If the love fest that was the 18th annual Americana Honors and Awards show Wednesday night at the historic Ryman Auditorium proved anything, it’s that great music — and great musicians — have staying power.
Brandi Carlile was crowned Artist of the Year, continuing a wave of critical and commercial praised for the 38-year-old singer. And the indefatigable 72-year-old John Prine, last year’s Americana Artist of the Year winner, scored victories in both the Album of the Year (“Tree of Forgiveness”) and Song of the Year (“Summer’s End”) categories.
And rock and soul icon Mavis Staples, whose Inspiration Award — an annual award presented in partnership with the First Amendment Center, this time by Nashville Civil Rights stalwart — Ernest “Rip” Patton, brought the house down with renditions of “Change” and the night-closing “I’ll Fly Away” as fellow honorees and nominees filled the Ryman stage.
Prine’s album was nominated for a Grammy Award earlier this year for Best Americana Award, with Carlile’s “By the Way,I Forgive You” winning top honors. After sauntering to the Ryman podium with “Summer’s End” co-writing and fellow Nashville treasure Pat McLaughlin, Prine leaned into the microphone. “We had speeches for them (the Grammys),” he said, reaching into his dark suit’s breast coat pocket, “and we still got ‘em!”
Here are more of the many highlights of the show, which is the centerpiece of this week’s Americanafest continuing through Saturday, which is celebrating its 20th year. The awards were live-streamed on several radio stations and videotaped for a special Nov. 23 PBS episode of Austin City Limits.
- Prine and Bonnie Raitt reprising their famed duet on Prine’s song “Angel From Montgomery.” Raitt earlier had presented the Trailblazer Award to her close friend and Northern California neighbor, Maria Muldaur (best known for “Midnight at the Oasis” but with 40 genre-bending album to her credit.)
- Mumford & Sons, joined by award show hosts the Milk Carton Kids, crowding around a single microphone for a spare rendition of “Forever.” The arena-filling ban won the Americana show’s Emerging Artist award a mere eight years ago. “The first time here I vomited on Jerry Douglas backstage,” frontman Marcus Mumford ruefully recalled.
- Delbert McClinton capped his heartfelt speech upon accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award Performance by singing “Two More Bottles of Wine,” his tune popularized by Emmylou Harris. He was backed by band leader-guitarist Buddy Miller and his ace band that included bassist-producer great Don Was and Nashville sideman extraordinaire Jim Hoke.
- Singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist Rhiannon Gibbons gave a spectacular historical overview of long-neglected musical roots in accepting the Legacy of Americana Award, in honor and memory of her co-winner Frank Johnson. The award was presented in partnership with the National Museum of African American, whose director Henry Hicks promises a spring 2020 opening in downtown Nashville.
From September 10-15, at nightclubs, music halls and venues throughout Nashville, the 20th Annual AMERICANAFEST® offers hundreds of some of the best roots music going.
Here’s a complete list of 2019 Americana Award winners:
Album of the Year:
“The Tree of Forgiveness,” John Prine, produced by Dave Cobb
Artist of the Year:
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:
Felice & Boudleaux Bryant
Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting:
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:
Inspiration Award, presented in partnership with the First Amendment Center:
18th Annual Americana Awards Show at Ryman Auditorium
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(L-R) Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Blount of The War and Treaty perform onstage during the 2019 Americana Honors & Awards at Ryman Auditorium on September 11, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Americana Music Association)
AMERICANAFEST® 2019 continues through Sunday at various Nashville venues. View the full schedule on NowPlayingNashville or download the app from the AmericanaMusic.org website for the latest information.