Many music genres have their roots deeply planted in cultures from all over the world. A little piece of this merges with a few notes of that and suddenly, a new sound is born and the world of music changes once again.
There is a certain genre, however, that has sort of gotten a bad “rap” if you will, ……it’s a much-misunderstood musical powerhouse.
And what is that genre? It’s AMERICANA! I know, I know…. I know what you’re thinking…. Folk Music, Country; and if that is indeed what you are thinking, you would be both right and not so right…. well, very not right. But guess what? Americana is one of those sounds that has its roots deeply planted in nearly every genre! That’s right! Americana is a carefully tossed mixture of rock, blues, jazz and maybe even some hip-hop! (I might be exaggerating on the Hip-Hop but I am not ruling it out).
Are you shocked or even mildly surprised? I know I was! Until I researched this and connected the dots, I had the idea that Americana was old school country of some kind. That idea soon fell “flat” (what, too soon for a note joke?) when I realized that Bob Dylan is classified as Americana, as well as many others you would never think of.
So, to get the skinny on this, I turned to Bill Blanchard of Lonesome Angels to school me.
BU: Hi, Bill! Thanks for talking with us! I know you play that bad boy Gibson guitar and I know that if someone owns that guitar they would certainly be able to shine some light on the topic of American Music, or at least look damn good standing next to it! *smiles
BB: Thanks for having me! For me, it’s always a pleasure to talk about music, and I actually DO play my Gibson, although I sometimes do like to just stand by it. *smiles
BU: Maybe we can start with this: That Gibson guitar you play. Is it instrumental (another music joke…get it?) in the Americana sound? And if so, why?
BB: Well, the Gibson Country Western Guitar is a larger bodied guitar that brings a slightly different sound that works well with Americana. Mine is a 57” and it’s a beauty both visually and otherwise. It’s one of many instruments used in Americana Music that helps in defining the sound.
BU: What are some of the other instruments that might be used?
BB: Well, at any given time you might hear a harmonica, banjo, Pedal Steel, (Pedal Steel? Remind me to ask him).
Fiddle, (Oh, and is fiddle different from a violin?)
And maybe drums, ukulele, but not that much, and many other types of musical instruments depending on the song and who is available to play! *Smiles. Oh, and always guitar,
BU: That’s quite the range! (I’m on fire today!)
BB: Well, if you listen to Neil Young, or CSNY, you might hear all those instruments, and then some~
BU: They are considered Americana?
BB: They are. The only conundrum is sometimes a song is CLEARLY country, and it’s classified as Americana. There is a difference.
BU: OK, I’ll bite…. what IS the difference?
BB: Well, because Americana is a blend of so many types of music, it has a large range, but typically it has a folk base but not always.
BU: UM, OK, I am sort of confused. I think we should look at examples of Americana musicians:
Tom Petty (YES!!), Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Lyell Lovett, John Mellencamp, Crosby. Stills, Nash and Young, Elvis Costello, Randy Newman….just to name a few! But that is what makes it unique!
I think it’s the music that isn’t country and it isn’t folk…it doesn’t really have a clear and concise…well, let’s say definitive description, so it falls in to a category coined as Americana. I think that is fairly accurate way to classify this genre.
BU: So, Bill, your band plays specifically American, right?
BB: Pretty much, yes. I started out listening to bands like CSNY and Jackson Brown, Dylan, etc. so it was a natural inclination for me to carry it over in to my musical career.
BU: I have heard your band play and you guys are great! Lead singer Brian Mulligan falls right in to the right blend of Bob Dylan meets Johnny Cash! Do you have a CD?
BB: Yes. If you go to our website, you can find it there.
BU: Well, thank you so much, Bill. This really has been a learning experience for me! …OH!!!!!!!!! Pedal Steel!!!!!!!??
According to WIKI, a Pedal Steel is a guitar that looks like this:
The pedal steel guitar, with its smooth portamenti, bending chords and complex riffs, is one of the most recognizable and characteristic instruments of American country music. The instrument is a type of electric guitar that is built on legs or a stand and is fitted with foot pedals and knee levers which change the pitch of certain strings. The word “steel” comes from a piece of polished steel held against the strings and moved back and forth to change the pitch, which gives the infinite portamento sound that is so characteristic. Like other electric guitars, the steel guitar produces sound by the vibration of its strings which are converted by magnetic pickup connected to an amplifier.
Well, then that explains that!!!!!!! Now, who can tell me what a COWPUNK BAND IS??????
OH! One last thing…..the fiddle/violin difference?
There’s an old musician’s joke:
“What’s the difference between a fiddle and a violin?”
“You don’t spill beer on a violin!”
I am fairly certain that’s about the main and maybe only difference. Either way, both sound great!
BIO: Bill Blanchard Currently plays a 57’ Country and Western Gibson Guitar in the band Lonesome Angels
He also has his own private chiropractic practice in Rochester, Blanchard Chiropractic