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A History of Americana Music

Photograph of the blog post author, Annika Hope

Annika Hope


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Americana music is a genre of roots music that combines elements of folk, country, blues, rock, and other styles. It is a distinct style of music that is often rooted in traditional American music while incorporating modern influences. The term was coined in the late 1990s and early 2000s to describe a new wave of American roots music that was emerging at the time.

The roots of Americana music can be traced back to the early twentieth century when folk and country music were popular in the United States. It is closely related to the blues, which was born out of the African-American experience in the South. 

The term Americana was first used in the 1940s to describe a new kind of music that combined elements of different styles. In the late 1990s, Americana music began to gain more mainstream attention. Artists such as Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, and Ryan Adams began to gain recognition for their unique blend of folk, country, and rock. The genre has since grown in popularity, with artists like The Avett Brothers, The Lumineers, and The Head and the Heart becoming popular in the mainstream.

Today, Americana music is still evolving as new artists continue to explore and expand the genre. It is a diverse and ever-changing genre that continues to influence the music industry.

What Makes Americana Music?

As this type of music blends so many genres together, there are many characteristics of the music, which include: 

– A blend of traditional and modern musical styles

– A focus on storytelling and lyrics

– A mix of acoustic and electric instruments

– The use of traditional instruments such as banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and steel guitar

– A variety of vocal styles, including country twang, bluesy growl, and bluegrass yodel

– A focus on themes of rural life, traditional values, and the American experience

Here are some great songs that adhere to the characteristics above and are definitely what you would call Americana music.  

The Dead South – In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company

Ghost Riders in the Sky – Southern Raised

Mumford & Sons – Hopeless Wanderer

Alabama Shakes – Hold On

Townes Van Zandt – Like A Summer Thursday

Collection of Genres

Americana music is a collection of genres, not one single genre, so I thought it might be helpful to discuss in detail each of the types you may hear in relation to Americana music. 

American folk music

American folk music is a genre of music that has been passed down through generations in the United States. It is a blend of many different styles, including traditional and modern influences. It encompasses a variety of genres, including blues, country, bluegrass, gospel, and more. American folk music is often characterized by its simple melodies and lyrics, often reflecting the stories and experiences of everyday life. It has been an important part of American culture for centuries, and continues to be a major influence on popular music today.

Blues music

Blues music is a style of African-American music that originated in the Deep South of the United States around the end of the 19th century. It is characterized by the use of the blues scale, blue notes, call-and-response patterns, and a strong emphasis on the vocal performance. The blues has been a major influence on many other genres of music, including jazz, rock, and country.

Country & bluegrass music

Bluegrass music is a genre of American roots music that originated in the Appalachian region of the United States. It is a form of folk music that is characterized by its use of stringed instruments, high vocal harmonies, and fast tempos. Bluegrass music has its roots in Irish, Scottish, and English traditional music, and it has been popularized by artists like Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, and the Stanley Brothers. It is a popular genre in the United States, and it has also gained popularity in countries like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.


AmericanaFest 2023 is an annual music festival that is a melting pot of Americana’s influences including roots, folk, country, blues and soul-based music. Each year, AmericanaFest brings together legendary artists, the next generation of rising stars, fans, and industry professionals for multiple days of music and education.

The festival will take place in Nashville, Tennessee over four days, September 19-23, 2023. During the festival, attendees will have the opportunity to attend live performances, workshops, and panel discussions featuring some of the biggest names in Americana music. 

Additionally, there will be a variety of food and beverage vendors, as well as merchandise stands featuring American-inspired items. The festival will also feature a variety of activities for all ages, including art installations, interactive games, and more.

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Planning for AMERICANAFEST 2023 is underway, so the line-up is not officially publicized just yet. So you need to keep an eye out on the Americana Music website. 

Tickets Prices 

These are the types of festival passes you can buy below, and there are still plenty available, you can buy them here

Conference + Festival Pass Standard Rate – $449.00

Conference + Festival Pass Member Rate – $349.00

Festival Pass – $125.00

There would have also been a Gold Circle Package, but this has now sold out. 

For over 20 years now, the community has gathered in Music City for music discovery, industry insight, quality hangs, and unforgettable times in over 70 venues. AMERICANAFEST brings together legendary artists, the next generation of rising stars, and industry professionals for five days of music and education.

Top Americana Music Artists

In this article, we haven’t got time to mention all the best Americana artists out there, but here are the top 4 on our list. 

Ruston Kelly

Ruston Kelly is an Americana singer-songwriter from Nashville, Tennessee. He is best known for his songwriting, which often incorporates elements of folk, country, and rock. He has released four studio albums, including his debut Dying Star in 2018, which earned him critical acclaim. His other albums include Shape & Destroy (2020), Dirt Emo (2021), and Blood Brothers (2021). He has also released several EPs and singles, and has collaborated with other artists such as Kacey Musgraves and Brandi Carlile. His music is often described as intimate and personal, and he has been praised for his vulnerable and honest lyrics.

Jason Charles Miller

Jason Charles Miller is an American singer-songwriter and musician from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He is best known for his work as the lead singer and songwriter of the alternative rock band Godhead and as the frontman of the industrial rock project The Few Against Many. Miller is also a solo artist and has released four solo albums, including his most recent, From the Wreckage, in 2020. His music is a mix of hard rock, metal, industrial, and Americana, with his lyrics often focusing on personal struggles and the search for meaning in life. Miller has toured with a variety of bands, including Static-X, Coal Chamber, Powerman 5000, and Drowning Pool. He has also collaborated with a variety of artists, including Richard Patrick of Filter, John 5 of Marilyn Manson, and Rob Zombie.

Danny Vera

Danny Vera is a Dutch singer-songwriter and musician who has been making waves in the Americana music scene since his debut album, Pressure Makes Diamonds, was released in 2018. Vera has released several albums since then, including his 2020 album, The New Now. His music draws influence from a variety of genres, including folk, blues, country, and rock. 

His songs often feature themes of love and loss, as well as social and political issues. Vera has been praised by critics for his unique blend of styles and his heartfelt lyrics. He has toured extensively throughout Europe and the U.S., and has performed at several major festivals, including AmericanaFest and SXSW.

Levon Helm

Levon Helm was an American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist best known for his work as the drummer and one of the vocalists for the band The Band. He was also known for his deeply soulful, country-accented voice and his passionate, dynamic drumming style. Helm was an important influence on the Americana music scene, and his music has been described as a combination of blues, country, gospel, rock and roll, and folk. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008 as a member of The Band.

Closing Thoughts

Americana music will always be a constant in the music industry and it has so much rich history behind it. The soulfulness and heartfelt lyrics make it what it is. Billy Bob Thornton spoke the genre of music and said, ‘I think Americana music is music that is generally more singer/songwriter oriented. It has more to do with the songwriting. The music, it’s more like stories set to music.’

Or it’s just like K. D. Lang said, ‘I never get tired of exploring Americana or country music, and I always have a little bit of a crooner in me that never seems to go away.’ 


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