Last night at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, the Americana Music Association celebrated its 11th Americana Honors Awards presented by Nissan. Multiple generations of artists were honored, ranging from legends including Booker T. Jones, Bonnie Raitt, Richard Thompson and Guy Clark, favorites Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, and up-and-comers Alabama Shakes, Jason Isbell and The Civil Wars. The night opened with a performance of the Booker T. and the MG’s classic “Green Onions,” led by Jones with guitarists Thompson, Buddy Miller, Larry Campbell, Darrell Scott and Kenny Vaughn.
Album of the Year honors went to This One’s for Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark, produced by Tamara Saviano and Shawn Camp. The award was made further poignant coming just moments after Clark performed his own, “My Favorite Picture of You,” taking the stage to a standing ovation.
Welch and Rawlings, though both unable to attend, picked up two of the night’s biggest awards, with Welch scoring the Artist of the Year honor, and Rawlings picking up the Instrumentalist of the Year award. Amy Helm and Sam Bush announced Rawlings’ win; Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis presented the award for Welch.
Two other major awards of the night went to what some might consider a new generation of roots artists, though none are strangers to the awards show or the Ryman stage. With original Big Star drummer Jody Stephens and former R.E.M. member Mike Mills presenting, Duo/Group of the Year honors went to The Civil Wars, who just last year were an Emerging Artist nominee and captivated the audience with a stripped down version of “Barton Hallow.” Before picking up the award, The Civil Wars’ Joy Williams and John Paul White also acted as presenters, handing Song of the Year honors to “Alabama Pines,” written by Isbell and performed by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. Isbell was formerly of roots-rock workhorse Drive-By Truckers. He also performed the song on the show.
Eliciting a roar of approval from the sold-out audience at the Ryman, The Alabama Shakes snagged the Emerging Artist award, an honor awarded the band by Jakob Dylan of the Wallflowers and Sara Watkins. The win capped off a thrilling night for the band, which earlier owned the Ryman stage with guest Jones for a raucous performance of its song, “Be Mine.”
“Tonight was a perfect example of why I love Americana,” said Jed Hilly, executive director of the Americana Music Association. “From the rock and soul of Alabama Shakes to the perfection of Gill and Dave, all of our winners honor the traditions of American roots music while pushing the form forward.”
Hosted by Jim Lauderdale, the Americana Honors Awards presented by Nissan also paid tribute to a number of the genre’s progenitors with Lifetime Achievement Awards. Hiatt, himself a Lifetime Achievement Award honoree in 2008 for songwriting, presented the Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance to Raitt. The two then joined forces toward the end of the show for the Hiatt-penned, Raitt hit “Thing Called Love.” Raitt was also joined by Al Anderson on “Not Cause We Wanted To,” a song from her last album, Slipstream, written by Anderson and Nashville’s Bonnie Bishop.
In between opening and closing numbers, the show also included performances by Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson; The Mavericks; Lee Ann Womack, Tom T. Hall and Peter Cooper, who together performed song-of-the-year nominee “I Love;” The Punch Brothers; Robert Ellis; Hayes Carll and Cary Ann Hearst; the Carolina Chocolate Drops; Sarah Jarosz; Deep Dark Woods; Steve Earle; and Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale.
Americana Music Awards and Honors 2012 Award Winners:
Instrumentalist of the Year: Dave Rawlings
Album of the Year: This One’s For Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark; produced by Tamara Saviano and Shawn Camp
Song Of The Year Award : “Alabama Pines;” Written by Jason Isbell and performed by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
Emerging Artist of the Year: Alabama Shakes
Artist of the Year: Gillian Welch
Duo/group of the Year: The Civil Wars
Lifetime Achievement for Performance: Bonnie Raitt
Lifetime Achievement Award for Instrumentalist: Booker T. Jones
Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting: Richard Thompson
Lifetime Achievement Award for Executive: Dennis Lord