2020 is a hellscape, but, in terms of Americana music, we’ve been blessed by abundant wealth. “Americana” is used here as a blanket term for all the American-favored, typically acoustic-based genres like folk, country, bluegrass, roots and rock. It’s just been a good year for Americana! But these last few months have been especially fruitful, so we decided to gather a few of our favorite must-hear Americana songs that have passed through our ears lately. Again, these songs might fit into other branch genres like country and folk, but they’re all apples tumbling from the same tree. Fans of country, folk and acoustic music in general: come hither and enjoy this list!
Listen to our Americana Songs You Need To Know playlist on Spotify right here.
The Avett Brothers: “Victory”
The Avett Brothers recently announced that the third album in their Gleam series is on its way. The Third Gleam is out Aug. 28, and earlier this month, the band shared the first single, titled “Victory,” and an accompanying video. Scott and Seth join forces for this stripped-down folk song, whose harmonies and gentle guitar certainly harken back to The Avett Brothers’ early material, which includes The Gleam and The Second Gleam. If “Victory” is any indication of what’s to come, The Third Gleam could be some of their best work in years. —Ellen Johnson
The Chicks: “Sleep At Night”
It should come as no surprise that The Chicks are consistently resilient on their relentless fifth LP Gaslighter. The same Natalie, Martie and Emily who threatened their best friend’s cheating husband on “Goodbye Earl” are fired up on every Gaslighter song, particularly “Sleep At Night,” where Maines asks, “My husband’s girlfriends’ husband just called me / And how messed up is that? / It’s so insane that I have to laugh,” before adding, “But then I think about our two boys trying to become men / there’s nothing funny about that” and recounting the instance where her husband brought the aforementioned side piece to a Chicks show. How does he sleep at night, indeed. —Ellen Johnson
Courtney Marie Andrews: “It Must Be Someone Else’s Fault”
On her new album Old Flowers, Americana singer/songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews stares heartbreak in its ugly face. However, it sounds really beautiful when she does it. On this buoyant single from the album, Andrews scrambles to avoid the pain of an old relationship, searching high and low for contributing factors beyond her own control that may have contributed to the breakdown. She says she feels like she’s gone “crazy,” “Like the women in my family usually do / We can’t seem to keep our heads on.” But, really, she just sounds like a woman running away from continued heartbreak. —Ellen Johnson
John Prine: “I Remember Everything”
Earlier this year, beloved folk legend John Prine passed away after contracting COVID-19. A livestream tribute was held for him later on, with appearances from many famous celebrities, and his estate shared his final song “I Remember Everything.” The nostalgic ballad was produced by Dave Cobb and co-written by Prine and his longtime collaborator Pat McLaughlin. Its lyrics are as beautiful as any John Prine song: “I remember everything / Things I can’t forget / The way you turned and smiled on me / On the night that we first met.” Break out the tissue box, and watch Prine performing “I Remember Everything” in a living room below. —Danielle Chelosky
Lori McKenna: “When You’re My Age”
McKenna co-wrote “When You’re My Age” with her longtime partners Hillary Lindsey and Liz Rose (collectively, the trio is known as the Love Junkies), and the same goes for “Two Birds,” a sprightly and cleverly written song about a love triangle that falls apart. “When You’re My Age” is a striking piano-driven ballad built around McKenna’s hopes for her kids’ (and, someday, her grandkids’) future. It’s the kind of song that could come off as treacly in less capable hands, but McKenna imbues it with the generous tenderness of a seasoned parent: “They’ll outgrow their shoes. They’ll outgrow their beds. They’ll outgrow that house and you can’t stop it,” she sings, her voice nearly cracking with emotion. —Ben Salmon
Margo Price: “Twinkle Twinkle”
