Is the end nigh for Americana?
Published: May 31, 2012
“In an age when anybody can buy a computer for a couple hundred bucks – which is great, it allows people to make music, but it can also make everything perfect in a way that wasn't available to them years ago – perhaps the pendulum does swing back to music that does seem more authentic and has a few mistakes and emotion in it,” Farrar says.
The sepia-toned flavor of the music can lend a hand lyrically, as well. Propped on its weathered shelves, what might come across as trite, hoary clichés are transformed into timeless sentiments; misanthropic narcissists with bad dating habits become the Marlboro Man with a tumbleweed heart. But just because it sounds like a murder ballad doesn't make it poignant, any more than vamping some gospel makes it inspirational.
Sure, it's great that paw-pop and mee-maw love your band, but you're kind of ruining pedal steel for everyone else. Indeed, part of what drew Farrar to the music in the first place was its novelty.
“At that point, that kind of music was not really fashionable at all. That's also what made it ultimately inspirational,” he says. “If I was just getting started now, I'm not sure if I'd share [Eaglesmith's] perspective or not. I still feel there's plenty of room for people to do whatever they do.”
That's one perspective. There's no denying that for nearly a quarter-century, loud, hard-charging electrified music ruled the 20-something underground from garage, punk and metal through hardcore, grunge and alt-rock. The broad expanse of Americana, encompassing the borders of country, blues and folk, works in its favor, affording plenty of camping space.
But the fact remains that nothing fails quite so assuredly as success. Even Michael Jordan ended up owning the Charlotte Bobcats, the worst team in basketball history. Twelve years of general ascendancy is a long time in any art form.
Yet crowning a successor remains a fool's errand. Perhaps Sharon Jones will show the way: The recent soul revival, as demonstrated by Jones, Mayer Hawthorne, JC Brooks and Black Joe Lewis, has gained steam, though the necessity of a great frontperson will obviously limit its widespread adoption (more than the need for alt-country artists to wail semi-convincingly and play an acoustic guitar).
Ultimately, it will probably come down to someone digging deep and finding something no one else thought of yet, someone capable of clearing the table of its moldy, long-suffering side dishes.
“In my experience, it's never where everyone's looking. When everyone's in the stock market, you know that's the time to get out. When everyone's buying real estate, that's the time to sell. When everyone's at the top of the barrel looking for those answers, guaranteed, one good dive and it's down there,” Eaglesmith says. “I'm looking for the guys so unique and new, they push me out.”
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