Jan 22, 2021

Americana Bands Suddenly Back Singing About Farm Implements and Black Lung

Almost as quickly as they’d flipped the ideological switches 4 years ago, Americana artists this week returned to familiar pastures, turning their attentions from Donald Trump to subjects more native to the genre. Just like that, well-meaning but sometimes overwrought protest anthems were replaced by the sweet sounds of murder ballads and odes to ghost cowboys.

Some 35 new singles showed up in this writer’s Spotify Release Radar this morning from roots and folk artists, nary a one of them mentioning a “Cheeto” or border walls. Almost as if some dark cloud lifted from their minds, the lyrics of their songs suddenly saw tractors plowing the earth, drunks lamenting their lost loves, and coal miners praying for salvation on their death beds. 

Jason Isbell began work on his promised album of Georgia artist cover songs, even finding himself jovial enough to cover Charlie Daniels’ “A Few More Rednecks.”  BJ Barham of American Aquarium announced that his band was working on a new EP completely themed around North Carolina State’s signature wins in football (may have to be reduced to a single IMO). Even Will Hoge cracked a smile, vowing to release an album of songs about old pickup trucks and moonshining this March.

For his part, country and Americana legend Steve Earle was way ahead of the curve. “Oh I knew the emperor’s end was coming and it was time to get back to what we do best - and that’s singing about things from the 1950s as if they’re still relevant.” Indeed, Earle’s last 4 albums have been either covers or songs about trains, mining, and medicine show barkers.

At press time, producer Dave Cobb was booked from now until Labor Day 2023. Americana is healing. 


  1. Maybe the funniest thing I've read in a while, and that's even before I saw the Satire tag. I'm gonna be honest, I base a lot of media I consume these days on whether or not I know the person's politics, if I don't I'm all in, if I do I input everything into this little handy dandy equation: quality of product/intelligence of political take + deafness of take + cringe level, so for Sturgill: 100/(30+20+30)= 1.25, low but over 1, I'll listen but hold the right to skip any song I want, 2002 Toby Keith for example, 25/(95+80+100)= .090, yeah not a good score Toby, who am I kidding I wasn't listening anyway. It's not the person's politics that drives me nuts, it's either the smugness or stupidity in-which they deliver the politics, Jason Isbell and Toby Keith are on those opposite sides, both give me heartburn. I know a lot of it's just pandering, Toby had to show he's an American born shit kicker and Isbell want's to make sure you don't lump him in with those ignorant rednecks. Why can't everyone be like the Hagg and Cash, you still can't tell me which side of the isle those two were on, but I know what they stood for and it wasn't fixed to a specific party. Those 2 were able to sing about what mattered without condemning someone that may have had a different opinion. I enjoy that I have no idea what party guys like Jinks or Colter Wall subscribe too, maybe I'm deaf and if I am please don't tell me. Actually there's a lot of the "real country" singers who I don't have a clue who they voted for. I take that back, Chris Knight voted to burn it all down. That I'm sure of.

  2. Well said, and thanks! I don't necessarily have a formula - I just know when political songs don't appeal to me and when they do, but yeah, cringe level has a lot to do with it. Isbell skirts the line a bit, but I still enjoy his work ...just not all of it.