Joe Shelton: The Americana Diaries

Album Review by Preston Dildine
Photo by Bailey Shelton, Album Art by Joe Shelton

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A huge fan of folklore, and the sounds of the region, this album intrigued me. The title alone, “The Americana Diaries”, excited me, and I mentally prepared myself for a musical examination of the Midwest. I was not disappointed. A very country/rock sound, this album expertly employs both acoustic and electric guitar, as well as percussion to create a folksy sound, reminiscent of days gone by, while still retaining relevance.

We open with a song entitled “21”, which is a beautiful ode to country summer living. Sitting around a campfire, you can envision all of your friends around you, Joe on guitar, strumming and singing while you hum along and throw a few logs on the fire and throw a few beers back. This song is a wonderful opener to this musical adventure through the heartland, easing us in with a bit of easy rock and smooth vocals.

This second track, “Americana Diary”, the namesake track for the album, has a nice sequel feel to the previous track. We are set up to listen to many stories to which we will relate. “Americana diary, telling stories about you and me.” We have a nice easy rock/country groove going with guitar and percussion, with a fun, gentle guitar solo in the center. The vocals are reminiscent of our neighbor, just got back from a road trip, and telling us all about the “land of the young and free”. A beautiful listen.

We’re kicking into high gear now on our journey. The beat of this next track, “2 B With U”, had a very adventurous drive to it. We feel the heartbeat of young love as the vocalist spills his heart. “I wanna talk for a little while, little while to make you smile”. The percussion keeps this heartbeat going while the guitar takes on a frantic chase down the highway of love. A wonderfully brisk and refreshing ballad.

We’re slowing down now, as we’ve reached the “Riverside”. As one would want from a song about a river, this song ebbs and flows expertly while spinning a beautiful story about physical love and children between a man and a woman. Gorgeous melody, beautiful lyrics. All around fantastic song.

“Open Up Your Heartache”. Already, we are expecting a song about some sort of relationship ending. Instead, what we have is a nice redemption tale. An attempt to save someone from their misery and welcome love back into their life. A wonderful upbeat ballad that touches our heartstrings on our road trip through the Americana Diaries.

We are grooving along now. We have a nice hard rock beat with some rough, edgy lyrics in “Freedom Highway”. I am filled with empowerment and excitement as I listen to this track. There’s no escaping the feeling of badassery, as well as wanting a taste of that freedom. There is a very nice melody change halfway through the song that catches you off guard, but it eases you into the rest of the song. Expertly done. Wonderful listen!

We’re slowing down again. “Evergreen” is a beautiful ballad about forever. There is a very gentle soaring melody throughout this track with amazing vocals complimented by gentle guitar. The sentiment is one that we can all identify with.

“American Dreams” sounds exactly as you would expect a song about the American dream would. Nice hard guitar, good melody with a rock drive throughout. Mentions of boots, hats, jeans, fried chicken. What more do you need from a track about the heartland?

We’re back to a ballad, but this one has a much different vibe to this one. There’s a hopeful, almost wistful tone to it. “Little Girl” is an ode to a daughter growing up. The melody is even and uneven all at once, and it works. My heart breaks a bit listening to it, but the track envelopes me, a bit like a hug. Easily one of my favorite tracks on the album.

“America”. Something I did not expect, a historical homage to our country. An often overdone track idea on most country albums, this song is instead very honest and heartfelt, as opposed to the traditional bombastic approach to such songs. I am, if even for only the duration of this track, very proud to be an American.

A complete surprise in this album, this final track opens to keys. A beautiful, not unwelcome melody floats us into a driving guitar, which picks us up and takes us into the final track, “My Heart Is Open”. This is a wonderful finale, as it takes us through a transformative experience. We, much like the vocalist, have been on a journey, and have become enlightened. “My heart is open, and I’m all emotion. I left myself wide open and I’m falling for you.” Just as I have fallen for this album.

All in all, a wonderful listening experience, and a must-have for anyone with an interest in a very open, heartfelt, honest, and proud Americana country/rock experience. Thank you, Joe Shelton, for the road trip. I hope to be taken on another soon.

Please visit Joe Shelton at

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