Artist of the year went to Strings, Song of the Year to Carlile, and Album of the Year to Allison Russell.
On September 14th, in its longtime Nashville venue, the Ryman Auditorium, the Americana Honors & Awards gala honored a number of artists including Allison Russell, Billy Strings, and Brandi Carlile. Nearly a dozen awards were presented during the night’s performances, which highlighted the range of Americana’s always-developing sound.
A year after the release of his third studio album, Renewal (2021), ace guitarist Billy Strings took home the evening’s top prize: artist of the year. However, Strings was not present at the Ryman on Wednesday night since he was performing in New England on a tour. He was unable to attend, but famed dobro and steel guitar maestro Jerry Douglas gave the presentation and collected the award on Strings’ behalf.
Allison Russell and Carlile’s duet on “You’re Not Alone,” backed by a stellar band, was probably the evening’s most orotund and soul-lifting moment.
Our group is complete. We now have a complete group. “There’s no one higher or lower than the rest of us; we’re all equal beneath the watching sky,” Allison Russell said, summarising the warmth and acceptance in the room.
From the acceptance speeches and introductions to the many musical collaborations and group performances, “You’re Not Alone” stood out as the night’s overarching theme.
Outside Child, produced by Dan Knobler, won album of the year for Allison Russell, who had been nominated for three awards going into the event.
Allison Russell, Brandi Carlile, Billy Strings Score Wins at Americana Honors & Awards
The words “community,” “family,” “union,” and “belonging” have resounded throughout the evening. feeling encouraged and motivated. “It’s a privilege to be a member of this group,” Allison Russell said. Allison Russell expressed her appreciation to many people, but she wanted to give particular recognition to Carlile, who she claimed was instrumental in securing her record contract with Fantasy Records. Allison Russell said, becoming emotional, “[she] made phone calls and championed this album and championed me and took my family and me out of poverty throughout the epidemic.”
This selected family does that, and that’s what she did. I didn’t exactly strike it rich with my biological, foster, or adoptive families, but music has brought me incredible good fortune.
While accepting her award as instrumentalist of the year, Larissa Maestro expressed gratitude to those who had come before her and broken boundaries in the genre.
Because I never imagined that anything like this could happen to me, I’d want to take a moment to speak about doors opening.
Allison Russell: For a long time, individuals who looked like me weren’t included in this category; only last year did I finally get to see it, and it was full of people I knew, and it was quite thrilling. Said the maestro.
Luke Bell, a musician friend of JP Harris’s, was discovered dead in his apartment last month following a lengthy bout with mental illness.
Before playing “The Bullfighter,” Harris remarked, “Luke never had the opportunity to sing this song from this platform personally, as he should have, so I’m going to try my [best] in your place, little brother.”
Carlile subsequently performed again with Lucius, Tim, and Phil Hanseroth on “On the Rock,” and their song “Right on Time,” which was written by Carlile, Dave Cobb, Phil Hanseroth, and Tim Hanseroth, was named Song of the Year.
Carlile thanked her co-writers, saying, “What an honor to have this music viewed by you guys.” She began by saying, “There were so many songs of the year in this category and it’s great to be beside y’all,” before explaining the song’s message: “This song simply states that sometimes, the just’s gotta hit the fan.”
Allison Russell: During the Americana Honors, two artists who perform across genres and are now signed to major country labels had outstanding performances.
The War and Treaty, who just inked a deal with Universal Music Group Nashville, brought the Ryman audience to its feet with a blistering vocal lesson on their newest album, the personal “That’s How Love Is Made.” After winning the 2019 Emerging Artist of the Year award earlier in the evening, they took home the duo/group of the year trophy.
Tanya Trotter, who won the award with her husband and bandmate Michael Trotter, Jr., stated, “Our path has been long, it’s been hard but it’s been worth it.”
Allison Russell: Sony Music Nashville’s newest signee and a contender for rising artist of the year with her album Reckless, Morgan Wade, gave “Run” a coolly impassioned performance.
Soon after delivering one of the night’s most captivating performances with “Rainbows,” Sierra Ferrell, who just published a new album titled Long Time Coming, was voted emerging act of the year.
There was no way I’d end up here accepting this…I adore you all; many thanks, Ferrell said.
Lyle Lovett presented Chris Isaak with the performance award, Garth Fundis with the president’s award, Brandi Carlile and the Indigo Girls with the spirit of Americana award, the Fairfield Four with the legacy of Americana award, and Al Bell with the executive award, all in recognition of their respective lifetime achievements.
As a surprise to the crowd, Robert Plant showed up to present All-Star Band musical director Buddy Miller with a lifetime achievement award for his collaborations with a wide variety of musicians including Emmylou Harris, Ralph Stanley, and Tom T. Hall. Wide River to Cross” was another one of Miller’s performances.
“I have no idea why I’m receiving this…Miller said This is quite impressive. I want to thank my good buddy Jim Lauderdale and everyone else who gave me a chance.”
Dr. Paul T. Kwami and the Fisk Jubilee Singers were last year’s recipients of the legacy award. Sanders led the gathering in a minute of silence in memory of Dr. Kwami, the music director of the Fisk Jubilee Singers for 28 years, who died away only last week, before presenting awards to the Fairfield Four.
A trio of musicians got together in 1921 in the crypt of Nashville’s Fairfield Baptist Church to create the eventual quartet. Before the Grand Ole Opry settled down for good at the Ryman Auditorium in 1943, it had previously hosted concerts by gospel quartet The Fairfield Four. The current lineup of the band, who just played “Rock My Soul” and were honored with the 2022 legacy of Americana award, received the honor.
In memory of their late bandmate and sister, the McCrary Sisters closed the show with a rendition of “Amazing Grace” set to the tune of “The House of the Rising Sun.”
Al Bell, the recipient of the Americana Lifetime Achievement Award, was honored for writing the Staple Singers’ song “I’ll Take You There,” which peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972.