“Go Ready” Artists in Americana Music Right Now

June 25, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  27 Comments

We did this a while back for bands in country music, taking Music Row’s rigorous requirements and running bands through them to illustrate that there are many accessible acts out there that could improve the genre right now if only given a chance. Though Americana may be a less-institutionalized and much smaller genre that tends to have better music and promote artists that are easier to respect, sometimes it can seem almost as exclusive as Music Row, as was seen in the latest list of AMA Award nominees. So here is a list of artists that even considering Americana’s heavy requirements, could make it big and improve the Americana world if only given a chance.

Possessed by Paul James

The only reason Possessed by Paul James isn’t big in Americana right now is because of exposure. If his music, recorded, but especially live, could be put in front of the right people, he would positively explode in the Americana world. He has all the right Americana tools: excellent songwriting, skilled musicianship, a message, and he exists in a no-man’s land; not really country or folk or blues or punk, but a true amalgam of them all, a wholly unique performer with a style all his own. He doesn’t just simply channel the emotions and energy from music and evoke them on stage, he becomes a manifestation of that energy, a creative quasar exploding right before your very eyes with beams of positive energy, inspiration, and emotion shooting into you as they bound off the walls and ceiling until they have penetrated you from every angle and you are a changed person. If you listen to the stories of people whose whole worlds have changed at a Possessed by Paul James show or if you are one of those people yourself, it is hard to look at a list of Americana talent and say it is anything but incomplete without him on it.

Austin Lucas

Austin Lucas is custom tailored to fit into Americana, because like most Americana artists, he doesn’t fit any where else, though his talents are undeniable and are worthy of a much higher level of support and attention. He’s too much punk and rock to be considered true country, but he too country to be considered folk. First and foremost he is a songwriter and a performer and an excellent singer who has some tremendous skins on the wall considering he’s unknown to many, including cutting records with Chuck Ragan, and touring on the Country Throwdown tour and sharing the stage with the likes of Jamey Johnson and Willie Nelson. Though it’s hard to see where Austin Lucas’s home is, it’s easy to say with that level of talent, once he finds it, he could explode. If Americana was smart, they would snatch him up before someone else does.

Caitlin Rose

Out of all the artists on this list, Caitlin may be the most well-connected to break into the Americana inner-circle some day. Adored around her hometown of Nashville, and from a songwriting pedigree from her mother Liz Rose (the brainworks behind Taylor Swift’s early songwriting success), Caitlin sits in the awkward, not-exactly country, but not really indie-rock, rootsy world where Americana is supposed to rise up and fill the void. She brings the hip, indie-rock-esque new school approach to old country and roots music; the exact shot of youth, energy, and relevancy the graying Americana world needs without straying away from its principles. In her mid-20’s, time is still on Caitlin Rose’s side and her upside seems tremendous.

William Elliott Whitmore

Whitmore may be the artist in a position of least need of the Americana stamp of approval seeing how he’s signed on the well-respected ANTI label with artists such as Tom Waits and Gillian Welch, but he may be the best example of how Americana, not just the artist, could improve their lot by being more inclusive. A one man show just like Possessed by Paul James, with punk cred just like Austin Lucas, he’s the songwriter without a real home who incorporates blues, folk, and some country with tinges of a punk attitude that can appeal to a wide swath of the enlightened music-listening population. It is pretty amazing where you can put William Elliott Whitmore and he works, and how many people are into him despite their diverse music sensibilities.

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Some other good candidates would be the emerging Shovels & Rope, Rachel Brooke (though some could argue she’s more country/neo-traditional), and though they’re older performers, it would be great to see Charlie Parr and Otis Gibbs get some Americana love. Willy Tea Taylor would be another great candidate, though I think he looks at music more as a gift than an occupation.

Who are some artists you would like to see more incorporated in Americana?

