The Current Pulse of Americana Music [June 11]

Bob Dylan Fallen Angels

Each week I will take a look at the Billboard Americana/Folk Albums chart and grade the top 15 albums. The grading format I use each week is every album will receive either a +1, -1 or a 0. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top fifteen Americana albums, with the highest possible score being a +15 and the lowest possible score being a -15. How do I determine if an album is rated a +1, -1 or 0? The rating it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been rated yet, then I will make the call. Albums rated between 7 and 10 receive a +1. Albums rated a 5 or 6 receive a 0. Albums rated 4 or lower receive a -1.

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of Americana music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top fifteen…

  1. Bob Dylan – Fallen Angels (New to Top 15)
  2. Mudcrutch – 2 (New to Top 15)
  3. Chris Stapleton – Traveller +1
  4. The Lumineers – Cleopatra +1
  5. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth +1
  6. Brett Dennen – Por Favor (New to Top 15)
  7. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (New to Top 15)
  8. James Bay – Chaos And The Calm +1
  9. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – Self-Titled +1
  10. Tom Petty & Bob Dylan – Live On Air: Radio Broadcast 1986 (New to Top 15)
  11. Ruth B – The Intro (EP) 0
  12. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color +1
  13. Mary Chapin Carpenter – The Things That We Are Made Of -1
  14. Bonnie Raitt – Dig In Deep +1
  15. Sawyer Fredericks – A Good Storm -1

The Current Pulse of Americana Music:¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The pulse is currently being reconsidered (see below). 

Albums That Dropped Out of the Top 15 This Week

  • Hard Working Americans – Rest in Chaos
  • Foy Vance – The Wild Swan
  • The Jayhawks – Paging Mr. Proust
  • The Strumbellas – Hope
  • Loretta Lynn – Full Circle

Albums That Entered The Top 15 This Week

  • Bob Dylan – Fallen Angels
  • Mudcrutch – 2
  • Brett Dennen – Por Favor
  • Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
  • Tom Petty & Bob Dylan – Live On Air: Radio Broadcast 1986

Thoughts

So I’ve been sitting and re-thinking this whole Americana pulse feature. One of the stark differences between this and the Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music is this is currently based on album sales and the other is based on airplay. It’s kind of unfair and unusual to base each on two different methods of charting. Not to mention album sales are a lot more unstable and harder to keep up with for a full pulse. I don’t want to put out a pulse each week where a handful of the albums don’t have a pulse because I don’t have time to hear everything. But at the same time I still want to do an Americana pulse not only because a lot of you are interested in, but I’m also interested in it. So I propose to you a slight change in course for next week’s pulse: How about instead I base it off the Americana Airplay chart, which I covered in the past before. I can do the top 20 or something like that for the Pulse. This chart is a lot more stable and will allow me to keep up with most or all of the albums on it. Anyway let me know your thoughts in the comments below on what should be done moving forward.

12 thoughts on “The Current Pulse of Americana Music [June 11]

  1. OlaR June 1, 2016 / 4:46 pm

    Americana Airplay Top 20, please!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Zackary Kephart June 1, 2016 / 5:37 pm

    I like the idea Josh. I always liked that feature.

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  3. awkwardpenguin3 June 1, 2016 / 6:01 pm

    I’ve been lurking this site for awhile – wanted to pop in, say hi, and give y’all my thanks for your hard work and consistently insightful analysis. Like a few other posters, I never really listened to country/Americana until recently, and this site has helped a ton with fantastic new artist recommendations. Thank you to all the writers for some fascinating insight into trends in country music, introducing artists many of us would otherwise not listen to, and providing a critical yet reasonable commentary on the state of the industry, and commenters for keeping it engaging yet civil.

    Regarding the Americana chart – I know it’s a hodgepodge of different genres and artists, but Courtney Barnett really sticks out here. I love her music, but it’s straight out rock. At least with Alabama Shakes, they have their roots rock, Southern rock and soul influences going on, and the Lumineers have a strong folk influence…but none of these apply to Courtney Barnett. A very interesting addition to this chart.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. jess June 1, 2016 / 8:24 pm

    First thing I would ask- is it your intention to compare the Americana chart to the country chart? If so, it is probably best to compare the airplay chart, as that’s closest to an “apples to apples” comparison.

    That said, me personally, I try to listen to all the album as a whole for anything that’s posted either in the charts here or under a review elsewhere. Whether it’s FGL or Sturgill, I listen to them both equally upfront. It’s not fair to be a hater unless you’ve actually heard it, you know? I also got stuck in an awkward conversation hating on FGL when I hadn’t heard their entire album. Didn’t change anything, but an educated opinion is better nonetheless.

