The Music Genre 'Americana' Is Predominantly White And Male, But Why?

Aug 27, 2013

Wilco at Paradiso in the Netherlands in 2009.
Credit Guus Krol via flickr Creative Commons

Not so long ago, “Americana” was the term for rusty milk jugs, embroidered pillows and souvenir spoon collections found at antique stores. In the mid-1990s, it became the nickname for the rootsy, twangy, weather-beaten music of bands like Uncle Tupelo, Alison Krauss, and a man who embodies rebellion against the country music establishment…Johnny Cash. Americana stalwarts like Wilco, Ryan Adams, Gillian Welch and the big-selling collaboration of Alison Krauss and Robert Plant revived the music of an America that was appealing to boomers and those to the left of the “real” America celebrated by conservatives.


Giovanni Russonello is the editor of and a regular contributor to Jazztimes and NPR music. In a recent article for The Atlantic, Giovanni chided the Americana industry for playing it creatively safe, and for being stuck in the myth of America as a small town, predominantly white culture. We spoke to him about the article: “Why is a Music Genre Called 'Americana' So Overwhelmingly White and Male?