On Wednesday evening, Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium hosted the 17th annual Americana Music Awards on Wednesday evening (Sept. 14).
John Prine and Sturgill Simpson claimed the ceremony’s top awards. Prine received Artist of the Year, while Simpson nabbed Album of the Year for Sailor’s Guide to Earth.
Rodney Crowell earned Song of the Year for his track “It Ain’t Over Yet,” and Amanda Shires took home the Emerging Artist award.
With any show at the Ryman, it’s all about the music on stage, and this show delivered several great performances. Legacy artists Robert Cray and Van Morrison gave short but potent performances after receiving their respective Lifetime Achievement awards. Morrison, who seemed in a hurry to get the affair over with, performed a song from his new album. Rock legend Graham Nash, who also took home a lifetime achievement award for songwriting, sang bare bones version of the Everly Brothers’ “So Sad” with the Milk Carton Kids.
The up-and-comers also shined on the storied stage of the Ryman. Aaron Lee Tasjan, nominated for Emerging Artist, flexed gritty and soul chops. California crooner Sam Outlaw, another Emerging Artist nominee, showed his depth of talent with “Diamond Ring” from his new album, Tenderheart.
A couple performances tackled societal issues in modern America. The Drive By Truckers played “What It Means,” a song that explores the racial shootings in America. Hurray for the Riff Raff performed their socially-conscious “Pa’lante,” while lead singer Alynda Segarra wore a shirt emblazoned with “JAIL ARAPAIO,” a reference to the recently pardoned Arizona sheriff.
The sweetest moment came early in the show when John Prine gave Iris Dement her Lifetime Achievement, Trailblazer award. Dement, through tears, told the crowd how Prine’s best advice to her during her early career was just to tell the truth. She performed “Morning Glory,” a song about the beauty of nature, and then gave a duet of “In Spite of Ourselves” with Prine.
2017 Americana Honors and Awards winners
Album of the Year: “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth,” Sturgill Simpson; produced by Sturgill Simpson
Artist of the Year: John Prine
Group/Duo of the Year: Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives
Song of the Year: “It Ain’t Over Yet,” Rodney Crowell (feat. Rosanne Cash and John Paul White); written by Rodney Crowell
Emerging Artist of the Year: Amanda Shires
Instrumentalist of the Year: Charlie Sexton
Spirit of Americana/Free Speech in Music Award, co-presented by the Americana Music Association and the First Amendment Center: Graham Nash
Lifetime Achievement Award, Trailblazer: Iris Dement
Lifetime Achievement Award, Songwriting: Van Morrison
Lifetime Achievement Award, Performance: Robert Cray
Lifetime Achievement Award, Instrumentalist: Hi Rhythm Section
Lifetime Achievement Award, Executive: HighTone Records founders Larry Sloven and Bruce Bromberg