Gold’.
Out on the Weekend is not the only festival tipping its hat to the Americana genre over the next couple of months. The latest announcement of the Queenscliff Music Festival sees New Orleans folk/blues rockers Hurray for the Riff Raff make the journey down to Victoria for the first time, which is darn exciting. Small Town Heroes is the latest release from the band and one that is making waves all around the global music scene. Rolling Stone, SPIN and NPR have all shortlisted this album as one of the best of 2014, so make sure you check this album out. The silky smooth vocals and stage presence of frontwoman Alynda Lee Segarra make Hurray for the Riff Raff a definite act to watch in the future and a MUST SEE at Queenscliff in November.
Another act worthy of mention on the latest QMF announcement is Hayward Williams, with The Yearlings from South Australia. Combining a blissful country folk sound, Williams will be playing tracks off his new album The Reef which is set for release in November. So be sure to check that ripping set out as well.
The influence of the Americana genre on the Australian blues and roots/country scene is quite important to this discussion as well. You may not immediately hear the influence to the music, yet there are quite a number of acts that have travelled to America and been swept up in the music scene. Well known Australian acts including Anne McCue and CW Stoneking are acts that come to mind. Although we may not have seen or heard from them in Australia in a while, they have been working away busily in Europe and the US, making stellar tunes.
Most recently, Melbourne’s own The Weeping Willows and Brooke Russell have made waves in the folk/Americana scene and are set to play at the AmericanaramA Festival in Nashville in mid-September. Combining sweet vocal harmonies with soulful acoustic guitar, they create music that is both melancholy and striking beautiful at the same time.
If you’re looking for some Americana music, there are a couple of awesome radio shows you can check out. The Inside Sleeve on Radio National daily at 3 p.m. and Revelator on Double J, Monday nights at 8 p.m. will have you sorted. Over the next few issues in Forte, The Night Vibe will be gearing up to cover the AmericanaramA conference from Nashville, which takes place in September. ’Til then, stay tuned!
By Tex Miller