The 10 Lamest Americana Acts

Not so very long ago, country music was relegated to the same cultural ghetto as NASCAR and bull riding. But during its transition from urban cowboy to new traditionalism, and coincidental to the post-punk era’s creative vacuum, it was reintroduced by the likes of Rank & File and Dwight Yoakam. Their rebel rehab slowly created a context wherein all manner of less qualified aspirants were able to exercise their own folksy, Flying Burrito-damaged indulgences, producing today’s wholly artificial brand of “Americana,” a predictably homogenous, frequently by rote and thoroughly unconvincing musical ghetto of its own. Here are some of the genre’s more memorable misfires.

10. Sam Outlaw
A lapsed local hipster who traded in his “very successful career in advertising” to shill some of the weakest, D.O.A. pop-country crap this side of Rascal Flatts, Outlaw’s combination of inauthenticity and amateur-hour warbling is an impressive exercise in total failure. When Outlaw first slithered out of Silver Lake with 2015 debut Angeleno, his PR firm constantly trumpeted, “It’s his real name! It’s his REAL NAME!” Wanna connect with him on social media? Look up “Sam Morgan.” (Outlaw is his mother's maiden name.) He endlessly lays claim to a spiritual kinship with historic West Coast country, but hearing any of his songs confirms this as thoroughly ludicrous lip service

9. Jack Grelle
While Missouri has produced such famed musical icons as Count Basie, Mary Lou Williams, Ferlin Husky and Porter Wagoner, St. Louis singer-songwriter Jack Grelle isn’t likely to eclipse any of them. Ballyhooed in his press materials as a stylist who “adeptly weaves Cajun, Tejano, country, honky-tonk, rock and folk to create a passionately complex overlay of the genres,” a more accurate reckoning would be “an ungainly genre jumper with a stale, heavy-handed approach topped off by flat, wooden vocals.” Between his Muppet-on-steroids whiskers and wildly inexpressive delivery, Grelle is a black hole of ill-advised, self-defeating musical aspiration.

8. Wayne the Train Hancock
Paralyzingly derivative, terminally predictable, Texas retro merchant Hancock specializes in titillating the most easily placated, uncritical division in the Americana crowd — the ’50s-fixated greaser set. Exploiting the formerly noble honky-tonk and Western swing genres with a ghastly soullessness that reduces any song to lifeless banality, Hancock’s suffocatingly heavy-handed, stereotypical lyrics (“I might go dancin’ or shootin’ pool/It’s a hip trip, baby, and the cats are all cool”) are as bereft of dignity as they are lacking in heat and emotion, and an insult to the legacy of Lone Star state geniuses Ernest Tubb and Bob Wills.

7. Jason Boland & the Stragglers
Boland is held as a modern spearhead of the generally dreadful Oklahoma/Texas "Red Dirt" subgenre, a sort of swaggering, populist, frat-boy style that is typified by redneck bluster and artifice. Boland’s lumbering bellow (he actually managed to rupture a vocal cord once) comes attached to a stodgy brand of second-rate country-rock with aimless, overactive fiddles and mandolins scratching away at the edges. At their core, Boland & the Stragglers trade in quasi-anthemic fodder that scrupulously avoids any real introspection or meaning. It’s all pretense — loud, overdone and, more than anything else, unimaginative.

6. Shovels & Rope
Sort of like The White Stripes meet Lady Antebellum, only even more full of themselves. And SO cute. Just. Go. Away.

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