“Twinkle Twinkle” is a blaring rocker, where country singer Margo Price offers a vivid account of paying dues on her long, circuitous route to stardom. “Playin’ dives, tryin’ to stay alive / Twinkle, twinkle little star,” she sings over rowdy guitars. In that sense, Price has definitely upended expectations, by gutting her way through the disappointment, self-doubt and financial peril of a musician hoping for a break. She’s earned hers, to be sure, but her new album That’s How Rumors Get Started suggests that she’s still getting her bearings after such a tumultuous ride. —Eric R. Danton
Mary Chapin Carpenter: “American Stooge”
Veteran folk singer/songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter strapped on her boots for a new album called The Dirt And The Stars (out Aug. 7), and so far the singles have been promising. That includes “American Stooge,” a classic Americana rocker about a jaded all-American guy who can’t quite find the right avenues for his cynicism. Or, as Carpenter puts it, “‘American Stooge’ is a song dedicated to those experts in sycophancy who roam the halls of Congress and government, attaching themselves to any powerful interest that suits their need to be relevant and feeds their appetite for power.” —Ellen Johnson
Ruston Kelly: “Radio Cloud”
“Radio Cloud” is the Nashville singer/songwriter’s third single from his forthcoming album Shape & Destroy (out Aug. 28). It’s a cathartic country-folk ballad, following the release of the very Elliott Smith-influenced “Rubber” and “Brave.” The album is sure to be an enchanting, emotional masterpiece. —Danielle Chelosky
Samantha Crain: “Holding to the Edge of Night”
Choctaw-American roots singer/songwriter Samantha Crain recently released a lovely new album called A Small Death (which is a lot more hopeful than it sounds). One standout track from the record is the lo-fi “Holding to the Edge of Night,” which finds night-owl Crain questioning “What’s that silence inside me that expands into the dark?” Morning people won’t relate to this lovely tune, in which Crain describes herself as coming to life at nighttime: “And as the moon floats above her, she unfastens all the fear.” —Ellen Johnson
Taylor Swift: “invisible string”
It’s been quite a while since Taylor Swift could reasonably appear on a list about “Americana” music or any roots-based songs. But on her surprise-released wonder album folklore, she sinks comfortably back into acoustic music like falling into bed after a long, hard day (while still cranking out beautiful pop songs, too). “invisible string” is the pluckiest of them all, though, as Swift creates a lush landscape with Iron & Wine-esque acoustic guitar while Aaron Dessner offers bustling instrumentation underneath. Thematically, “invisible string” is about two people’s parallel timelines weaving in and out of each other. But it also finds Swift in a satisfied state, making peace with past relationships: “Cold was the steel of my axe to grind / For the boys who broke my heart,” she sings. “Now I send their babies presents.” Maybe time really does heal all wounds. —Ellen Johnson
The War and Treaty: “Five More Minutes”
The War and Treaty, the powerhouse married soul duo made up of Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Blount-Trotter, will release their new album Hearts Town on Sept. 25. Lead single “Five More Minutes” is, like so many of their other songs, a hopeful and uplifting ballad about savoring every moment with a loved one. Through Michael’s eyes, it’s actually about the life-saving powers of love (sung to a groovy, piano-based beat): “After years of falling in and out of financial and mental depression, I had finally had enough,” Michael said in a statement. “I was ready to take my own life. But in my darkest moment, where I was ready right then and there to end it all, my wife Tanya asked one last thing of me: ‘Just give me five more minutes. Stay with me. Just five more minutes to love you.’ And something in her eyes, something in her hands convinced me to give her that five more minutes.” Apologies if you can’t hear the song over the sound of my sniffles. —Ellen Johnson
Listen to our Americana Songs You Need To Know playlist on Spotify right here.