27 Comments to ““Go Ready” Artists in Americana Music Right Now”

  • I think Willy Tea Taylor would be a great start & I would through in The Calamity Cubes as well. I think bith would fit better in Americana then Country.

    • The Calamity Cubes are another tough one. They list The Avett Bros. as a major influence and you can hear that in their music, yet they are releasing their next album on Farmageddon, which is about as far on the opposite end of the spectrum as the Avetts in the roots world. That is not a knock on The Cubes, the Avetts, or Farmageddon, it just shows the expanse between what they do and where they are finding their outlets. The Cubes may find the same resistance I would worry Possessed by Paul James would with Americana, that its too energetic, too jumpy for a traditionally more reserved crowd.

      • I’m not you can get much more energetic and jumpy than a live Avett Brothers show. I will admit, though, they they took a less frenetic approach on their last two albums and that may have helped broaden their appeal.

        I’d be quite happy if Langhorne Slim got more national Americana love. Similar sort of high-energy, sing from the bottom of your boots sort of performance and increasingly more sophisticated song writing.

        • I agree, The Avetts are very “jumpy” and showcase the banjo, that is why I think the Calamity Cubes are from the same general sonic family as the Avetts. But you don’t see them next to Langhorn Slim, Jessica Lea Mayfield, and all the other folks on The Avett Bros tree, you see them paling with Farmageddon and acts like Jayke Orvis and The Goddamn Gallows. If it works, it works. It just kind of illustrates the strange avenues music is trying to use to ascend right now, and even though The Avetts have received some pretty big Americana love over the years, I wouldn’t say they’re a perfect fit in Americana either.

          The AMA is a trade organization built around labels and promoters and such, and so it is naturally going to be from the pool of talent these labels and promoters represent where most of the artists will come from. I think Langhorn Slim would be a great candidate for getting some attention from Americana in the future, primarily because he runs in that Avett circle.

  • Jud Block…this guy is keeping the Townes and Eric Taylor style of songwriting alive…not sure why more folks ain’t talking about him.

  • I couldn’t agree more with this list. All excellent musicians deserving of so much more than they are getting. I’d also love to see Willy Tea get more coverage from these folks along with his pal TVA. Also I could see Will’s band “The Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit” blowing up in that scene as well! You familiar with their stuff Trigg?

    • I still need to get my hands on a full blown Good Luck Thrift Store album, but everything I’ve heard from them I like.

      I think we have to be careful when talking in this context about artists like Willy Tea Taylor and Tom VandenAvond, because I am not sure how ambitious they are themselves to make this is serious career, so I’m not sure how fair it is to blame the system or to try and foist them upon it when they really don’t want or care for the extra attention. They may want to make a little more money or get more attention with their music, but you really have to be committed to promoting yourself and growing your career to expect Americana or any larger entity to pay attention to you. That’s not a knock on either guy, just an observation if that makes sense.

      PPJ is a school teacher and Whitmore has a farm, but I think they’ve both made big strides to get their music out to the greater public. You have to show a level of commitment before you can expect people to commit to you.

      • I totally get what you are saying and to be honest I’m not really sure how committed they are myself. I mean they tour constantly (especially Tom) but I don’t see them really cranking up the self promotion. Who knows I guess. I could email you the GLTSO cd if that’s acceptable.

        • Touring is an important part of it. And there are many local bands that spend tons of time on self-promotion yet never tour and so they get nowhere outside their local scene. Some artists hate to self-promote and I respect that. That is where someone like me is supposed to come in and help. But I can only go so far. Artists that truly want to get somewhere have to use people like me as a step, and eventually move on. Like Justin Townes Earle did, and like Hellbound Glory and Sturgill Simpson are trying to do.

      • I think that what makes the music these folks you list so great is that they don’t self promote. I am a huge fan of Whitmore’s stuff but he seeems more than happy just playing shows and when off tour he just wants to live his life and get by. I wouldn’t doubt it if he doesn’t even post his own shit on facebook or his website, not that it’d be terribly time consuming if he did post his own stuff… I think that the disconnect that some of these artists have is what keeps them putting out real music.

