The Americana music awards are a fantastic showcase for quality music, sweeping up all the great acts that country music award shows have left behind as well as giving the respect due to classic artists. Of course the definition of ‘Americana’ may never be fully concrete but if you glance back across the history of these awards you can see that they honour a great variety of musicians.
This week the Americana Music Awards announced their 2017 nominations and the list looks spectacular. Take a glance at any category and you will see nothing but exceptionally talented people who deserve to be heard by wide audiences. In fact do yourself a favour, stop reading this and go and listen to all the best album nominees. What a great time to be a music fan.
Looking at the lists from a female perspective there isn’t much to argue with in terms of who has been nominated. Lori McKenna is one of the most talented songwriters working in music today and deserves her multiple nominations (strange she missed out on a nod for AOTY though). Hurray For the Riff Raff’s The Navigator is such an important and vital album which should win every award it can. Nice to see Rhiannon Giddens nominated for her excellent and timely album Freedom Highway. Not sure how Amanda Shires can be classed as ’emerging’ but she is so underrated and her last album was beautiful so she’s more than deserving. My only slight issue is that while Margo Price has had a fantastic year, she’s not actually released any new music since her award last year so you can’t help but think that Best Artist slot could have gone elsewhere.
And I guess that’s my problem with these nominations. There are great female artists nominated but there just isn’t enough of them. Think of all the great albums out this year: Nikki Lane, Courtney Marie Andrews, Natalie Hemby, Laura Marling, Valerie June, Sunny Sweeney, Lillie Mae all with zero nominations. I don’t know the whole politics of this system and maybe some of these artists weren’t eligible but the point is that more female artists need recognition for their great work.
Therefore I think the AMA have to expand its categories and split them on gender lines. Gender neutral categories always tend to favour the men and while Loretta, Lucinda and Emmylou have won best album or best artist before these awards overwhelmingly go to male artists. Like this year you just know Sturgill is going to win these awards. He deserves them, no question, but you know he’s so successful now he doesn’t really need them anymore.
More categories means more winners and that can never be a bad thing. Such exposure is vital, especially for women and let’s not get into the whole racial diversity argument but they could silence a few critics by expanding the scope of their nominations. Awards might not really mean anything but while they exist we can only hope they do their best to showcase the best music by all.