The main difference between the American folk music revival and American "roots music" is that roots music seems to cover a broader range, including blues and country. Roots music developed its most expressive and varied forms in the first three decades of the 20th century.What historical events were important in the development of root music? ›
As the American Roots Music series illustrates, roots music was linked to and reflected many dynamic movements for change, including the war on poverty, the New Deal, the labor movement, the Civil Rights movement and the peace, environmental, Native American, Chicano and women's movements.What is the meaning of roots music? ›
The term “American roots music” (also known simply as “roots music”) originated in the 20th century and was defined as blues and folk song styles with lyrical themes that re-counted the hopes, sorrows, and challenges of everyday people living in the rural South.What does Americana album mean? ›
Americana is a music genre that encompasses traditional music styles including folk, country, bluegrass, blues, gospel, singer-songwriter, and roots music. Many of these styles emerged from small towns and rural regions throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.What are the 4 types of folk? ›
The four basic types of folktales are allegories, fables, trickster tales, and fairy tales.What is the oldest American folk song? ›
One of the earliest known ballads composed in the American colonies is "Springfield Mountain," a song about the death by snakebite of Timothy Merrick in Wilbraham, Massachusetts in 1761.What is the oldest known music? ›
The Hurrian Hymn was discovered in the 1950s on a clay tablet inscribed with Cuneiform text. It's the oldest surviving melody and is over 3,400 years old. The hymn was discovered on a clay tablet in Ugarit, now part of modern-day Syria, and is dedicated the Hurrians' goddess of the orchards Nikkal.What was the first song ever made? ›
“Hurrian Hymn No. 6” is considered the world's earliest melody, but the oldest musical composition to have survived in its entirety is a first century A.D. Greek tune known as the “Seikilos Epitaph.” The song was found engraved on an ancient marble column used to mark a woman's gravesite in Turkey.What is the oldest form of music? ›
Oral singing is likely the earliest form of music, followed by organized sound like clapping or foot stomping. Various musical instruments could have been developed at a later stage.What is another term for roots music? ›
American folk music. Americana (music), a style incorporating early blues, country, folk, rhythm and blues, and rock influences. Folk music.
Soul music traces its roots to traditional blues and the gospel music of the Black church. Soul pioneers of the 1950s—such as Ray Charles, Etta James, Sam Cooke, Clyde McPhatter, Little Richard, and Hank Ballard—learned music through performing in gospel groups.Who started the roots of music? ›
The Roots of Music was created in 2007
during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, by Derrick Tabb, Grammy winner and CNN Hero.
The simple Americana definition would state that it describes artworks featuring objects or imagery associated with the United States. More often than not, artists have used Americana less to promote the values of America than as a means for cultural criticism.What are the symbols of Americana? ›
Symbols Of American Culture
These include familiar ones like the American flag, Statue of Liberty, the Liberty Bell, Uncle Sam, the White House, and the bald eagle. They also include symbols that challenge the establishment to promote social change.
- American football.
- Blue jeans.
- Flag of the United States.
- Fourth of July.
- Mount Rushmore.
- Route 66.
- War song.
- Anti-war song.
- Tamang Selo.
- Sea songs, including sea shanties.
- Drinking song.
- Epic song.
- Work song.
- Love song.
The term 'folk culture' is used to refer to both specific cultural practices and whole cultures, and examples include Morris dancing in England, folk singing such as Mongolian throat singing, Choctaw (Native American) story telling and the whole of the Amish culture is also referred to as a 'folk culture'…What is the oldest band in America? ›
In fact, America's oldest continuously active professional music organization predates Washington, D.C. The U.S. Marine Band was founded by an act of Congress — signed by then-President John Adams — in 1798, two years before Washington, D.C., became the nation's capital.What was the first popular song in America? ›
The first song to sell millions of copies of sheet music was written and first performed in Cream City. The song is called 'After the Ball' by Charles Harris. It was written in 1891 and debuted in 1892.What is the oldest music in America? ›
ountry music is America's oldest musical genre and is arguably its most diverse. Its roots lie in such disparate elements as English folk balladry, Mississippi Delta blues, Irish fiddle tunes, French/Cajun music, Vaudeville, Southern gospel, Mexican conjunto, German polkas and Victorian pop songs.
