Allison Russell, Billy Strings, And Brandi Carlile Win Big At The Americana Music Awards
Allison Russell, Billy Strings, and Brandi Carlile were among those honoured at the Americana Honors & Awards ceremony, which returned to Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on Wednesday (Sept. 14). Nearly a dozen awards were presented throughout the evening, sprinkled among an ace lineup of performers who showcased the breadth of Americana’s evolving sound.
Following the release of his third album, Renewal, in 2021, ace guitarist Billy Strings earned the evening’s most coveted honour, artist of the year. Strings, on the other hand, was not at the Ryman on Wednesday evening because he was on tour in New England. Strings’ honour was presented and accepted on his behalf by Jerry Douglas, the legendary dobro and steel guitar master.
Our circle is complete. Our circle is complete. “No one above, no one below, all of us equal under the listening sky,” Russell said, encapsulating the joy in the room that evening.
“You’re Not Alone,” whether spoken about in acceptance speeches and introductions or expressed musically through the evening’s plethora of collaborations and group performances, seemed well positioned as the evening’s theme.
Outside Child, produced by Dan Knobler, won album of the year for Russell, who had three nominations going into the ceremony.
“I’ve heard two things over and over tonight: community, family, union, and belonging.” Being inspired and uplifted. “I am so grateful to be a part of this community,” Russell said. Russell thanked many members of her team, including Carlile, who she said was instrumental in helping Russell land a label deal with Fantasy Records. “[She] made phone calls, championed this record, championed me, and lifted my family and I out of poverty during the pandemic,” Russell continued, visibly moved.
“She did it, and this family, this chosen family, does it as well.” I wasn’t lucky with the family I was born into, fostered by, and adopted by, but I’ve been extremely fortunate because of music.”
Larissa Maestro was named instrumentalist of the year, and she thanked previous nominees and winners for breaking down barriers in the category.
“I’d like to talk about doors opening for a second because I didn’t think this was a possibility for me…
I’m 39 years old, and I hadn’t seen people who looked like me in this category in a long time. I saw them last year, and they were my friends, and it’s so exciting.” said Maestro.
JP Harris paid tribute to the late Luke Bell, a friend and fellow musician who died last month after a long battle with mental illness.
“Luke never got the opportunity to sing this song from this stage himself, as he should have,” Harris said before performing “The Bullfighter.”
Carlile returned for a second performance, joining Lucius, Tim, and Phil Hanseroth for “On the Rock,” while Carlile’s “Right on Time,” written by Carlile, Dave Cobb, Phil Hanseroth, and Tim Hanseroth, was named song of the year.
“What an honour to have you guys hear this song,” Carlile said, thanking her co-writers. “This song basically says that sometimes the s— has to hit the fan,” she explained, adding, “There were so many songs of the year in this category and it’s incredible to be alongside y’all.”
Two genre-bending acts currently signed to mainstream country labels delivered outstanding performances at the Americana Honors.
The War and Treaty, who signed with Universal Music Group Nashville earlier this year, delivered a searing vocal masterclass during their rendition of their latest release, the intimate “That’s How Love Is Made,” which brought the Ryman audience to their feet. They were named duo/group of the year later in the evening, after winning emerging artist of the year in 2019.
The quartet began as a trio in the basement of Nashville’s Fairfield Baptist Church in 1921. Prior to the Grand Ole Opry’s long-term residency at the Ryman in 1943, the Ryman Auditorium hosted performances by the gospel group The Fairfield Four. The current incarnation of the band performed “Rock My Soul” and was awarded the 2022 Legacy of Americana award.
As the evening came to a close, the McCrary Sisters paid tribute to their late sister and bandmate Deborah McCrary by performing “Amazing Grace,” a classic hymn melded with the melody of “House of the Rising Sun.”
The evening ended with an all-sing of “I’ll Take You There,” a Staple Singers classic written by Americana Lifetime Achievement recipient Al Bell.
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