Today, the Americana Music Association announced this year's Lifetime Achievement, Trailblazer and Legacy Award honorees for its 22nd Annual Americana Honors & Awards show on Wednesday, September 20. This group of top-honor recipients includes The Avett Brothers, George Fontaine Sr., Patty Griffin, Bettye LaVette and Nickel Creek. This year's honorees will be celebrated during the prestigious ceremony held at the Ryman Auditorium, which serves as the hallmark event of the association's annual AMERICANAFEST, taking place Sept. 19-23 in Nashville, Tenn.
Only a prophet could have predicted the artistic trajectory of The Avett Brothers after seeing them perform in their instrument-pounding early days, as when a No Depression writer saw them debuting at Merlefest in 2004 and called them "a trio of rompin' stompin' roots Ramones." Brothers Seth and Scott, with bandmate Bob Crawford, had a thoughtful side and sense of purpose, and in a few years, their rousing folk-rock hybrid had built a fierce fanbase on the strength of their moving songs and carefully crafted vocal harmonies. They became four-time Americana Award winners, multiple Grammy nominees and North Carolina roots music icons.
While it isn’t exclusively a roots music label, no record company has released music by more stalwarts of and innovators in Americana over the past 25 years than New West Records. The company, based at various times in Athens, GA, Austin, TX, Los Angeles, and Nashville, has earned the trust of era-shaping artists such as Rodney Crowell, Kris Kristofferson, Delbert McClinton, Steve Earle, John Hiatt, Buddy and Julie Miller, and Billy Joe Shaver. Through nearly 500 releases, the label has also introduced vibrant newcomers like Lilly Hiatt, Jaime Wyatt and Nikki Lane, while sustaining important careers like that of Randall Bramblett. The person most responsible for this proliferation of art and good taste is this year’s Jack Emerson Award winner, co-founder and owner George Fontaine, Sr.
In the 1990s, when the Americana chart was new and rich with established women like Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams, Patty Griffin stood out as a striking new voice for the format's future. Over the coming years, the Austin-based songwriter realized that promise, growing in stature on the strength of her rapturous voice and incisive, personal songwriting. She was named Americana Artist of the Year in 2007 and won two Grammy Awards while inspiring many other artists to interpret her work.
The bonus E's in Bettye LaVette's name might as well stand for excellence and endurance. This year's Legacy Award recipient (presented with the National Museum of African American Music) is one of the finest soul singers and interpreters of American song born in the 20th century. Still, it took until the 21st for a wide musical community to embrace and celebrate her. She's had hits and was hit with setbacks, but Bettye LaVette emerged triumphantly as a singer cherished for her open ears and determination to control her own destiny.
All bands grow together, but the three members of Nickel Creek literally grew up playing together, so their innovations stem in no small part from their formative musical and personal history. Over multiple albums and hundreds of exuberant shows, they continue to expose generations to how bluegrass adapts for the 21st century, challenging orthodoxy and luring thousands of new young fans into the wonders of virtuoso-level acoustic Americana.
"This year's Lifetime Achievement honorees represent the diverse sounds that contribute to the American roots music canon," said Jed Hilly, Executive Director of the Americana Music Association and Foundation. "Our honorees have inspired this community individually and have collectively changed the landscape of the music industry. We are truly humbled to be in the same room with them."
In addition to these Lifetime Achievement Awards, the association will also honor distinguished members of the music community with six member-voted annual awards, revealing the winners on Americana music's biggest night at the Ryman Auditorium. View this year's nominees here.
Tickets to the Americana Honors & Awards are on sale now here. AMERICANAFEST Conference and Festival Wristbands are on sale here. For more information on the association and AMERICANAFEST, please visit www.americanamusic.org.
Artist excerpts provided by Craig Havighurst.