“Nobody knows,” deadpans The Milk Carton Kids’ Joey Ryan in Black Deer’s ‘What Is Americana?’ film and, of course, he’s right. Except he’s wrong… kind of. Americana is the name given to the music and lifestyle that even though we can’t agree on where and when it was born, we know it exists. We see it in Johnny Cash’s eyes. We hear it in Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s voice. We feel it in Bob Dylan’s music. We taste it from The Rolling Stones’ lips. We touch it on Wilco’s latest heavyweight vinyl. We smell it on the blues. And we live it here at Black Deer.
Black Deer Festival presents ‘what is Americana?’
Americana is a way of life. But don’t just take our word for it – watch our short film and let the UK Americana community tell you all about it. Hear the grassroots whisper and watch them swim away from the mainstream in independent waters where all are welcome: country, bluegrass, folk, gospel, blues… the choice is yours.
The emotional geography of Americana is tough to pin down. Some point to European emigrants sailing away from homes and families to the new world of America before heading down south to set-up homesteads near the familiar sights and sounds of mountains and rivers, their strumming of stringed instruments reminding them of loved ones left behind. Others talk about the emergence of ‘outlaw country’ and artists such as Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings taking on the Nashville machine and winning. Baby boomers often credit Bob Dylan and The Band shacking up at Big Pink in West Saugerties, New York to create music that jumped on and hopped off what writer Greil Marcus named “that old, weird America”. Whereas Generation X will point to Uncle Tupelo, ‘No Depression’ and alt-country busy being born whilst mainstream country was busy dying.
None of them are wrong… Americana is an orphanage where the rhythm of roots remains. They say the blues had a baby and its name was rock ‘n’ roll, but Americana is a country with many forefathers. “Americana keeps that old-time spirit alive,” says emerging artist Judy Blank in our film… but what is that spirit? It’s hard to define, but we think you can find it in the search us dedicated followers are always on – a search that starts with the knowledge that it’s not the destination that matters, but the journey.
In other words, it’s not where you’re going that counts, but where you’re at. What is Americana? It’s everything it touches.
Black Deer Presents ‘What Is Americana?’