        • Very good point. Though I think Whitmore must have showed at least some element of ambition to end up on ANTI.

  • more exposure would be a boon for all these folks and their audiences as well.

  • There can’t be another genre with so much good music that can be so different. It’s criminal that more people don’t know about Austin Lucas, Otis Gibbs and so many others. Thanks to blogs like yours I am never at a loss for new music.

  • David Dondero deserves so much more love than what he gets. Every album of his is better than the last. He tours and tours, but never seems to get a mention anywhere. I was really hoping to see you mention him Trig, but am not surprised that you didnt.

    • Thanks for the name. Can’t say I’ve even heard it before. We’ll check it out!

  • Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank
    …if they could put the solo albums/careers on the backburner for a minute these dudes could be players in the americana scene. they’re last two albums Sing! and Traveling Show were brilliant.

  • They have been called “dark Americana” but I have to put in my two(guns) cents worth for The Builders and the Butchers. Love Love Love these guys as much as PPJ and Willie Tea. quality and poignant, evocative, visceral lyrics and there is no denying the roots sound here. I have run a groove in my cd player and ipod with all three of their album and even the live album as well. Not everyone’s cup of tea so “go ready” may not fit but they beat the crap out of the Decemberists with a baseball bat.

    • The Builders and the Butchers kick ass. As soon as I heard Bringin’ Home the Rain, I was hooked

  • Would Larry and his flask, Ugly Valley Boys, and Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy not fit into Americana?

    • I think they would all fit into Americana. One of the challenges facing Americana is so many bands can call themselves by the term, it is hard to draw boundaries or distinctions. Larry & His Flask are an interesting name relating to Americana. It may take some years, but I could see them getting some attention. Ugly Valley Boys, I’m still amazed how well their album holds up, but they need to nail a few more skins on the wall I think before they could be considered for a serious spot in the genre. Throwing out names is cool and healthy, but what I was trying to do here is offer up some serious alternative candidates to the same tired lineup of nominees for the AMA Awards every year.

      • uhhh sorry to remind you on your own website dude, but just about anything is more serious than the candidates for AMA awards, lol

  • Iowa Über Alles!!!!!!

    Nice catch with William Elliot Whitmore. He’s just some farm kid from Eastern Iowa that had too much time on his hands, picked up a guitar and got a buncha tattoos. I can relate to that. Now that I live in California I hate some of his songs because they make me so damn homesick.

    • Wow, I like him Lanchole, he takes me back somewhere that I can’t quite put my finger on, but I like being taken back to a place with purity of sound, soul and lyrics…..

  • I love it when you do these stories! the last one with the “go ready country” and this one are my two favorite things you have done on this site ever! I would love to see if it could be a somewhat reoccurring thing? I’m just starting to get into the whole “not-mainstream” country thing and it can be hard to find the good stuff. Your site has helped a lot. Hellbound Glory, Ugly valley boys, Turnpike Troubadours, and now shovels and rope and Catlin Rose i have discovered thanks to SCM! keep them coming, please! :D I do have a question though about shovels and rope. from what i see on their website it seems like they only have the one album together and the rest are just solo projects from the two people in the band. do you know anything more about them, their website wasn’t very helpful haha

    • I believe they have a brand new album coming out very soon, but yes, they are fairly new together but both have great solo stuff. I’ve was a fan of Cary Ann Hearst before I heard Shovels & Rope.

  • Like other genres the superstars in Americana – Mumford, The Avetts , the Lumineers – are never the “best” of the genre. Though I htink that John Fullbright (up for an Americana Grammy btw) could be an exception to the rule.

    • Agreed on John Fullbright, Baron. I think this is the first time a Grammy nomination was the catalyst for me buying an album. Well, that together with a lot of pleasantly surprised Americana music fans.

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