by erin thursby
At once diverse and rooted in tradition, the Americana musical genre is one of the quirkiest genres you’ll find in the world of music. Even if you’ve never been exposed to this genre, you’re bound to find something at once familiar but different enough to be interesting at the Suwannee Springfest, which features an appealing blend of Americana bands.
Americana is sometimes narrowly defined. The Wiki entry calls it a form of alt-country, but it’s become far more than that. Americana is folk, is blues, is rock and jazz. It’s hillbilly fiddle music and every local traditional musical genre rolled into one. Americana, like America, can’t be defined as any one thing. What it tends to be is a blending of musical styles, generally rooted in a local tradition of music. Zydeco, a form of Creole music, is one of the root genres you might see.
So the net for Americana is thrown wide. The Suwannee Springfest includes groups like the Lee Boys, who are rooted in gospel but draw from hard-driving blues, jazz and rock. They even come from Jacksonville, where their music grew out of a local church’s brand of music. Two brothers, inclined towards the sound of the Hawaiian steel guitar, brought the electric lap steel guitar into the worship services of the House of God church in Jacksonville. Soon the pedal steel guitar was added, become the central instrument. The Lee Boys call it “Sacred Steel.”
Listen to the Duhks, another group on the lineup, and you might think you’ve stumbled upon an American roots band that draws such traditional music as old-time bluegrass, with hints of Celtic coming through. But they aren’t American. They’re Canadian and they’re drawing on a parallel tradition that has spawned excellent Celtic artists out of Nova Scotia and music that comes from a mixed French culture which can sound very New Orleans. It’s tinged with blues and gospel, with a coloring of World music.
Donna the Buffalo is classically Americana. Each band member brings a different tradition of music into the mix. Mountain music, bluegrass, rock, old-time music and zydeco are brought together. Part of being Americana is using instruments that have fallen out of general use or are part of a small ethnic or local tradition. You might see the accordion, fiddle or even a scrubboard employed during one of their sets.
These are a taste of the Americana you’ll find at the Suwannee Spring Music Fest on March 26-29. Check out the other artists in the lineup at magmusic.com/lineupspringfest.htm and check out the camping facilities at musicliveshere.com. Expand your musical horizons today! Take the trip to Live Oak for this mind-blowing fest.
by erin thursby