    Anyways, my point is. I would be impartial as to whether the chart stayed the same or went the direction of airplay. Either way, please continue to provide an airplay chart!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nadia Lockheart June 2, 2016 / 4:00 am

    If the Adult Alternative format weren’t also playing more understated Hot AC and Alternative-acts geared to broader age demographics like Coldplay, Lukas Graham and Cage The Elephant, the Triple A chart would arguably be the best one to emulate for the Pulse.

    Adult Alternative has always harbored folk and roots music acts more than any other format over the past decade. Nickel Creek found a large audience through Adult Alternative radio and inspired many similar acts. Same with Lucinda Williams and Susan Tedeschi. And in the recurrents you regularly hear the likes of Keb Mo, Amos Lee and John Hiatt among others.

    But lately, it seems to be doubling down increasingly in taking critically acclaimed but establishment-shunned talent from country music and Americana. Jason Isbell got a Top Ten hit late last year there. So did Houndmouth. Sturgill Simpson has impacted the Top Thirty with his current single. And then you have the Avett Brothers, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats and related acts impacting the chart heavily quite regularly.

    It does seem like Adult Alternative is torn between two paths. Part of it wants to fully embrace Americana and be its incubator. But the other half is compulsively courting the top Alternative acts and looks like a de facto Alternative-lite chart with many of the same titles reaching the Top Five on both charts. If the chart were to embrace the former a lot more, I can see it being a decent one to emulate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott June 2, 2016 / 12:16 pm

      Interesting. I hadn’t really looked at that chart lately, but I’m going to go check it out. If they do start to embrace Americana more, I would definitely be on board using that chart. Plus I’m sure it has a lot more stations than Americana does. I’m just kind of surprised more radio stations aren’t playing these Americana/shunned country acts. There’s a clearly audience for these artists and I’m baffled nobody has tried to fill the void. I know I would listen to a station like this is a heartbeat. I could even deal with a few top Alternative acts (as I said on Twitter, I’ll gladly take Hozier and James Bay being classified as Americana acts). They can’t be as bad as Old Dominion and Sam Hunt. Haha!

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      • Nadia Lockheart June 2, 2016 / 12:50 pm

        It feels to me like Adult Alternative is trying to play the game in the meanwhile, before it catches fire and becomes more viable in terms of net audience and reach.

        That’s why they have taken the aforementioned Americana artists under their wing, but have nonetheless also continued to give Coldplay (I love Coldplay by the way, just saying this to demonstrate a point about contrast) chart-topping hits and even gave Avicii a #1 hit with “Wake Me Up!”. It consciously admits it needs to draw in some younger listeners and families before it attains its full potential, and so also features many Alternative releases and some of the less overtly-pop singles from Hot Adult Contemporary.

        I’d definitely recommend keeping my eye on that chart, though. With Americana rapidly accelerating in mainstream recognition, I won’t be surprised if Adult Alternative decides to retool itself a lot as the Americana format.

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  6. Tom June 2, 2016 / 10:07 am

    Is there a monthly album sales chart for Americana? Not sure if that’s better than the “Top 20 Airplay” but its an option if it exists.

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    • Josh Schott June 2, 2016 / 12:11 pm

      Not that I’m aware of. The only Americana charts I know of are the new weekly Billboard albums chart, the weekly top 40 Americana Airplay chart and the UK Americana chart.

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  7. Ryan June 2, 2016 / 1:18 pm

    I liked that you brought back the Americana chart and using the airplay top 40 would be fine for this feature. It seems that’s the music most people (including me) want to hear / read about on this site.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Carter June 2, 2016 / 5:45 pm

    I stumbled across this site about a year ago and just wanted to express my thanks. A year ago, I’d never even heard of artists like Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, etc. Now, they’re my favorite artists in all of music. I got the chance to hear Isbell live last night at a small theater; he was unbelievable! I’ve been to plenty of concerts but Isbell’s was hands down the best.

    As far as the pulse thing goes I vote the Americana Airplay Top 20 chart.

    Thanks again for all your hard work on the reviews and great insight into the country/Americana scene. Keep up the great work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott June 2, 2016 / 5:54 pm

      Thanks for reading Carter! Glad you found us and we’ve helped you come across great artists. Isbell is definitely a treat live and is always worth seeing. I appreciate the kind words!

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