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The Milk Carton Kids' Awards Show Song Asks 'What Even Is Americana?'

Photo by Amos Perrine.

Missing from this year’s Americana Music Awards & Honors show in Nashville last week was longtime host Jim Lauderdale. For many years, Lauderdale, flashing his wry grin, would shout out the familiar cry, “Now, that’s Americana!” when an act finished its performance. Lauderdale’s slogan served as a tongue-in-cheek response to the often-asked question, “What is Americana?”

This year’s hosts, The Milk Carton Kids, decided that we needed an even clearer answer to the that question, so they wrote a song that had the crowd nodding knowingly and roaring with laughter. Here are the lyrics to “What Even Is Americana?”:

A country song that’s a little too political 
A feminist anthem that’s a bit too literal
Your lyrics are biblical your twitter feed is liberal 
You ain’t mainstream cause you look atypical
Forget the pop charts, you ain’t on 'em
you need Americana.

A folk song with no discernible chorus
Bluegrass waltzes and Civil War stories
Zydeco, Tejano, original, traditional
Old-time stringband clothing is conditional
An R&B cover with pedal steel on it
I guess that’s Americana.

So what if your songs are a little too sad
And your publicist is your mom and dad
But you keep on rolling in the back of that van
Ain’t no clue when you’ll be home again
But when you’re up on stage every night it don’t seem so bad.

What even is Americana?
A trade group a Grammy category subgenre
An annual award show with Emmylou on it
Don’t need to see the envelope Isbell won it
A home for all of us who don’t fit in
Who just want to write, and play, and sing
And hear real music whatever you call it
I say it’s called Americana
So what do you say, Americana?
You paid $500 for a weeklong conference so let’s get on the same page and stop asking the question. 
It’s Americana. 

Written by Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale, The Milk Carton Kids