The Country Music Fan’s Guide to
If the name
Ameripolitan is new to you then you could be excused if you imagine it might
have something to do with ice cream.
There are in fact a couple of similarities. To being with Neapolitan ice
cream has three flavours and there are three genres making up Ameripolitan
music. And secondly both are very, very tasty.
This is not the
style of music you will find currently being promoted by what Alan Jackson and
George Strait described as “the suits on Music Row”. When he started the
Ameripolitan movement in 2013, Dale Watson (www.dalewatson.com)
stated “We’re not leaving country music behind, we’re taking real country music
with us”. Ameripoltan provides an outlet and a growing audience for those very
talented country musicians who are unlikely to ever be moulded for stardom by
the Nashville money machine and who, frankly, don’t give a damn about that.
They just want to play their music their way for people who will enjoy it.
Let’s look at the
three sections of real country music that fall under that Ameripolitan banner.
Firstly we have the Honky-tonk category – this is the music you will find being
played every night in bars and dancehalls across Texas and other switched on
States. These are bands who play three and four hour sets every night; bands
who will play your request if they can and if you put money in their tip jar.
They need to be versatile musicians. I had a conversation several years ago
with Jake Penrod (www.jakepenrod.com) in
which he told me even though his role in the band was to sing he could play
every other instrument in the line up because if someone on that stage needs to
go to the toilet during your three or four hour show the rest of you ain’t
allowed to stop and wait for them.
that Honky-tonk category has absorbed those musicians who class themselves as
Outlaws in the way Willie, Waylon, David Allan Coe and many more have done over
the years. Check out people like Whitey Morgan & the 78’s (www.whiteymorgan.com) who were
Ameripolitan Award winners in 2018 or Pat Reedy & The Longtime Goners (www.patreedymusic.com) and you’ll
get the idea.
Second of our three
Ameripolitan flavours is Western Swing – the style of music originally made
famous by Bob Wills and more recently Asleep at the Wheel. Styles can range
from the cowboy image of The Farmer & Adele (www.everybodylovesthefarmerandadele.com
) who currently have a weekly residency at The Station Inn in downtown
Nashville to the more big band style of Canada’s Western Swing Authority (www.thewesternswingautority.com)
– both hugely entertaining bands and very talented musicians.
but no less important, we have the Rock-a-billy section. Always good fun and
usually accompanied at Ameripolitan weekends by their own jiving followers who
cut some serious moves on that dance floor. Again there is a range of styles
within the style and you might go for the frantic on stage antics of Hillbilly
Casino (www.hillbillycasino.net) or
the more psychobilly sound of Bloodshot Bill from Montreal (www.bloodshotbill.com) who has made
several successful trips to Europe. If Rock-a-billy records, particularly on
vinyl are your thing you may also like to check out Swelltune Records who
specialise in exactly that.
So you might be wondering if Ameripolitan music is exclusive to
the USA, and the answer is no. There have been European winners of Awards over
the years – not many but it proves the door is open. The first European to win
an Ameripolitan Award was a guy called Charlie Thompson, a fire fighter from
the south of England who won Best Male Hony-tonk vocalist back in 2016. In 2018
Sophia Johnson won Best Female in the Western Swing category; Sophia now lives
in Austin TX but is originally from the Birmingham area of England where she
began her musical career as part of The Toy Hearts with her sister Hannah and
with Dad Stuart in the band. In the same year Spain’s Al Dual (www.aldual.com) won Best
This year, 2020, we not only had another British winner, Sarah
Vista (www.sarahvista.com) who
picked up the Award for Best Female Honky-tonk artist but Sweden’s The Country
Side of Harmonica Sam took home the trophy for Best Honky-tonk Group (www.thecountrysideofharmonicasam.com)
In my opinion every one of these artists delivers better music
than most of the pop/country currently filling the Billboard magazine official
chart. But music is a matter for personal taste – if we all liked the same type
of music the world would be full of out of work musicians, and we wouldn’t want
that to happen would we.
My purpose in writing this short feature about Ameripolitan
music is to hopefully bring this sort of ‘real’ country music to the attention
of some fans who were previously not aware of it or the acts performing under
that banner. If I can tempt you to visit some of the websites and YouTube clips
I will feel I have achieved something. If you discover that you enjoy a new
act’s music so much you decide to buy their album then I know those acts will
be absolutely delighted to have you as a new fan..
The Ameripolitan Music Awards take place every year – they used
to be held in Austin TX but three years ago moved to Memphis TN – roughly about
the same time as Dale Watson moved to Memphis himself. They are fabulous events
for the fans – everybody mixes with everybody else and it is not unusual to
find yourself eating breakfast at a table next to the band you were raving
about the previous evening. Regulars refer to it as “the Ameripolitan Family”
and they are not wrong, the atmosphere is very special. The late night hotel
lobby jam sessions are pretty amazing too.
Finals night is held at The Guesthouse at Graceland – which is
also one of the hotels offering deals to Ameripolitan guests but over three or
four days and nights beforehand you will find showcase gigs happening in
several other venues. This year I saw great acts play in The Rock’n’Roll Cafe
on Elvis Presley Boulevard, Dale Watson’s own club Hernando’s Hideaway (where
the burgers are absolutely delicious and good value too), as well as Bar 152
and The Blues Cafe both in Downtown Memphis. In 2021 the event will be held in
early March and if you’re thinking you might like to be part of it you could of
course go – details of dates and hotels offering discounts will appear on the
Ameripolitan website in due course.
Can’t get to Memphis? Well you can still play a part. Keep an
eye on that Ameripolitan website because you will have the opportunity to
nominate bands and individuals in the various Award categories and, once
nominations have been whittled down to manageable numbers you can then vote for
If you have enjoyed reading about Ameripolitan music and would
like to read more let us know and perhaps I can feature some specific rising
stars you may want to follow. Meantime check out people like Jesse Daniel,
Kathryn Legendre, The Ponderosa Aces, The Shootouts, Dale Watson of course, and
an American who now resides in Germany – Johnny Falstaff. If you find you like
any of them you can confidently say you like real country music.
Chris Smith for Country Music News International