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AMERICANA AWARDS: WINNERS AND TAKEAWAYS


With the race for Grammy nominations underway, the Americana Music Association kicked off its annual conference Wednesday night with the 18th annual Honors & Awards ceremony at Nashville’s storied Ryman Auditorium. For the songwriter-leaning, roots-driven genre, the Milk Carton Kids-hosted evening saw the genre’s best echoing Grammy acknowledgment.

Brandi Carlile took home the coveted Artist of the Year award for her domination of the space, besting an all-female Artist of the Year category that included Kacey Musgraves, Rhiannon Giddens and inaugural Inspiration Award winner Mavis Staples. The honor caps a breakthrough year for Carlile, beginning with her sweep of the Grammy roots categories. Since then, she’s been the instigator/culminator of the recent Newport Folk Festival, member of the supergroup Highwomen and co-producer/writer of Tanya Tucker’s comeback album.

John Prine, whose Dave Cobb-produced Tree of Forgiveness topped so many critics’ Best of 2018 lists, won both Album of the Year and Song of the Year for “Summers End,” written with Pat McLaughlin. Earlier, he performed a tender “Angel From Montgomery” with close friend Bonnie Raitt, the artist who originally recorded it.

The War and Treaty, who stunned the 2018 Country Music Hall of Fame induction attendees with their rendition of Dottie West’s “Lesson in Leaving,” were chosen as Emerging Artist, and I’m With Her, the all-star trio of Sara Watkins, Sara Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan, took Duo/Group.

With an emphasis on musical achievement, stressing critical accolades, NPR and touring, Americana is a bastion of what once—seemingly—defined Grammy fodder.

With performances from. Carlile, Giddens, I’m With Her, Mumford & Sons, Our Native Daughters, Rodney Crowell and Joe Henry, Buddy & Julie Miller, Lori McKenna, Lifetime Achievement honorees Performer Delbert McClinton, Songwriter Elvis Costello and Trailblazer Maria Muldaur, the genre leaned into its diversity, legacy and prospects. Even the house band, led by Buddy Miller, included no less than Blue Note head Don Was. Beyond The War and Treaty, newcomers Jade Bird, Ruston Kelly, J.S. Ondera, Erin Rae and Yola represented the future. 

And at a time when the record business is reckoning with equal opportunity, Americana is working to create diversity—but not at the expense of quality. The reality for the artists who built the genre beyond the realm of terrestrial radio derives is creativity, community and working together.

An all-star finale of “I’ll Fly Away,” led by Staples, crowned the night with the kind of rare joy for music and friendship that sees a spirit of support within Americana that eludes so many genres.

The winners and honorees:

Album of the Year: The Tree of Forgiveness, John Prine, produced by Dave Cobb
Artist of the Year: Brandi Carlile
Song of the Year: “Summer’s End,” John Prine, written by Pat McLaughlin and John Prine
Duo/Group of the Year: I’m With Her
Emerging Act of the Year: The War and Treaty
Instrumentalist of the Year: Chris Eldridge
President’s Award: Felice & Boudleaux Bryant
Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting: Elvis Costello
Legacy of Americana Award (presented in partnership with the National Museum of African American Music): Rhiannon Giddens and Frank Johnson
Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance: Delbert McClinton
Trailblazer Award: Maria Muldaur
Inspiration Award (presented in partnership with the First Amendment Center): Mavis Staples

 

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