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(Credit: Far Out)

Music

Far Out 40: The essential Americana playlist

@SamWKemp

The best way to get to know America is through its music, and the best way to get to know its music is through Americana. This expansive and often vaguely-defined genre serves as the nation’s root network, connecting over a century of recorded music.

As you will no doubt discover, Americana is essentially an umbrella term for the various and divergent forms of folk music that have flourished in the United States and which make up what you might call the ‘sound’ of the nation. While the term tends to mean something slightly different to every listener, most Americana bleeds with the dulcet tones of the Southern United States, whether it be gospel, blues, bluegrass, or delta blues.

Americana is innately nostalgic. However, many have refused to let the genre wallow in its occasionally regressive retrospection. Indeed, countless Americana artists have made great use of electric bands, bringing a harder rock edge to an otherwise lilting and acoustically-focused genre. In fact, one of the reasons Americana is so hard to define is because often encompasses rock, just as it encompasses trad jazz, country, and blues.

The difficulty many have in defining Americana likely has something to do with the fact that the phrase was popularised by radio stations in the mid-1990s, many of which were looking for a concise term to describe a combination of country, folk, honky-tonk, Cajun and old-time music. The label stuck and Americana has since become regarded as a genre in its own right.

Here, we’ve bought you 40 essential Americana tracks to accompany you on long car rides across state lines. So, what are you waiting for? Wack those headphones on and get listening.

The ultimate Americana playlist:

  • ‘Sun It Rises’ – Fleet Foxes
  • ‘Wagon Wheel’ – Old Crow Medicine Show
  • ‘Jesus Etc.’ – Wilco
  • ‘Gone Gone Gone’ – Robert Plant, Alison Krauss
  • ‘Old Friends’ – Pinegrove
  • ‘Polly’ – Dillard & Clark
  • ‘Poncho & Lefty’ – Townes Van Zandt
  • ‘I Remember Everything’ – John Prine
  • ‘Harvest Moon’ – Neil Young
  • ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ – The Band
  • ‘Pastures of Plenty’ – Woody Guthrie
  • ‘Cornbread and Butterbeans’ – Carolina Chocolate Drops
  • ‘Bobby’ – Alex G
  • ‘For What It’s Worth’ – Buffalo Springfield
  • ‘Gospel Plow’ – Chance McCoy
  • ‘Freight Train’ – Elizabeth Cotten
  • ‘Same Old Train’ – Various Artists
  • ‘Fortune’ – Adam Hurt
  • ‘That Early Morning Boogie’ – King Porter & His Orchestra
  • ‘I Saw The Light’ – Hank Williams
  • ‘Visions of Johanna’ – Bob Dylan
  • ‘The Swimming Song’ – Loudon Wainwright III
  • ‘Venus in Cancer’ – Robbie Basho
  • ‘They’re Red Hot’ – Robert Johnson
  • ‘Even the Darkness Has Arms’ – The Barr Brothers
  • ‘Little Bit of Rain’ – Karen Dalton
  • ‘Ain’t Nobody Hear Us But Chickens’ – Louis Jordan
  • ‘Hooray Hooray’ – Taj Mahal, Ry Cooder
  • ‘Big Time’ – Angel Olsen
  • ‘Everything is Free’ – Gillian Welch
  • ‘You Don’t Know How It Feels’ – Tom Petty
  • ‘After Midnight’ – J.J. Cale
  • ‘Highway Queen’ – Nikki Lane
  • ‘Kiss You Down There’ – Hackenshaw Boys
  • ‘When The Levee Breaks’ – Memphis Minnie
  • ‘Stackloee’ – Jesse Fuller
  • ‘Rag Mamma Rag’ – The Band
  • ‘Forever’ – The Little Dippers
  • ‘La danse de Mardi Gras’ – The Balfa Brothers
  • ‘I’m A Ramblin’ Man’ – Waylon Jennings