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Americana Going Global

Nashville takes Americana music to New York City.

On a recent Saturday night, in a desolate corner of Red Hook, Brooklyn, a crowd gathered at Sunny's, a family-owned bar that's been soothing homesick sailors for well over a century. Outside, icy winds sliced across New York Harbor; inside, visitors clutched mugs of hot spiced cider, squeezing onto the handmade wooden benches flanking the back room. A man wandered in holding a guitar. "Is anybody here a musician?" he yelled. The crowd snickered. This was Sunny's weekly jam, where everyone is something of a musician — even if they're just hollering along. New York isn't typically considered a hotbed of Americana music, a genre sometimes defined by a scrappy, rural sound — it was recently showcased on the Grammys, when Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers joined Bob Dylan for an extra-strummy version of "Maggie's Farm." But the city hosts a slew of Americana jam nights that reveal a rich and thriving scene.

From City Folk, Toe-Tapping Country Sounds



"I really like the free-flowing aspect of it, how the players just sit with everybody else, how someone yells out a song and then they start," said Patrick Boyle, 24, who trekked from Park Slope to watch the jam unfold. The music begins around 10 p.m. and continues until Tone Johansen, who runs the bar (and as a singer, songwriter and guitarist also participates), announces that it's time — really — to go home.

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