Bonnie Raitt, Billy Strings, Tyler Childers, the duo the War and Treaty and S.S. Goodman were among the winners as trophies were handed out at the 22nd annual Americana Honors & Awards show Wednesday night at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.
Raitt won the award for song of the year for her (literally) heart-rending number “Just Like That” — just like she did at the most recent Grammys, in a very rare example of overlap between the two shows. String was named artist of the year for a second year in a row, while the War and Treaty prevailed for duo/group of the year. Childers was honored in absentia for album of the year for “Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven?” S.S. Goodman prevailed as emerging artist of the year. The sibling family members who make up SistaStrings were jointly named instrumentalist of the year.
Last year’s album of the year award, Allison Russell, was given a surprise award selected by the Americana Association’s board, presented to her by three figures who are folk heroes in Tennessee now, and not in the musical sense: the “Tennessee three,” aka state legislators Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, two of whom were expelled by fellow members and then re-elected. Russell was being celebrated for organizing the “Love Rising” benefit and other activism in Nashville.
Lifetime honorees on hand to be celebrated for a body of work included the Avett Brothers, Bettye LaVette, Nickel Creek and Patty Griffin.
Among the presenters were Kacey Musgraves, who saluted one of the most formative influences, the trio Nickel Creek; Brandi Carlile, who did the introductory honors for her beloved Avett Brothers; and comedian and screen star Sarah Silverman, who literally went through Patty Griffin’s entire discography to show her appreciation for the revered singer-songwriter.
Performance highlights during the show, which stretched to just over three and a half hours, included bookending tributes to recently departed figures. Logan Ledger opened the show with the late Jimmy Buffett’s “Come Monday,” and nearly the entire cast of performers, presenters and awardees gathered on stage at the end for a group-sing of the Band’s “Up on Cripple Creek,” composed by Robbie Robertson.
Elder statesmen still with us got their performance flowers, too, as Noah Kahan and hosts the Milk Carton Kids joined in harmony to salute the 50th anniversary of Paul Simon’s “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon” album and Rufus Wainwright did the same with a song from Tom Waits’ five-decade-old “Closing Time.”
Other standouts among the performances included Brandy Clark and Brandi Carlile performing a duet of “Dear Insecurity,” from the former’s recent self-titled album, with SistaStrings providing prominent accompaniment, and Russell leading her all-female band in a particularly rocking version of “Eve Was Black,” from her new album “The Returner.” Both the Clark and Russell albums came out too recently to meet the March 31 eligibility deadline but are strong contenders for the 2024 awards.
At the Americana Awards, categories are few enough that everyone who is nominated is invited to perform. Nearly everyone did — including a surprise solo from Strings during the Robbie Robertson tribute at the end, obviously unplanned since he said he had made the decision to come to the awards just a few hours before. Performances from nominees that had a bit more planning involved included turns from Margo Price, Adeem the Artist, Sunny War, William Prince, Angel Olsen, Hermanos Gutiérrez, 49 Winchester and all of the aforementioned winners except Childers.
The ceremony was webcast and carried live on SiriusXM and will be edited down for an “Austin City Limits” episode to air on PBS in November.
More to come…