Women and First-Timers Abundant Among This Year's Americana Awards Slate

May 14, 2019

For the first time in its 18-year history, four women were nominated as the Americana Music Association's Artist of the Year on Tuesday afternoon. And that wasn't the only way past patterns were disrupted in anticipation of the 2019 Honors & Awards show this Fall. No Album of the Year nominees were among the prospects for Artist of the Year or Duo/Group of the Year. New acts turned up in the Album and Duo/Group category, giving hope for first-time winners.

Artist of the Year nods went to: Brandi Carlile, a breakout folk singer with a blockbuster voice who was a crowd favorite on the nationally televised Grammy Awards in February; Rhiannon Giddens, the banjo and fiddle playing songwriter whose wide folkloric pursuits earned her a MacArthur Fellowship in 2017; Kacey Musgraves, the iconoclastic major label country artist whose Golden Hour LP swept the CMA and Grammy Awards; and Mavis Staples, the iconic soul/gospel singer who's continued her vibrant career into her 80th year.

Nashville's Dave Cobb scored a remarkable hat trick from behind the scenes as producer of three of the possible Albums of the Year: To The Sunset by fiddling songwriter Amanda Shires, The Tree of Forgiveness by John Prine, last year's Artist of the Year, and The Tree by Stoughton, MA-based songwriter Lori McKenna. Rounding out the coveted category is Yola, the commanding English songwriter who broke out via the AMA UK and whose Walk Through Fire of early 2019 was produced by Dan Auerbach.

Yola was also nominated as Emerging Artist of the Year, where a tie led to five nominees from the widest-ever range of backgrounds and sounds: London-based indie folk songwriter Jade Bird, Middle Tennessee native Erin Rae, married folk/soul duo The War And Treaty, and native Kenyan turned Minneapolis-based folksinger J.S. Ondara.

Repeating a nomination from last year in the Duo/Group category is female trio I'm With Her. A brand new project, the African-American folk quartet Our Native Daughters pulled together by Rhiannon Giddens is up for the award. The veteran blues/rock Tedeschi Trucks Band earned its first-ever Americana nomination. And The War And Treaty round out this competitive category.

The Instrumentalist of the Year foursome could form a band, with bassist Michael Rinne (Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell), drummer Chris Powell (Brandi Carlile), fiddler Eamon McLoughlin (Ashley Monroe, Grand Ole Opry) and acoustic guitarist Chris Eldridge (Punch Brothers).

The awards will be presented, along with lifetime achievement honors, on Sept. 11 at the Ryman Auditorium.

The full list of nominees follows:

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
Yola

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 & 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