Milk Carton Kids’ ‘What Even Is Americana’ Pokes Fun at Genre’s Vastness
2018 Americana Honors & Awards hosts the Milk Carton Kids weren't exactly asked to perform at the ceremony last Wednesday evening (Sept. 12), but they decided to do so anyway, kicking off the festivities with a hilarious new song that they'd written specifically for the occasion, called "What Even is Americana." Press play below to hear the full song, streamed via NPR.
The Americana genre notoriously defies definition, encompassing a broad scope of music that also falls under the categories of soul, country, folk and jazz, as well as many other styles. While some would describe it as general roots music, plenty of the artists in attendance at the awards show offered up definitions of their own, including Wheeler Walker Jr.'s succinct description of the format as "country music that nobody listens to."
"A folk song with no discernible chorus / Bluegrass waltzes and Civil War stories / Zydeco, Tejano, original, traditional / Old-time string band clothing is conditional," Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale, who make up the Milk Carton Kids, sang at the beginning of one of the song's verses, much to the amusement of the crowd.
"What Even is Americana" was the million-dollar question on Wednesday evening, and Jason Isbell -- the perennial favorite of the genre, who walked away winning three of the four awards he was up for during the ceremony -- subsequently wondered on Twitter whether this catch-all category could in fact stand to become more diverse. While the Milk Carton Kids' musical take on the state of the genre was lighthearted, and served as a spoof on both the music's artists and its listeners, it touched on something substantive that many addressed during the Honors & Awards ceremony and beyond.
Listen to the Milk Carton Kids' "What Even Is Americana"
So ... What Is Americana? Its Artists Define the Genre