Americana. That name itself is shaking things up. What is it? What does it mean? Why is my radio station playing it?
All questions I have had to face lately as the music scene itself starts to evolve. You might have noticed some radio stations start playing what is called more “Americana” music. The name frightens people. They believe that their Texas/Red Dirt station is “selling out”. Maybe in a sense, we are. But not in the way you might think. What we are beginning to see is that the Americana sound is becoming more of a sound that is finally being sought out by the masses. Recently, Jason Isbell’s rise to the top of the album charts was a sign for most that maybe it was time to start looking into playing more of a diverse sound on their radio stations. It is absolutely the right time to promote Texas/Red Dirt and that type of sound to a national audience. There is a desire for it.
There is no true definition of Americana music. It’s a good place to basically stick artists that can’t be defined to a single genre, still have some independence about them, with a truly organic feel. Americana music can come from anywhere. You can find it here in Texas, California, North Carolina, there is truly amazing music hidden everywhere across this nation.
When I first arrived at 95.9 The Ranch in Fort Worth about 6 years ago, my goal from the beginning was to find a way to showcase the amazing music I’ve found all over the planet in now what has been 25 years in the radio industry. I began spinning artists like American Aquarium, Jason Isbell, The Steeldrivers, Grace Potter, Bob Schneider, Todd Snider, and many more like them. All of them have now become staples in The Ranch playlist. Folks don’t know what they like until you give them the chance to hear it. When given the opportunity to hear it, our listeners loved it. They were requesting music throughout the week that you could only hear late at night or stuck on a Sunday night show.
Hopefully with Americana artists finally having success on a national level, that can happen more often. The Americana genre now has its own Grammy Awards. The Americana label is nothing more than a way to promote organic and true music to a national audience without really offending anyone. Let’s be honest, not many DJ’s in California are going to want to promote the moniker of Texas Music, but Americana sounds a little more, I guess, politically correct. It feels a little smoke and mirrors, I agree, but sometimes you have to fool them at their own game.
The main reason I am such a proponent for the Americana sound is that it is the absolute perfect way for our top tier Texas and Red Dirt artists to receive airplay on a national level. Quite a few of our kind of artists are already taking advantage of this. As I write this article I see Texas and Oklahoma artists like Jonathan Tyler, John Moreland, JD McPherson, William Clark Green, Stoney Larue, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Dale Watson, Uncle Lucius, Statesboro Revue, the Damn Quails and even Kacey Musgraves (yes her) promoting their music to the Americana charts. There are many more that do it, these are just the ones with new albums out at the time of this article.
I hope to one day see more artists getting to the level where they can take that step to getting their music out nationally, and I feel that through the Americana market they can do so while also keeping their integrity and who they are as artists. It’s so important to keep independent music alive and thriving and it’s truly up to each and every single one of us to do that. Without each of us doing what we can to help the music, we will be only inundated with a few of the same generic sounding songs.
Also, why I have this opportunity, I can’t pass on telling you about an album you need to get. Red Shahan’s new album is going to blow people away. Red is one of those guys that as soon as you meet, you WANT him to be successful. An absolutely amazing energy about that guy. I got a chance to hear his new album early and I’m not ashamed to admit it’s so good it brought tears to my eyes. I get pretty emotional when I hear an album from a guy that I want to do well and that album exceeds my own expectations. This is an album that should propel Red to a level that he has deserved for quite a while. Proud of you buddy. Keep listening. SH