It was another night when the disciples of roots music congregated within the hallowed walls of the Mother Church of Country Music, and the Ryman Auditorium, to homage to that which ties us together and makes us whole. Music.
The evening got off to a funk – soul start as Buddy Miller and the house band turned up the heat on Lifetime Achievement Award for Instrumentalist recipient Booker T Jones’ Green Onions. Drive-By Truckers front man Patterson Hood presented Jones with award recounting the DBT backing him on the Grammy winning “Potato Hole” and recognizing the legendary musician and producer for his contributions to the Stax Records and Memphis soul music sound.
“It means so much to me to receive this award, and it’s especially good to receive it from Patterson, I am so honored to accept this award in such great company. It really touches me.”
Bonnie Raitt presented the Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting and guitarist extraordinaire Richard Thompson. Thompson’s songs have been recorded by The Del McCoury Band, Robert Plant, Los Lobos, Elvis Costello, Blind Boys of Alabama, REM, Linda Ronstadt, Buddy & Julie Miller and Raitt herself.
Thompson, a Brit, said “I know we’ve had our differences, and especially that whole 1776 thing. But we do share a love of the folk music from the old country.” It Then broke into a sizzling version of his Vincent Black Lightning.
Raitt herself received the Lifetime Achievement for Performance, presented to her by by singer/songwriter John Hiatt who’s song “Thing Called Love” was a big hit for her when she covered it on her “Nick of Time” album. “I am proud to have an umbrella like Americana. Who cares what kind of music it is, if it is great music. Tonight we are putting aside generations and genres to celebrate roots music.”
Peter Cooper and Lee Ann Womack ‘s performance of Song of the Year nominated ” I Love” – Album from the Songs of Fox Hollow children’s album – was rendered even more eventful by a surprise appearance by the 76 year-old icon.
The greatest moment for me was an appearance by the legendary Guy Clark. The tribute This One’s For Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark – produced by Tamara Saviano and Shawn Camp- won album of the Year. The noticeably frail Clark performed a song dedicated to his recently deceased wife Susanna, and “My Favorite Picture of You.”
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit snagged Song of the Year honors for “Alabama Pines.” Gillian Welch was named Artist of the Year, while The Civil Wars took home Duo/Group honors (and I won another bottle of whiskey from John Paul White!) Alabama Shakes were presented the Emerging Artist award and David Rawlings was named Musician of the Year.
Jim Lauderdale again was the perfect MC for the televised live event which moved at a more clipped pace than past years.
Excellent performances by Justin Townes Earle, Robert Ellis, The Mavericks, the Punch Brothers, Casey Chambers, Shane Nicholson, Hayes Carll, Cary Ann Hurst and the Carolina Chocolate Drops drew from the historic surroundings and often brought the crowd to their feet.
The evening closed with many performers joining by Emmylou Harris to pay tribute to the late Levon Helm, led by his daughter Amy Helm, who in a rousing version of The Band’s “The Weight.”