Mix together American roots music such as bluegrass, rhythm and blues, country, and folk, then stir in a hearty portion of down-to-earth charisma, et voilà: Americana music. At its heart, Americana has a deeply rustic feel, and exists at the intersection of some or all of these classic roots genres. It’s the kind of music that paints a grand picture of open country, roaming plains and old American charm.
Americana is special not only because it acts as the child of so many other beloved genres, but because it exemplifies the blending of the old with the new. It has the capacity to uplift and energize while spilling over with honest emotion, creating a sound that is both deeply human and largely joyful. We recommend gathering your favorite people, rolling a fat joint, and exploring the following Americana albums as you nestle into an elevated state of mind.
Leaving Eden by Carolina Chocolate Drops
Strain Pairing Recommendation: Blueberry Pie
Leaving Eden is at once up-on-your-feet, slap-your-knee, circle-swinging-dance music. But in the next breath it is also soft, heartfelt and gentle. This album can make you feel like you’re stepping back in time to rediscover the quintessential idea of old folk roots music—as with the song “Boodle-De-Bum-Bum”—but the very next song “Country Girl” will yank you out of the reverie and thrust you into the present with its upbeat, modern vibes and vocals. The title track “Leaving Eden” encourages reflection and a release of emotion with its gentle purring.
Carolina Chocolate Drops is comprised of Hubby Jenkins, Rowan Corbett, Malcolm Parson, and Rhiannon Giddens, with Giddens’ powerful yet delicate vocals often at the forefront of their sound. Between the four of them is a wide variety of instrumentation including guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, kazoo, drum, djembe, and cello. This album has a full, intricate sound that shifts and changes with each track, allowing it to hold its listener’s attention effortlessly.
Strain Pairing Recommendation: Lucid Dream
This is not your traditional Americana. The Carrier is fresh and modern with a vibrant, dirty sound that lives up to the band’s name. Their unique perspective on Americana often features influences from Eastern, African, and South American music threaded throughout. Comprised of David Satori (Beats Antique), Evan Fraser (Hamsa Lila; Bolo), and Mark Reveley (Jed and Lucia), the band describes their music as “a rebirth of Americana and a post-millennial psychedelic journey to downhome goodness.”
No two songs are quite alike on this almost exclusively instrumental album. From “The Well,” featuring Rising Appalachia, to the aptly named “Last Call,” with its sleepy afternoon vibe, The Carrier invites listeners to dive deep into a world with truth and whimsical fancy married together in happy harmony.
Strain Pairing Recommendation: Huckleberry
Best Of Old Crow Medicine Show starts off with “Wagon Wheel,” a song co-written with Bob Dylan. He first developed the chorus in 1973, 25 years before Old Crow Medicine Show added verses and finalized the song. The classic, like much of Old Crow Medicine Show’s music, tells a lyrical story that is set to a distinctly old-timey country-bluegrass-folk sound.
OCMS features guitar, banjo, standup bass, fiddle, harmonica, mandolin, drums, and keys, among many other instruments. The result of so much instrumental combination is a wonderfully rich, full sound that is as fanciful as it is familiar. Best Of Old Crown Medicine Show is a farmer on a front porch, a half-empty whiskey bottle, dusty boots, and sunflower fields for miles. It would be a challenge to listen to it without cracking a smile.
Strain Pairing Recommendation: Lemon Drop
Captain Nowhere is beautiful, heartfelt, and earthy. The album combines elements of folk, roots, country, bluegrass, and even jazz to create an Americana sound with a life of its own. Todd Sheaffer’s vocals, together with the album’s lyricism, evoke nostalgia, emotion, and at times yearning, which together paint Captain Nowhere’s unique soundscape with true-to-life human elements.
Known for improvisation, Railroad Earth’s jam band version of Americana brings a fresh take to the genre, as seen in their song “The Berkley Flash,” which delves into instrumentation that breathes and moves like white clouds on a windy day. All in all, Captain Nowhere leads the listener across vast waters of roots sound that will delight, uplift, and inspire—just like its strain pairing.
Strain Pairing Recommendation: Blue Mystic
Wider Circles is ethereal, light, heartfelt, and raw. Multi-instrumentalist sister duo Leah and Chloe Smith combine their unique sound with strong, harmonious vocals and creative, original lyrics. Wider Circles blends all these talents beautifully, as the album leads the listener down a gentle river of sound that flows softly together even as it twists and turns along the way.
Working in conjunction with an array of fellow musicians, the Smith sisters are able to incorporate a wide range of instruments including (but not limited to) banjos, fiddles, drums, congas, djembe, tablas, and even a washboard. The result is music that is folksy yet worldly and filled to the brim with life. Wider Circles will inspire, delight, and encourage movement of both body and mind.