If you ask a critic or music fan to define Americana, be prepared for an avalanche of diverse responses of opinion. Still, there remain some constant benchmarks, such as pedal steel, fiddle, acoustic guitars -- and good songwriting.
Keeping up with the variety of passions and activities of John Wesley Harding can be such a challenge that you're best off spending an evening with him, as he plays Master of Ceremonies at the Cabinet of Wonders, the mixed-media carnival that he hosts with comedian Eugene Mirman.
“The Decemberists will be pretty quiet for a bit,” said Colin Meloy, adding that it will be a few years before fans see another record. In the meantime, Meloy plans to give this series of at least three books, which begins with Wildwood, his full attention.