Last week’s Hodgepodge is starting to look more fortuitous, isn’t it? I swear I didn’t know when I wrote it! In all seriousness this is news that further proves my point that this Americana movement is something that’s going to continue to grow. According to USA Today, Billboard announced last Thursday in an email with record executives that the current Folk Albums chart would be re-branded as the Americana and Folk Albums chart. The change will take effect on June 4. It’s yet another step forward to wide-spread recognition by not just the music industry, but fans everywhere. By being officially recognized by Billboard, this is yet another feather in the cap for Americana.
It was a long overdue move by Billboard, especially with the commercial rise of Americana artists and the fact that another major institution like the Grammys already recognize Americana with their awards. Jason Isbell topped the Country Albums chart last year and there was a minor controversy over this because he’s widely regarded as an Americana act and he squeaked by country legend Alan Jackson, who’s representatives didn’t want to concede #1. Then of course you have the Green River Ordinance controversy from a few months back when Billboard refused to recognize their new album on the country chart. USA Today reached out to Green River Ordinance’s manager Larry Murray and asked him his thoughts on the announcement. He applauded the move and embraces the Americana label, but would still like to be recognized by the country chart too.
“When you say ‘Americana’ it gives different weight to an artist’s stature,” Murray said. “It could also be a really competitive chart in the next few months to a year, as you see artists that are more and more prevalent now coming forward.”
Executive Director of the Americana Association Jed Hilly had nothing but praise for Billboard’s introduction of an Americana chart too:
“I think it’s a game-changer and that’s why it is a home run, because this chart will represent the importance and sales potential of this genre, and we’ve never had that before,” Hilly said. “I think it will be one of the most significant charts artists will look at, because they’ll want to be associated with other artists, because these artists are writing songs to tell stories the best way they can from an artistic standpoint primarily.”
I don’t have much else to add except to echo the sentiments from both Hilly and Murray. There will undoubtedly be some acts that still end up on both the country and Americana charts like Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton. But for acts that are solely Americana this is a big move for them as they will reach more audiences and be further accepted. Some may not like that folk is getting folded in with Americana, but to me it makes total sense because many artists who identify as one identify as the other. Besides I don’t hear very much chatter on what’s happening on the folk chart. But there will undoubtedly be chatter around it now with its re-branding.
Country Perspective will be giving great consideration into doing a weekly series with the newly re-branded chart, especially if we see interest in expressed such a thing.