100 most-streamed songs.
|Release date||29 November 2019|
The short answer is: No one knows who invented music. No historical evidence exists to tell us exactly who sang the first song, or whistled the first tune, or made the first rhythmic sounds that resembled what we know today as music. But researchers do know it happened thousands of years ago.What is the oldest song still popular? ›
The Phos Hilaron, which is often called Lumem Hilare today, is considered one of the earliest Christian Greek hymns. It is the oldest complete hymn that is still widely used by the Church today.Who is the most popular singer in the world? ›
Abel Tesfaye, more commonly known as The Weeknd, is statistically the most popular musician on the planet, and no one else even comes close. The 33-year-old Canadian singer's success has seen him set two new Guinness World Records titles: Most monthly listeners on Spotify – 111.4 million (as of 20 March 2023)Who was the first pop singer? ›
The first major pop stars as such were the crooners of the 1930s and '40s. Bing Crosby sold millions of records, as did Frank Sinatra (arguably the first modern pop star, with screaming teenage female fans - the bobbysoxers), and in Britain, Al Bowly.Who was the first rapper? ›
DJ Kool Herc is widely credited with kicking off the genre. His back-to-school parties in the 1970s were the incubator of his burgeoning idea, where he used his two record turntables to create loops, playing the same beat over again, and extending the instrumental portion of a song.Who invented rap? ›
Rap began in 1971, in the Bronx, with Kool Herc, who was from Jamaica. At block parties, Kool Herc would play two turntables by hand and manipulate the sound to create an entirely new sound, while he rapped the lyrics from the song he was playing.Who is the father of music? ›
|Johann Sebastian Bach|
|Portrait of Bach by E. G. Haussmann, 1748|
|Born||21 March 1685 (O.S.) 31 March 1685 (N.S.) Eisenach|
|Died||28 July 1750 (aged 65) Leipzig|
|Works||List of compositions|
The oldest object that some scholars refer to as a musical instrument, a simple flute, dates back as far as 50,000 - 60,000 years. Some consensus dates early flutes to about 40,000 years ago.What is the opposite of folk music? ›
Anti-folk (sometimes referred to as unfolk) is a music genre that emerged in the 1980s in response to the remnants of the 1960s folk music scene.
1. Root position chord: In a root position chord, the root is the lowest note played. For instance, an F major triad in root position will have an F as its lowest note. The other chord tones—the major third (an A note) and the fifth (a C note)—will sound above that low F.What is the root of rhythm? ›
The word rhythm originally derives from the Greek word 'rhuthmos', which relates to the word 'rhein' meaning 'to flow'. It became popularly used in English from the mid-16th century onwards, and at first the word shared the same meaning as the word 'rhyme'.Who was the king of soul music? ›
James Brown set the standard for dynamic live performance in American music. Inspired by preachers in the Black church, Brown started out singing in gospel quartets.How music speaks to the soul? ›
“Music speaks the language of the soul, penetrating into the past and resonating into the future, unearthing pain and tenderness and sorrow and joy, reminding us of our infinite fragility and extraordinary strength, reigniting our dreams and passions once again to remind us of who we are meant to be.”Who first wrote music? ›
It all started with the Ancient Greeks.
Sadly, there are very few examples of written music from Ancient Greece – but we do know that the Greeks were crucial in setting the groundwork for music theory.
Americans spend more than four hours a day listening to music. “Lose Yourself” by Eminem is the first rap song to win an Oscar. The most expensive musical instrument in the world is a Stradivarius violin, with one being sold for $15.9 million. A person's heartbeat mimics the beat of the music he or she is listening to.Who first used the word music? ›
The modern English word 'music' came into use in the 1630s. It is derived from a long line of successive precursors: the Old English 'musike' of the mid-13th century; the Old French musique of the 12th century; and the Latin mūsica.Who is the father of Americana music? ›
Crowell, known as the founding father of the Americana genre, is Nashville royalty and a national treasure, as well as a five-time Americana honoree and award winner. GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The legendary Rodney Crowell makes his debut in Royce Auditorium at St.Why is it called Americana music? ›
In the 1990s, radio programmers coined a new, related usage: "Americana" became a nickname for the weather-beaten, rural-sounding music that bands like Whiskeytown and Uncle Tupelo were making.Who popularized Americana music? ›
Bands like Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers and The Avett Brothers helped bring contemporary Americana to more people than ever before. Their popularity as artists took the genre (which was somewhat of a niche, in the shadow of country and rock) and made it mainstream.
