Music journalist sarah frater
Geoffrey Himes: The first record I ever bought with my own money was the Beatles' “I Want To Hold Your Hand” b/w “I Saw Her Standing There” just as it was entering the American charts in the spring of 1964.I was 11, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that those early Beatles records changed my life.I host a monthly singer-songwriter series in Baltimore.I just won my fourth ASCAP/Deems Taylor Award for writing about music. The question "What the hell is Americana" sounds flippant, but there’s actually a serious issue wrapped inside the wisecrack.
But for those of us who like to write and talk about music, well-defined category labels are indispensable.
Bob Dylan led me to Woody Guthrie, who led me to Jimmie Rodgers.
The Byrds led me to John Coltrane who led me to Thelonious Monk.
We want to be able to talk about the similarities that bind various artists together, and each time we refer to such a cluster of musicians, it's a whole lot easier to use a shorthand phrase like Americana.
Allow me to offer my own definition: Americana music is any music clearly based on the way working-class musicians from the Greater American South between 19 handled the traditions imported from the British Isles, West Africa, northern France and northern Mexico.