Due to this diary by Rex Billy The Kid, a recent music diary by Ube and some great comments by someone, I forget which diary, my ears recently done gone went tripping galore on the whole Americana Genre thang.
Americana is an all encompassing piece of verbiage that covers so much under its umbrella it is almost impossible to sum it up . . . Especially as Wiki Defines It.
But I’m gonna spin MY thoughts, feelings and most importantly some info on radio stations and artists which to ME embody the whole Americana genre.
If yer from CA or Texas (where HUGE numbers of Americana artists, singer/songwriters come from), perhaps one of the MOST defining artists and songs of Americana that are most well known to the masses would be Robert Earl Keen (they all have three names for the most part ya know) and his legendary epic story of love n crime.
Thass just a teaser vid.
So, how DID Larue ever hear about this thing they call Americana?
Good question, n glad ya asked!
Long Long Ago in CA down south of SF (heretofore known as The CITY) there was this group of crazed, whackaloon, highly (literally high) inspired buncha freaks n freakettes who seemed to share a similar n singular warped n bent love of music that was so unique it was even rejected in the 60’s by many of us DFH’s.
I admit, I rejected a lot of it way back then from what I thought then were comic artists . . . Country Dick Montana N The Beat Farmers ilk, you know, THEM folks. Like Zappa, comedic but crazed.
Yep, I was too pure . . . little did I know in the early 70’s n mid 70’s what was to come from them comedic but crazed (like, Canada’s Fred Eaglesmith N The Flying Squirrels RIP Washboard Hank) folks was gonna spread like wildfire and find my ears and burrow in deep later on in the 90’s.
But I digress.
These crazed folks I refer to (not the artists) went n somehow started a lil old radio station that was so small they had to do partial pirate like stuff to broadcast it at all.
That station near Gilroy, CA (Garlic Festival) was the legendary KFAT.
Like it’s hippie predecessors KMPX and KSAN in the 60’s outta The City, it was so insanely lovely compared to the ever increasing and encroaching formatted radio one would find on either am or fm radio, and there were NO others like it.
One could fill a garage with the depth and variety of KFAT like artists that got airplay.
Following KFAT, KHIP was begat and died.
N then along came KPIG. The Legendary Pig, Freedom (Santa Cruz County), CA.
That wiki does NOT give justice to the DJ’s, music, various ownerships and management of KPIG in its lifetime.
But sometime in 1995 . . . among KPIG’s many exploits, one Wild Bill Goldsmith, Engineer Extraordinaire, took them streaming hot n heavy on the intertoobz. The FIRST such online commercial radio station ever, at the time.
Suddenly, Americana was available world wide.
Now, between the 70’s n the time KPIG hit the intertoobz there were other pockets and haunts of Americana, particularly in the SW (god bless Aaustin City Limits and Austin).
But I’ll leave you readers to chase all that stuff down . . . it involves the move of country music from Nashville, outlaws like Nelson, Jennings and Kristofferson and the like, to Austin and the SouthWest.
BTW, Wild Bill Goldsmith left KPIG at some point, n started up his own online stream called Radio Paradise, which is online to this day with FINE Americana musics.
But let’s get back to the artists, the songs, the music of Americana as I know it from thse stations above and their incredible dj’s and staffs.
So, who’s an Americana artist?
Dave Alvin! From The Blasters, The Guilty Men, The Guilty Women.
Dave Alvin is just a hoss, end of story. Sanger/songwriter of incredible nuances, band leader, plays git just FINE . . . let’s see some Dave
Alvin! Here’s Dave in a simple format doing a classic tune of his. From east of The Ohio River to the Sierra Gold Fields . . . oh my.
Here’s Dave Alvin in ’98, with one of my fav electric big sound songs of all, 30 Dollar Room.
Another one of Alvin’s most masterful and soulful songwriting works was Dry River. Here it is with Dave n a support git, acoustic style with electric git.
James McMurtry had a big hit with this song, too. It rocks.
Sadly, I can’t find it on youtube. But James McMurtry is HEAVY THICK Americana (his father did the book series Lonesome Dove so this stuff runs deep the family) and here’s one of his HUGE hits, Choctaw Bingo.
‘Makes the meth cuz the shine don’t sell’. Oklahoma, baby. Paging Dr. Dick!
Ok, we got Dave Alvin N James McMurtry in the bag. Let’s move on!
Of all sanger/songwriters like those two above, another of my dear favs is Tom Russell.
He’s insane, been doing it for ever, has written and co-written with the likes of Dave Alvin, Ian Tyson, and others of the like. He’s been so good for so long it’s crazy.
N his second incarnation came at the hands of Robert Hunter, lyricist legend for The Grateful Dead. Yeah, somehow it all ties in, huh.
The first Tom Russell song I ever heard was on KPIG in ’98, and it was this one, a classic of the West. Here’s a great clip of him and git master hoss Andrew Hardin, with some thoughts from others after the song, Great vid. But the rooster always loses in the end.
The song is epic in length, so here’s the lyrics n the story is grand!
Here’s another classic Russell tune, but ignore the open mariachi, the song will start soon enough. It’s grand, it’s wild! And Tonite We Ride!
In this tribute to Edward Abbey, Tom gets political.
Perhaps one of his weirdest and best and most eclectic albums of his career was “Hotwalker”.
I can’t describe it, so here’s an Amazon linkie, read thru it, scroll down for comments/reviews.
N if that don’t cut it, perhaps my fav cut from this project will help illustrate.
Here’s Tom Russell reminiscing and ruminating on his days in Grenwich Village and Van Ronk. David Van Ronk. The Pope Of Grenwich Village.
I’m gonna bust out bawlin like a baby.
Shut up and listen! Play that god damned thing again Andrea! Play it!
And to close, another Russell classic he wrote . . . just another incredible story from one of the best ever.
So, that’s a good run thru of Tom Russell, . . . there’s more but I can’t do all of his songs, so I hope all y’all will google round and explore him, Dave Alvin, James McMurtry.
I’m gonna have to split this one into a series . . . there are too many to put into just one diary.
So stay tuned.
I haven’t even tapped into Ray Wylie Hubbard (three names), Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Townes van Zandt, Emmy Lou Harris, more Robert Earl Keen and some artists I have overlooked in my preplist no doubt.
So LISTEN goddamnit! Listen to that music!
RIP Dave Van Ronk.
N dawg bless KFAT/KHIP/KPIG and Americana.
We’ll pick some more later.