The definition as to which artists should be included within the new UK chart for “Americana” Music seems to be getting some people within the industry hot under the collar. Although the Official Charts Company (OCC) has specified what it believes to be a definitive explanation that covers music styles with “American roots”, some people seem yet to be convinced.

Definition set out by OCC

The OCC’s definition – which ties up with the Americana Music Association description - refers to “contemporary music that incorporates elements of various American roots music styles”.

As such it should incorporate R&B, blues, folk, bluegrass, roots-rock and of course country music. So far, so good it would seem.

What is ‘folk’ music and what isn’t?

Interestingly, the Swedish folk-singing duo First Aid Kit made up of Klara Söderberg and her elder sister Johanna do apparently qualify as “Americana”. However, as if to confuse the issue, the Grammy Award winning Mumford & Sons (often categorised as a British “folk rock band”) currently at least do not.

Potential for movement

Of course a lack of clarity around the categorisation of music styles is nothing new, especially as artists often decide to change their own musical tastes and ‘sound’ during their careers. In doing so, should they retain permanent inclusion in one category of music or move around depending on a particular track or album?

Clearly, the distinction could easily become blurred.

Non-inclusion for Mumford & Sons

That appears to have been the case with Mumford & Sons, as their most recent album saw them inch towards a more ‘rock-oriented’ sound according to some observers. The OCC’s chart director (Omar Maskatiya) certainly believes, so suggesting that the band went in a more “mainstream direction.” As if to prove the point that this was not a permanent exclusion though, he clarified that if they were to return to their previous “folk feel” in the future, then they could yet feature in the new chart.

Last year’s top five

As a taster for the variety of sounds connected with “Americana” music, the official top five best-selling list of albums for last year was:

  1. “Stay Gold” – First Aid Kit.
  2. “Tracker” – Mark Knopfler.
  3. “Shadows in the Night” – Bob Dylan.
  4. “Sonic Soul Surfer” – Seasick Steve.
  5. “Sound & Color” – Alabama Shakes.

The listing ably demonstrates the global possibilities for spreading the “Americana” brand, with non-American artists featuring prominently.

First Aid Kit even have celebrity backing to boast of in the form of the PM’s wife Samantha, who has given her endorsement to their music in the past.

Elle King takes top spot

As for the inaugural “Americana” chart in the UK that was published last week, the honour of top spot went to the popular US singer Elle King. Her album “Love Stuff” held off the challenge from Lucinda Williams (“The Ghosts of Highway 20”), with London-born King Charles claiming third spot (“Gamble for a Rose”).