5 Contemporary Americana Artists You Have to Check Out

As soon as music started being sold as a product, it had to have a name, to be properly marketed. Sheet music publishers needed to categorize their styles of music. When recordings could be sold via various physical media, genres were necessary. Demographics needed to be pinpointed.

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The more music that sold, the more categories became necessary. Race music and hillbilly gave way to rhythm & blues and Western. As the music evolved, so did the classifications. Rock, prog rock, Southern rock, arena rock, and blues rock are all monikers used to market and sell different variations of, essentially, the same thing. Country music went through the same process—hillbilly, the Nashville sound, countrypolitan, the Bakersfield sound, outlaw, urban cowboy…and on and on.

The Top 40 country charts of the mid-’80s and ’90s were a very narrow space that weren’t interested in anything that might shake up the system. A revolution of sorts happened in response, when artists like Jason and the Scorchers, X, The Jayhawks, The Long Ryders, and Uncle Tupelo released music that was a little too “outside the system” to be accepted by the mainstream country industry.

These fringe artists were building an audience, but not getting radio play. Enter the Americana Music Association. Since 1999, this not-for-profit organization has been working to advance the careers of artists such as these, who don’t fit in the mainstream. in the decades that followed, bands like Mumford and Sons, The Avett Brothers, and The Lumineers all hit the Billboard charts.

Now Americana is relatively booming. Everywhere one turns during the AMA’s annual five-day conference in Nashville, a new fascinating singer/songwriter turns up with moving roots-minded music and a story to share.

The “Americana” genre casts a wide net. The Americana Music Association defines it as “contemporary music that incorporates elements of various American roots music styles, including country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B, and blues, resulting in a distinctive roots-oriented sound that lives in a world apart from the pure forms of the genres upon which it may draw. While acoustic instruments are often present and vital, Americana also often uses a full electric band.”

Let’s look at a few of the finest Americana has to offer as of this late-2023 writing. All of these wonderful artists were nominated for “Emerging Act of the Year” at the Americana Music Awards.

1. Adeem the Artist

In 2021, Adeem the Artist released Cast-Iron Pansexual and toured with alternative country band American Aquarium. In 2022, they signed with Thirty Tigers and released White Trash Revelry. Adeem the Artist was nominated for “Emerging Act of the Year” at the 2023 Americana Music Awards.

2. Charley Crockett

This singer/songwriter split time between Dallas and New Orleans growing up. He started releasing albums in 2015, and has been extremely prolific since. Crockett received his nomination for “Emerging Act of the Year” at the Americana Music Awards in 2021. He then stepped things up considerably in 2023, as he was nominated for “Album of the Year,” “Song of the Year,” and “Artist of the Year.”

[RELATED: Review: Charley Crockett Retains His Unpretentious Approach]

3. Sierra Ferrell

Growing up in West Virginia, Sierra Ferrell was more in tune with ’90s grunge and punk rock than country or bluegrass. As she headed out on her own, busking and meeting other traveling musicians, she was exposed to bluegrass and swing and fell in love with it. In 2018, she signed with Rounder Records. In 2022, she won Emerging Act of the Year at the Americana Music Awards, and in 2023, she was nominated for Artist of the Year.

4. S.G. Goodman

Murray, Kentucky, is where S.G. Goodman hails from. She recorded her debut album, Old Time Feeling, with producer and fellow Bluegrass State native Jim James of My Morning Jacket. Her second album, Teeth Marks, came out in 2022. She was nominated for Emerging Act of the Year at the 2023 Americana Music Awards.

5. The War and Treaty

Michael Trotter Jr. and his wife Tanya make up The War and Treaty, a duo that has turned heads since they started performing together in 2014. They have released four albums in total. In 2019, they won Emerging Act of the Year at the Americana Music Awards, and they were repeat winners of Duo/Group of the Year at the ceremony, taking home the distinction in both 2022 and ’23. 

Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

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