Duos Reign at 12th Annual Americana Music Asso. Awards Show
[Ed. Note: This report arrives compliments of Jacquelyn Marushka of Shorefire Media]
The Americana Music Association’s 12th annual Honors & Awards reflected the breadth of the genre’s musical reach Sept. 18 during a sold-out show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Lifetime achievement honors were handed out to Duane Eddy, Dr. John, Robert Hunter and prodigious American roots-music label executive Chris Strachwitz, all in attendance.
While performances by legends, including Stephen Stills and Richard Thompson, and upstarts such as John Fullbright and the Milk Carton Kids, were mesmerizing, it was two of the genre’s most prolific and vocal forebears that owned the evening, as Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell took home Duo of the Year, Album of the Year for Old Yellow Moon, and then anchored an all-star finale performance of the Crowell co-penned 1978 Harris hit “Leaving Louisiana in Broad Daylight.” The duo also performed “Chase the Feeling” during the evening. Billy Bragg and Tift Merritt presented Harris and Crowell Duo of the Year; Rosanne Cash and Alejandro Escovedo awarded Album of the Year honors.
Close behind Harris and Crowell was another duo deeply dedicated to roots music—Charleston, South Carolina’s Shovels & Rope—who received the Emerging Artist of the Year honor, plus the Song of the Year trophy for “Birmingham” from its 2012 O’ Be Joyful album; Nicki Bluhm and Sam Bush awarded Song of the Year; John Stirratt and Pat Sansone of Wilco; and the Autumn Defense announced Emerging Artist.
Though not in attendance, Dwight Yoakam picked up the Artist of the Year award, presented by Langhorne Slim and the Civil Wars’ Joy Williams. Other big award winners included Larry Campbell, named Instrumentalist of the Year, and Old Crow Medicine Show, honored with the Trailblazer Award. Aoife O’Donovan and Jerry Douglas presented the award to Campbell. Ed Helms, actor, musician, bluegrass advocate and founder of The Bluegrass Situation, presented the award to Old Crow Medicine Show. Ry Cooder presented the Lifetime Achievement for Executive award to Strachwitz, producer and founder of roots-music label Arhoolie Records.
“We might very well not be here, as a genre and as an association, were it not for Emmy and Rodney,” said Jed Hilly, executive director of the Americana Music Association. “That we are celebrating them tonight not for the work they did 35 years ago, but for the work they did this year, on the same show that we’re awarding another duo that is only on its first album, speaks volumes about where we’re headed. What an amazing night.”
Americana’s commitment to its roots was apparent from the show’s downbeat, when an unannounced Delbert McClinton joined the Buddy Miller-led Americana Honors & Awards house band on the Hank Williams’classic “Hey Good Lookin’.”
The thread carried through when historian and filmmaker Ken Burns, currently at work on a multi-part documentary on country music, began the night by announcing the President’s Award to Hank Williams. Presenting the award to Holly Williams, Hank’s granddaughter, Burns spoke of Williams’ “songs of heartache and loss, abiding humor and deep faith ... that come from deep within America.”
Holly Williams followed her acceptance of the award by joining the house band on her grandfather’s classic “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”
From there the night became a crash course in why Americana, as a genre, has had one of its strongest years. Between award presentations, Fullbright performed “Jericho,” from 2012’s From the Ground Up; Hunter, after being awarded a lifetime achievement award from show host and frequent co-writer Jim Lauderdale, performed “Ripple,” his first public performance in a decade.
Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison, forebears of Americana and representatives of its Texas contingency, performed “Border Radio” from this year’s Cheater’s Game album. Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Dr. John—a purveyor of American roots music forms that have included the blues, jazz, zydeco, and rock and roll for over 50 years—picked up a Lifetime Achievement Award from Dan Auerbach (the producer of Dr. John’s Locked Down album and a member of the Black Keys) before taking to the piano to perform a blistering version of “I Walk on Gilded Splinters.”
Other highlights of the night included JD McPherson jump jivin’ his way through “North Side Gal,” from last year’s “Signs and Signifiers”; Old Crow Medicine Show performing its now-classic “Wagon Wheel,” a song composed by the band’s Ketch Secor from an unfinished Bob Dylan lyrical sketch; and the duo the Milk Carton Kids sharing center stage with just two vintage guitars performing “Hope of a Lifetime” from this year’s Ash & Clay. Miller and Lauderdale stepped out of their respective band leading and hosting duties to perform their own “Train that Carried My Girl From Town,” from this year’s Buddy & Jim release.
Eddy performed the classic country guitar instrumental “Rebel Rouser” following the presentation and bestowing of the Lifetime Achievement Award for performance by the BBC’s Bob Harris, himself a previous Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. In perhaps the closest connection between an award and performance, following the presentation by fellow Buffalo Springfield member Richie Furay and the First Amendment Centers’ Ken Paulson of the Spirit of Americana/Free Speech in Music award, Stills performed his 1966 composition “For What It’s Worth,” with Furay and guitar slinger Kenny Wayne Shepherd accompanying. The song, inspired by what is now known as the Sunset Strip riots, became an anthem for a generation during the Vietnam War.
In a nod to the youthful appeal of Americana and the ABC hit show “Nashville,” Lennon and Maisy Stella, who play the daughters of Connie Britton’s character Rayna James on the show, joined the house band for the Lumineers’ ubiquitous hit “Ho Hey.” Charles Esten, who plays Deacon Claybourne, introduced them.
The Americana Honors & Awards house band led by Miller, included Don Was, Larry Campbell, Marco Giovino, John Deaderick, Jim Hoke, and the McCrary Sisters.
The Americana Honors & Awards, presented by Nissan, aired live on AXS TV, NPR.org, Sirius/XM’s “Outlaw Country” and WSM. “Austin City Limits” will broadcast an edited special Nov. 23. Voice of America and Bob Harris of BBC2 will broadcast overseas in the following weeks.
The awards show is the capstone event of the Americana Festival and Conference, which runs through Sunday, Sept. 22, with daily seminars, panels and networking opportunities at the Sheraton Nashville Downtown Hotel and nighttime performances with more than 130 stacked musical showcases at key venues throughout Nashville.
Americana Music Honors & Awards 2013 Winners:
Album of the Year: Old Yellow Moon, Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
Artist of the Year: Dwight Yoakam
Duo Group of the Year: Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
Song of the Year: “Birmingham,” Shovels & Rope
Emerging Artist of the Year: Shovels & Rope
Instrumentalist of the year: Larry Campbell
Trailblazer Award: Old Crow Medicine Show
Spirit of Americana / Free Speech in Music Award co-presented by the Americana Music Association and the First Amendment Center: Stephen Stills
Lifetime Achievement for Instrumentalist: Duane Eddy
Lifetime Achievement Award for Executive: Chris Strachwitz
Lifetime Achievement for Performance: Dr. John
Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriter: Robert Hunter
President’s Award: Hank Williams