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Updated by Dick Slack on Oct 17, 2022
Headline for Favorite Americana Albums of 2019 (so far) from the DJ's of Radio
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Favorite Americana Albums of 2019 (so far) from the DJ's of Radio

Not just Tom our Americana Man but all of our DJ's have a say in picking the Americana Albums.


Americana as a radio format had its origins in 1984 on KCSN in Northridge, California. Mark Humphrey, a contributor to country/folk Frets magazine, hosted a weekly radio show called "Honky Tonk Amnesia" which played "country, folk, honky tonk, cajun, dawg, blues, and old-time music," a combination that the country music station KCSN advertised as "Americana."The format came into its own in the mid-1990s as a descriptive phrase used by radio promoters and music industry figures for traditionally-oriented songwriters and performers.

Because of listener interest in the artists who do not fit as comfortably in the country or rock genres, a radio format called "Americana" was developed by the AMA and reported by R&R (Radio & Records, a radio trade publication). Born out of Triple A, non-commercial, country and other formats, the Americana format is the sum of the parts that have showcased Americana music since its inception.
The AMA grew out of the format as an effort to bring all Americana music supporters, performers, and professionals together to expand the visibility and viability of the music. The radio format, including the term "Americana," began in the late 1980s and a decade later through the efforts of Rob Bleetstein of San Francisco and Jon Grimson of Nashville. Bleetstein became the first Americana chart editor as Gavin magazine (a former radio trade publication) created the first Americana radio chart, which was published on January 20, 1995. Bleetstein worked closely with KFAN-FM "Texas Rebel Radio" in Texas and KPIG, KFAT's descendant, in California in developing the Americana format. Grimson became the first Americana radio promoter after having promoted the music previously at Warner Brothers Records Nashville, and promoting those releases that WB worked to radio formats outside the mainstream country stations.


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RJ Chesney - Amateur Revolution

RJ Chesney is a singer and songwriter who is currently based in Los Angeles, though grew up in Georgia and Mississippi. He has been recording for nearly a decade now, and his new album, Amateur Revolution, is collaboration with HP Gundersen (making me wonder if they clicked because of their use of two initials in place of a first name). Interestingly, the album was recorded in Norway and here in Los Angeles, using musicians from both places. The release features all original material, written by RJ Chesney and HP Gundersen (with one track written by just RJ Chesney), and both songwriters play guitar on the album. Gundersen also plays pedal steel. The material is some good solid country and folk music, and RJ Chesney has some talented musicians joining him, including Henrik Paulsen on electric guitar, Jason Hiller on bass (Hiller also co-produced the album), Maesa Pullman on drums, and Chris Joyner on keys and accordion. Most of the musicians also provide backing vocals, as does Heidi Torsvik. There are also some guest musicians on certain tracks.

Jess Klein - Back to My Green

Just as the generations have always offered up explosions of outstanding peer collectives down the ages, so it seems that lately there has been an outbreak of gifted female americana singer-songwriters. Not that Jess Klein is exactly hot off the press – her career spans nearly two decades. She does, however, have an uncanny knack of reinventing herself and is a modern day inspiration for the newcomers that have flooded the scene in the last couple of years.‘Back To My Green’ is Klein’s first album since getting married and leaving the “Live Music Capital” of Austin, Tx for the more rustic pastures of Hillsborough, North Carolina. She has also had to struggle with a recovery from a repetitive strain injury to the wrist which affected both her playing and writing, so it is no doubt with a sense of triumph that she has resurfaced five years down the line in NC with another rich collection of eclectic folk americana to her name.

Adam Carroll - I Walked In Them Shoes

Everyone knows at least one of them – the one who makes it look easy. The athlete who can effortlessly succeed at any sport, the friend who can quickly produce the best meal out of seemingly nothing, the music fan who can quickly and completely dissect any new song or album. We mere, flawed mortals may at times resent those talents, but we know that, behind all that “easy” success, there’s most likely years of hard work and learned failure that’s brought out and honed that talent for us to enjoy. Adam Carroll is that guy. Through six previous studio albums, Carroll has made the job of being a singer-songwriter seem effortless and tossed off, but if you’ve ever picked up a guitar or a notebook, you know that ain’t the case. Now, on his seventh album, I Walked In Them Shoes, Carroll reminds us how deceptively difficult, but still rewarding, a musician’s life can be.

Over the Rhine - Love & Revelation

As Over the Rhine (married duo Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler) have performed their folk-pop over the past few decades, they've refined their ability to express an inner peace outwardly. That sort of existential contentedness comes across in interviews, stage banter, and, probably most important, their various recordings. The songs don't rely on peace; they cover break-ups and tumult and whatever it is good songwriters capture as they go from life to art to life-in-art. On Love & Revelation, the pair, along with their backing Band of Sweethearts, reveal that while they haven't settled, they know how to find joy along their travels.

Vicky Emerson - Steady Heart

The fourth album by Vicky Emerson, the new 2019 release Steady Heart features the artist stepping up to assume sole production duties for the first time and with stellar success. Emerson’s music finds a nice niche somewhere between country and Americana and the songs themselves seem to at once contain good movement and yet show restraint from unnecessary flourishes, with lyrics that portray a whirlwind of change while trying to keep things in order.

Emerson’s journey brought her from her native Wisconsin to New York City to San Francisco and finally to her current Minneapolis as she seriously pursued a music career. A multi-instrumentalist, she previously released the 2001 piano-driven holiday instrumental album A Winter Moment before developing her acoustic country style on the critically acclaimed Long Ride in 2009, Dust & Echoes in 2012, and Wake Me When the Wind Dies Down in 2016.

Jason Ringenberg - Stand Tall

“A few years back I had resigned myself to the fact that my days as a recording artist were probably over”: so begin the sleeve notes to Jason Ringenberg’s new album ‘Stand Tall’. And fans of his music were probably expecting this too: his previous solo album, ‘Empire Builders’, was released in 2004. So, what changed? It turns out that spending a month in isolation as artist-in-residence at Sequoia National Park in northern California does wonders for your songwriting.

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