For the first time in its four-year run, the Americana Music Honors & Awards will be broadcast to 37 million homes via the GAC (Great American Country) cable TV network this Fall. Hosted by two-time award winner Jim Lauderdale at Nashville’s legendary Ryman Auditorium, the awards show will be taped on Friday, September 9, 2005 at 7 PM, and broadcast Monday, September 26, 2005 at 8 PM ET. GAC also plans repeat showings.
Though it may appear to be just another awards show, the nationwide broadcast of the Americana Music Association’s annual festivities is a strong indication that the somewhat hard-to-define genre is here to stay. Americana may indeed be more accurately described as a musical movement rather than a genre. As the Association describes it:
Americana is American roots music based on the traditions of country. While the musical model can be traced back to the Elvis Presley marriage of hillbilly and R&B that birthed rock ‘n’ roll, Americana as a radio format developed during the 1990s as a reaction to the highly polished sound that defined the mainstream music of that decade. By also including influences ranging from folk to bluegrass to blues and beyond, Americana handily bridges the gap between Triple A radio and mainstream country.
The key phrase there is “a reaction to the highly polished sound” of mainstream country & western music. Americana artists may be, and often are, just as fine musicians as the famed Nashville “studio cats” you’ll hear on the latest Faith Hill crossover nightmare, but their music isn’t all about slick perfection, it’s about a simpler feel and lyrical authenticity. Unlike the period-instruments movement in classical music, however, Americana is not meant to re-create traditional music, but to suggest the honest, rootsy sounds of those idioms using modern, if generally stripped-down, instrumentation. This week’s chart, for example, is headed by John Prine (who, interestingly, significantly predates the term “Americana”), and also includes black-sheep country singer Dwight Yoakum, Bruce Springsteen’s latest, Shelby Lynne, Loudon Wainwright, and even blues diva Marcia Ball.