Modern Americana music has its roots in the wide variety of musical styles from the cultures that make up the population of the United States. While it originally came from the Scottish and Irish music of the people who settled in Appalachia, over time other styles have been incorporated into the umbrella descriptor Americana music. For many, the definition of Americana music is fluid and often depends on the tradition from which the listener approaches it. For me, Americana music has been defined as Scots-Irish mountain music translated to modern times by singer/songwriters, but my perspective has expanded the more I listen to it.
One source of information and inspiration is the Putumayo Presents Americana collection. The twelve tracks run the gamut of Americana music, from modern singer/songwriter folk to bluegrass to blues to roots rock and swing. The track list reads a bit like a who's who of Americana music, with a few lesser known folks mixed in for a little variety and exposure. Old Crow Medicine Show and Alison Brown are to be expected on a compilation such as this, but it was a nice surprise to see Texan singer/songwriter Terri Hendrix on it as well.
In listening to Putumayo Presents Americana, I found myself surprised and delighted by some of the songs and performers. The complex layers of the production on RobinElla's song "Down the Mountain" grabbed my attention from the start, making it an excellent choice for the lead track. Her quivering-yet-pure vocals add another dimension to the song, easily making it one of the "hit repeat several times before going on" tracks.
Prior to this recording, I had not heard of Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez (go ahead, smack me around if I am displaying too much ignorance), but after hearing the warmth in their unlikely vocal pairing, I hope to hear more from them soon. Taylor has a gravelly older-man voice, and Rodriguez has a sweet younger-woman voice, yet somehow the combination of the two works perfectly in the Texas dancehall style song, "Sweet Tequila Blues."