Americana, defined by the Americana Music Association as “contemporary music that incorporates elements of various American roots music styles, including country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B and blues, resulting in a distinctive roots-oriented sound that lives in a world apart from the pure forms of the genres upon which it may draw,” may be an inclusive genre, but it is definitely not an easy one. Relying heavily on a rich musical heritage and archetypically American-roots themes, Americana demands dedication, talent, and vitality of spirit in equal measure. Fans of the genre expect, in one breath, both a firm grasp of established style and innovation in songwriting. It’s this tension that makes Americana such a robust, dynamic genre. Like branches of a tree, each artist relies on those common “roots,” but also adds their own experiences like a patchwork of multicolored bark and leaves.
Into this honorable lineage step Jeremy & Lynne, a singer songwriter duo from Ohio. Having collaborated on recordings since 2012, the pair finally released their first album, Drawing Blood, this March. For a relatively new band, J&L already have an excellent grasp on the genre. Although most of their songs are based on quite simple chord progressions, their lyrics and songwriting style clearly identify their work as no-nonsense Americana music. One characteristic of roots music might be, for instance, energetic acoustic strumming and lyrics steeped in metaphor to convey thoughtful ideas. For instance, in the eponymous track of the album, the chorus goes:
“Without that grain of sand, there won’t be a pearl. / No grist inside the mill in your happy little world. The words that turn the wheel aren’t the ones you want to feel. / It’s the ones that draw the blood that seem to be most real.”
What unifies the various elements of Americana is the centrality of storytelling – whether folk, bluegrass, country, blues, or whatever else, these hold fast to an affinity for sharing personal experiences. This comes out most obviously in the subject matter of the songs. Jeremy & Lynne make excellent use of their musical space to give room to their past stories, inviting the audience to walk the shores of Lake Erie or watch the destructive behavior of a crazy ex girlfriend. These fragments of a life are at once fundamentally individual and radically universal. Certainly, not everyone goes through what the songwriters have, but the beauty of this narrative method is that we are included, participants in the collective display of memories. In much the same way that close friends share the most personal life details, Americana fans are privy to the inner lives of the artists themselves.
For those looking for the next Americana group for their collection and new listeners eager to get into the genre alike, Jeremy & Lynne are two excellent artists who make greatness happen in their collaboration.