Sure, most artists hate category labels; they’re scared of excluding any possible customer.But for those of us who like to write and talk about music, well-defined category labels are indispensable.I found that every story was a chance to learn new information and develop new ways to talk about culture, whereas teaching freshman composition was the same thing over and over again.Every semester I taught a little less and wrote a little more until one semester I wasn’t teaching at all. Here’s an essay I wrote on the importance of music criticism.James May began this year with a broken arm that proved an uncomfortable burden during the stressful process of building a post-Top Gear career with his fellow petrolheads Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond.The year ends after the successful launch of The Grand Tour and a message of congratulations from Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and their new boss. We are sick to death of each other by the time we get out of work.” On screen the three of them…Berry led me to Muddy Waters, who led me to Robert Johnson.Phil and Don led me to Bill Monroe who led me to the Carter Family.
I chose 1925, because that's when recordings and radio began to codify regional styles, and 1965, because that's when TV began to homogenize those regional styles beyond distinction.It never occurred to me that one could make a living doing that -- especially if one didn’t come from privilege.But after I’d graduated from college and was teaching high school and community college English, I started freelancing for alt-weeklies and national magazines.I host a monthly singer-songwriter series in Baltimore.I just won my fourth ASCAP/Deems Taylor Award for writing about music. The question "What the hell is Americana" sounds flippant, but there’s actually a serious issue wrapped inside the wisecrack.Rock of course involves the beat, jazz improv, etc.; how is Americana thusly defined?