Last year at the Americana Music Awards many women were nominated but only Molly Tuttle took home an award for instrumentalist of the year. Before this year’s ceremony Margo Price, who had been one of those 2018 nominees, tweeted that she hoped things would be different in 2019 and the headlines would finally read that women had won big. Thankfully I can report with some delight that her wish has indeed come true and women won an equal share of last night’s awards including the big prize of Artist of the Year.
Firstly congratulations are in order to the husband and wife duo Tanya and Michael Trotter of the The War and Treaty for winning ‘Emerging Artist of the Year’. There’s is a story rooted in what the Americana genre is all about. Hard working, talented musicians who were searching for a scene to hear them for a long time before being discovered at an Americana festival showcase a few years ago. Last year’s incredible debut album The Healing Tide showed they were a force to be reckoned with in how they combined roots and gospel music with some of the most powerful soul vocals you will ever hear. Now they have found their spiritual home in the Americana genre you feel they will only go from strength to strength. Commiserations to the runners up in this category – Yola in particular who ended up going home empty handed despite a year when she has blasted her way from British obscurity to one of the most exciting prospects in the genre.
Last year I felt that I’m With Her should have won their award for best group – no offence to Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit but to me that’s a solo project and didn’t belong in this category. So I was delighted to see the trio of Aoife O’Donovan, Sarah Jarosz and Sara Watkins take home the award. It is a shame, however, that these awards have such limited categories since Our Native Daughters really also deserved to take something home for the incredible work they have been doing. Rhiannon Giddens did receive the Legacy of Americana honour at the evening, alongside Frank Johnson. Another woman receiving one of the honorary awards was the legendary Mavis Staples who celebrated her 80th birthday earlier this year. The lifetime achievement award went to folk singer Maria Muldar. There is a clear attempt by the AMA to make sure women are given equal attention in these honorary awards, at the very least.
Since the awards began in 2002 only three women have received ‘Artist of the Year’ – Loretta Lynn, Patty Griffin and Gillian Welch. After last night we can finally add one more and there is no one more deserving than Brandi Carlile. The work Brandi has done this year spreading the word of the Americana genre through her own music, helping to promote women on festival lineups through her Girls Just Wanna Weekend, working as a producer on Tanya Tucker’s album, the Highwomen project and the way she has tirelessly promoted other artists new and old, not least at the Newport Folk Festival is nothing short of trailblazing. When she won her Grammy and told the world that ‘Americana music is the island of the misfit toys’ she wanted to thank the genre for accepting her when others didn’t. So it’s only right and true that the Americana awards gives her the moment in the spotlight that she so deserves.
It is heartening to see the Americana awards honouring the women that make our little music island such a rich, diverse and wonderful place to be. Congratulations to all the winners and nominees.
Album of the Year
- “To the Sunset,” Amanda Shires, produced by Dave Cobb
- “The Tree,” Lori McKenna, produced by Dave Cobb
- “The Tree of Forgiveness,” John Prine, produced by Dave Cobb
- “Walk Through Fire,” Yola, produced by Dan Auerbach
Artist of the Year
- Brandi Carlile
- Rhiannon Giddens
- Kacey Musgraves
- Mavis Staples
Duo/Group of the Year
- I’m With Her
- Our Native Daughters
- Tedeschi Trucks Band
- The War and Treaty
Emerging Act of the Year
- Jade Bird
- J.S. Ondara
- Erin Rae
- The War and Treaty
Instrumentalist of the Year
- Chris Eldridge
- Eamon McLoughlin
- Chris Powell
- Michael Rinne
Song of the Year
- “By Degrees,” Mark Erelli, Rosanne Cash, Sheryl Crow, Lori McKenna, Anais Mitchell and Josh Ritter, written by Mark Erelli
- “Mockingbird,” Ruston Kelly, written by Ruston Kelly
- “People Get Old,” Lori McKenna, written by Lori McKenna
- “Summer’s End,” John Prine, written by Pat McLaughlin and John Prine
Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance: Delbert McClinton
Legacy of Americana Award, presented in partnership with the National Museum of African American Music: Rhiannon Giddens and Frank Johnson
Trailblazer Award: Maria Muldaur
President’s Award: Felice & Boudleaux Bryant
Inspiration Award, presented in partnership with the First Amendment Center: Mavis Staples
Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting: Elvis Costello