In what’s beginning to resemble a miniature SXSW, with over 50,000 attendees, the Americana music industry and fans gathered in Nashville recently for AmericanaFest. Although the vast majority of the event was about live music, with some business-related panels during the day, the apex of the nearly week-long musical bacchanal is still the awards show Wednesday night. It was streamed live by several local and national outlets, and an edited version will hit PBS November 23rd. The next couple of days at Twangville will be filled with highlights of our experiences this year, and let’s start with the awards show itself.
Held in the always-magical Ryman Auditorium, the evening started with a bang with a performance by supergroup Our Native Daughters, comprised of Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla & Allison Russell. This set an inclusionary tone that carried throughout the evening, with all 4 nominees for Artist of the Year being women and Freedom Rider Rip Patton presenting the Lifetime Inspiration Award to Mavis Staples.
The Milk Carton Kids, Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, had hosting duties for the second year in a row, this time with a more formal hand-off from previous long time host Jim Lauderdale, as he presented them each sparkly Manuel jackets. The funny highlight of the evening was when Pattengale and Ryan, in acknowledgement of the interest and publicity generated by The Highwomen, announced they were forming a new supergroup, The Highmen. (Say it out loud, you’ll get it.)
Musical highlights early in the evening included Lori McKenna’s emotional delivery of People Get Old, and Brandi Carlile’s loving story of her daughter, Evangeline. Things just kept getting better as Bonnie Raitt presented a Lifetime Trailblazer Award to Maria Muldauer and then reappeared a few minutes later to sing a duet with John Prine of Angel From Montgomery. The evening finished with virtually everyone coming out for a rousing rendition of the Staples’ I’ll Fly Away.
Here’s the complete list of the 2019 Americana Music Award winners.
- Instrumentalist of the Year – Chris Eldridge (Punch Brothers)
- Emerging Act of the Year – The War and Treaty
- Song of the Year – Summer’s End, John Prine, (by Pat McLaughlin and John Prine)
- Duo/Group of the Year – I’m With Her
- Artist of the Year – Brandi Carlile
- Album of the Year – The Tree of Forgiveness – John Prine
- Lifetime President’s Award – Felice & Boudleaux Bryant
- Lifetime Achievement for Songwriting – Elvis Costello
- Lifetime Legacy of Americana Award – Rhiannon Giddens & Frank Johnson
- Lifetime Achievement for Performance – Delbert McClinton
- Lifetime Trailblazer Award – Maria Muldaur
- Lifetime Inspiration Award – Mavis Staples
About the author: I've actually driven from Tehatchapee to Tonopah. And I've seen Dallas from a DC-9 at night.