You can add others, but the American symbols suggested to focus on are: the U.S. flag, the Statue of Liberty, the bald eagle, the Liberty Bell, Mount Rushmore, and the Pledge of Allegiance.What are three patriotic symbols? ›
American Symbols: The Flag, the Statue of Liberty, and the Great Seal.What represents American culture? ›
American culture includes both conservative and liberal elements, scientific and religious competitiveness, political structures, risk taking and free expression, materialist and moral elements.What are the characteristics of Americana music? ›
These features include lyrical repetition, use of rhythmic instruments, and ethnic, religious, and racial diversity. There are also influences from rock 'n' roll. (The Caveman Americana music concerts will be held in Colorado.)What is New Americana music? ›
"New Americana" is a midtempo alternative pop and electronic pop song that blends electronica and pop.What is considered folk? ›
folk music, type of traditional and generally rural music that originally was passed down through families and other small social groups. Typically, folk music, like folk literature, lives in oral tradition; it is learned through hearing rather than reading.What classifies folk? ›
What is folk music? Folk is a term used to describe all sorts of musical, oral and cultural traditions from specific regions and societies around the world. Folk comes from the German word 'volk' meaning 'the people' and folk music is often thought of as being the music belonging to 'the people'.What does folk mean in culture? ›
Introduction. Conventionally, folk culture refers to the products and practices of relatively homogeneous and isolated small-scale social groups living in rural locations. Thus, folk culture is often associated with tradition, historical continuity, sense of place, and belonging.What are the three types of folk culture? ›
Folk culture may be divided into four main categories: (1) material, (2) formalised, (3) functional, and (4) performing.What is 1 example of folk culture? ›
The term 'folk culture' is used to refer to both specific cultural practices and whole cultures, and examples include Morris dancing in England, folk singing such as Mongolian throat singing, Choctaw (Native American) story telling and the whole of the Amish culture is also referred to as a 'folk culture'…
- It's transmitted (passed from one user to the next) orally, rather than via a written score.
- The original composer is often unknown – instead the tune and/or words spread organically.
- The music is played on traditional instruments.
- It may have themes of cultural or national identity.
Development of Folk Music
The earliest folk musicians include Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Jimmie Rogers, and Burl Ives. Of the four, Woody Guthrie in the 1930s is often seen as the first significant contributor to the genre.
Modern folk is an acoustic based genre of music with strong story telling elements. On the Modern Folk playlist, most songs we feature are predominantly traditional stringed instruments like the guitar, fiddle, mandolin, upright bass, and yes, the often misunderstood and underappreciated, banjo.Who practices folk culture? ›
Folk culture- the culture traditionally practiced primarily by small, homogenous groups living in isolated rural areas. Popular culture- the culture found in large, heterogeneous societies that share certain habits despite differences in other personal characteristics.What are the five types of popular culture? ›
The common pop-culture categories are: entertainment (such as film, music, television and video games), sports, news (as in people/places in the news), politics, fashion, technology, and slang.What is folk beliefs and practices? ›
In folkloristics, folk belief or folk-belief is a broad genre of folklore that is often expressed in narratives, customs, rituals, foodways, proverbs, and rhymes. It also includes a wide variety of behaviors, expressions, and beliefs.Who are the common folk? ›
A commoner, also known as the common man, commoners, the common people or the masses, was in earlier use an ordinary person in a community or nation who did not have any significant social status, especially a member of neither royalty, nobility, nor any part of the aristocracy.What are the two types of traditional music? ›
Traditional folk music often includes sung words, although folk instrumental music occurs commonly in dance music traditions.