The Ryman Auditorium, the Mother Church of Country Music, was again a fit setting for the Americana Music Awards, kicking off a week-long Americana Music Conference. A ceremony that the evening’s MC, the incomparable Jim Lauderdale, set the tone by saying “The past matters, traditions matter, even when we explore ways to have those traditions extended and expanded.”
The night’s nominees and performers were on hand to offer proof and testimony of that reflective sentiment.
Charleston SC husband and wife duo Shovels & Rope took home two awards, Emerging Artist of the Year and Song of the Year. At the podium a notably choked-up Cary Ann Hearst said, “All we ever wanted to do was make music the rest of our lives and.…propel ourselves into a normal existence.’
Hearst could have been speaking for all the nominees, presenters and many in attendance this night.
An unannounced Delbert McClinton lead things off with Hank Williams’ classic “Hey, Good Lookin.’” His granddaughter Holly Williams , and daughter Jet Williams, accepted President’s Award for Hank Williams on the day after what would have been Hank’s 90th birthday. Holly said in acceptance , “Hank would be Americana if he was alive today.” She then performed a lovely rendition of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” on the same stage her grandfather stood brining Opry crowds to their feet many years ago.
Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell won 2 awards for duo of the year and album of the year for their collaboration on Old Yellow Moon. The veteran performers used their time onstage to congratulate the other nominees, Harris’ ex-husband and longtime producer Brian Ahern, and reminisce about their 40-year friendship.
John Fullbright and Shovels & Rope reminded that there s new generation that is carryon on tradition and shaping it in unexpected and electrifying ways by bring the house down around the capacity.
Jim Lauderdale choked back emotion as he presented the Lifetime Achievement Award in Songwriting to his mentor, collaborator and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. Hunter then played his first public performance in almost a decade by doing the Dead’s classic “Ripple.”
Austin was represented in great form by nominees Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison performing “Border Radio.” Richard Thompson folioed by performing “Good Things Happen To Bad People” from his Buddy Miller produced “Electric.”
The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach presented the Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance to Louisiana’s JuJu master Dr. John. Auerbach recounted Dr. John’s extraordinary, and sometimes dangerous, career trajectory. “Songwriter, bandleader, hustler – the guy who found work for his friends when they needed it – A&R executive, keyboard player, a phenomenal guitarist”. Auerbach added that the John was: “A man whose music transcended race and cultural divides… A man who’s been in the right place at the wrong time and lived to write the songs.”
Auerbach then strapped on a guitar to accompany Dr John for ‘I Walk On Guilded Splinters’ from his 1968 debut album, ‘Gris-Gris’, accompanied by the house band of legendary session musicians, led by Buddy Miller and including Don Was, Larry Campbell, Marco Giovino, John Deaderick, Jim Hoke and the McCrary Sisters.
Emerging artists nominee John. JD McPherson followed this up with a spirited performance of his rockabilly hit “Northside Gal.”
The ABC Nashville television drama overlapped this night as Lennon and Maisy Stella covered The Lumineers “Ho, Hey!” much like they did on an episode the show itself.
Guitar interpretive master Ry Cooder presented Jack Emerson with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Executive by recounting his many ventures south of the border to chase unique music. Following was Old Crow Medicine Show, who the devious night had been inducted in to the Grand Ole Opry fold. Naturally they played “Wagon Wheel.” Actor Ed Helms presenting Old Crow with the Trailblazer Award in the form of a WW2 era Harmony guitar with the lyrics of “Wagon Wheel” written on it.
Nicki Bluhm and Sam Bush pleasantly surprised the crowd by announcing the 2013 Artist of the Year award for the Dwight Yoakam. In response to an audible disappointment from the audience that Yoakam was on tour and not in attendance.
Sam Bush accepted the award on Dwight’s behalf and that he wore the “tightest pants I have.”
This was followed by a performance from the golk-duo Milk Carton Kids then BBC Radio’s Bob Harris presented the Lifetime Achievement Award for Instrumentalist to Duane Eddy who then played his most famous instrumental, “Rebel Rouser.”
The Spirit of Americana Freedom of Speech award went to Stephen Stills, who played the Buffalo Springfield classic 60s anthem “For What It’s Worth” alongside fellow Buffalo Springfield member Richie Furay and guilt-slinger Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
Dr. John led the final song, with many of the performers – Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Buddy, Jim, Old Crow’s Ketch Secor, Rosanne Cash, The Civil Wars’ Joy Williams, Shovels & Rope, Billy Bragg and Aiofe O’Donovan united to sing Rodney’s “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight.”
Then it was out into the sultry Nashville night to attends various venue showcases where the future Americana Music Award winners would be perfecting their considerable craft for us fortunate enough to be here.
Listen the the Americana Music Awards Winners from the NPR archives.
Americana Music Honors & Awards 2013 Winners:
Album of the Year: “Old Yellow Moon,” Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
Artist of the Year: Dwight Yoakam
Duo Group of the Year: Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
Song of the Year: “Birmingham,” Shovels & Rope
Emerging Artist of the Year: Shovels & Rope
Instrumentalist of the year: Larry Campbell
Trailblazer Award: Old Crow Medicine Show
Spirit of Americana / Free Speech in Music Award co-presented by the Americana Music Association and the First Amendment Center: Stephen Stills
Lifetime Achievement for Instrumentalist: Duane Eddy
Lifetime Achievement Award for Executive: Chris Strachwitz
Lifetime Achievement for Performance: Dr. John
Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriter: Robert Hunter
President’s Award: Hank Williams