Vintage Guitar - July 2016 - Open - 113
Check This Action
What'S the dIfference?
By Dan forte
Kuhn and Johnson: Steve Moore.
he Americana Music Association defines
their made-up genre as "contemporary
music that incorporates elements of various American roots music styles, including
country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B,
and blues, resulting in a distinctive
roots-oriented sound that lives in
a world apart from the pure forms
of the genres upon which it may
draw." Vague enough? They're
apparently not ruling out commercial rock, country, R&B, etc.,
because some Top 10 artists have
been given Lifetime Achievement
Under that definition, the
Beatles, Stones, Animals, and most
British Invasion groups would be
considered Americana. I know
what you're thinking: a British act
can't be Americana - "America" is
right there in the name. Nope. In
2012, Richard Thompson received
the Lifetime Achievement Award
for Songwriting - and he's much
more influenced by British folk
music than any of the aforementioned bands.
Other Lifetime honorees include B.B. King
(undisputed "King of the Blues"), gospel icon
Mavis Staples, the original rock guitar hero
Duane Eddy, soul music's Booker T. Jones, and
John Fogerty - whose Creedence Clearwater
Revival was the torchbearer for real rock and
roll in a sea of San Francisco psychedelia. I
love all these artists, but if we need another
subdivision, they don't belong here; they're
indelibly ensconced in the genres they've
practiced their entire careers.
In a radio interview, the association's executive director, Jed Hilly, cited the Band as
perhaps the "rosetta stone of the Americana
movement" - yet, as of this writing, they have
not gotten Lifetime recognition (and neither
has Bob Dylan).
The organization is located outside Nashville, and for all their eclectic talk, there's a
definite country/folk ("singer/songwriter," if
you prefer) slant. Whether the following new
acoustic Upland Stories, unexpectedly sounding
more than a tad like James Taylor. But the evereclectic Fulks' smooth vocals and way with
a lyric, particularly the Appalachian-tinged
"America Is A Hard Religion," are unmistakable. (Although I still miss the dark humor of
"She Took A Lot Of Pills And Died.")
Big-voiced Chuck Johnson fronts the North
Carolina quintet Charlyhorse on Barb Wire, an
impressive collection of 13 originals. There's
CDs are Americana or good old country, I'll let a retro quality that's as Southern rock as
you decide - well, in three out of the four cases. country, but the meld comes off as organic
The Infamous Stringdusters have released six and authentic.
albums since their formation in 2006 - most
It's an engaging album featuring three-part
of them superior to the legion of post-Nickel harmonies and three multi-instrumentalists
in Tom Kuhn (mandolin, electric
bass), Dale Meyer (lead, Dobro),
and Dennis Johnson (upright
Tom Kuhn (l) and
Cyndi Lauper is, of course,
a pop-rock star, reality TV
personality, social activist, and
funny talk-show guest. But as
she bounces from genre to genre
(enlisting harp legend Charlie
Musselwhite for her 2010 blues CD
and tour), she's proved that she's
no mere dilettante. Recorded in
Nashville with Music City's finest,
Detour is distinctly not Americana;
it's real country music without
Lauper doesn't sound like a
pop singer attempting country,
and doesn't try to affect a country
voice. It's obvious that, besides
Creek neo-bluegrass outfits, featuring fine being a formidable vocalist, she didn't
picking by guitarist Andy Falco and Andy discover this music yesterday. Whether it's
Hall on Dobro.
Wanda Jackson's "Funnel Of Love" or Skeeter
Their latest, Ladies & Gentlemen, is an obvious Davis' "End Of The World," she's able to be
crossover attempt, the gimmick being a differ- faithful to the genre without sacrificing her
ent female vocalist on each of the dozen cuts. own personality - the sign of a true artist.
Ordinarily, this could risk a lack of continuity,
Highlights include Dan Dugmore's pedal
but the opposite is the case here. With singers as steel on "Walking After Midnight" and Vince
distinctive as Joan Osborne, Lee Ann Womack, Gill's lead on the title tune. Gill duets with
and Joss Stone (the only overwrought sore Lauper on the Conway Twitty/Loretta Lynn
thumb), sameness isn't the right term, but novelty, "You're The Reason Our Kids Are
the group's collective compositions could be Ugly," while Willie Nelson (and his gut-string
stronger. The most successful is "See How Far "Trigger") joins her on his classic "Night Life."
You've Come" featuring Sara Watkins.
Other session luminaries include bassist WilRobbie Fulks has written some beautiful lie Weeks, guitarists Kenny Greenberg and
ballads but is also capable of rocking any club Bryan Sutton, keyboardist/producer Tony
with nothing but him and his bluegrass-fueled Brown, and Aubrey Haynie on mandolin
guitar. With hysterical songs like "Countrier and fiddle.
Than Thou" and his salute to Nashville ("F***
This should not win an Americana, award;
This Town"), he's obviously not losing sleep it deserves a CMA.
over not being on country radio.
"Alabama At Night" opens the spare,
(c) 2016 Dan Forte; all rights reserved by the author.