Looking Back On Americana In 2012

  • The Lumineers
    Photo: Cooper Neill/Getty Images
  • Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard
    Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images
  • Mumford & Sons' Marcus Mumford
    PhotO: Tony Woolliscroft/WireImage.com

From Virginia holler porches and Texas honky-tonks to New York coffeehouses, Americana is as diverse as the nation from which its namesake is derived. It is perhaps that diversity that made the genre a thriving economical force in 2012, evidenced by the growing popularity and crossover appeal of artists such as Mumford & Sons, the Avett Brothers and the Lumineers, among many others.

This year also an influx of Americana artists featured on late-night TV shows such as "Late Show With David Letterman" and "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," and on the stages of major music festivals such as the Austin City Limits Music Festival, Bonnaroo and the Sasquatch! Music Festival. Americana also had a strong showing on many non-genre-specific best-of lists, most notably Paste magazine's 50 Best Albums of 2012 tally, which included releases by artists such as Alabama Shakes, Punch Brothers, Justin Townes Earle, and the Lumineers.

Americana infiltrated television as songs by artists such as the White Buffalo and Alabama Shakes were featured on "Sons Of Anarchy" and "True Blood," respectively. Additionally, genre luminaries such as the Del McCoury Band and Sam Bush made guest appearances on "Nashville," a city whose growing Americana exports can be attributed to GRAMMY-winning producer and Americana pioneer T Bone Burnett.

The Americana Music Festival & Conference broke attendance records and, for the first time ever, sold out its annual Americana Music Honors & Award ceremony, which featured performances by Bonnie Raitt, Booker T. Jones and Richard Thompson. The ceremony was also aired live on channels across the nation for the first time.

In new music, 2012 saw releases from Chelle Rose, Elizabeth Cook, Chris Knight, Doc Dailey, Dwight Yoakam, Shovels & Rope, Jason Eady, and Gretchen Peters, among others. In my six years of blogging, I am having a difficult time picking a top year-end list. This is what's known as a "good problem."

Though 2012 was a year of great gains, we'd be remiss not to acknowledge those we lost: GRAMMY winners Levon Helm, Doc Watson, Donald "Duck" Dunn, and Earl Scruggs, and pioneering female country music legend Kitty Wells.

One of the best ways to continue to honor Americana music is of course to continue to put out great new music. With the unfolding of unreleased material from Townes Van Zandt and a new album from Kris Kristofferson, 2013 is shaping up to be as hot as a $2 pistol. 

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