In case you missed it, the Americana Music Association had their awards show yesterday and here are the winners, My comments are below.
Americana Music Honors & Awards 2015 Winners:
Album of the Year: Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone, Lucinda Williams, Produced by Lucinda Williams, Tom Overby and Greg Leisz
Artist of the Year: Sturgill Simpson
Duo /Group of the Year: The Mavericks
Song of the Year: "Turtles All The Way Down" Written by Sturgill Simpson
Emerging Artist of the Year: Shakey Graves
Instrumentalist of the Year: John Leventhal
Spirit of Americana/Free Speech in Music Award co-presented by the Americana Music Association and the First Amendment Center: Buffy Sainte-Marie
Lifetime Achievement Award, Trailblazer: Don Henley
The Lifetime Achievement Award, Songwriting: Gillian Welch & David Rawlings
Lifetime Achievement Award, Instrumentalist: Ricky Skaggs
Lifetime Achievement Award, Performance: Los Lobos
President's Award: BB King
I have mixed feelings about Lucinda Williams win on Album Of The Year. It's not my favorite album of the year by a long stretch. But there are a few amazing tracks on it. And I give her high marks for taking her music in a particular direction and pushing the envelope. It's a unique album. It's a work of art that couldn't have come from anyone else. So I can see why she got the award and I think it's well deserved even though it would not have been my pick.
My pick for album of they year, so far at least, is Eilen Jewell's Sundown Over Ghost Town. Like Lucinda Williams, she has developed an absolutely unique sound and there is not a single weak track on that album and there's over half a dozen songs that knock it out of the park. I think it's a crying shame that she didn't even make it on the final ballot.
Also glad to see Sturgill Simpson get top honors. I really really want to land an interview with him, but so far I have not been able to. If anyone has any connections, let me know. To my mind, the interesting thing about Sturgill Simpson is how mainstream he can be when he wants to. I know "mainstream" these days is usually a negative word, so let me clarify. I think his presence and his sound appeals to a broad swath America. He somehow manages to stay true to his music and his sound while giving people what they want to hear in country music.
I agree with most of the other award categories, but there are two that I have to say I had a negative reaction to.
The first is Shakey Graves as emerging artist of the year. I'm sorry, but I'm not buying that. I like his stage presence. I like maybe two cuts off his album, and "Dearly Departed" is a well done song on many levels. But a couple of tracks doesn't make Emerging Artist Of The Year. I can think of a bunch of emerging artist that have twice as many strong songs as Shakey Graves. Just off the top of my head: AJ Ghent Band, Amy Black, Anderson East, Bumper Jacksons, The Deslondes, The Cerny Brothers, Christian Lopez, Dayna Kurtz, Michael Rank & Stag, The Honeycutters, Jimbo Mathus, Kevin Sekhani, Lance Canales, Mandolin Orange, Michael O'Connor, Milagro Saints, Plott Hounds, Sugarcane Jane, Whitney Rose, Tom Rhodes, Woddy Pines.... And that's just from a quick glance at my iTunes song list.
The second award that made me scratch my head and say "huh?" was Don Henley's Lifetime Achievement Award in the "Trailblazer" category. No doubt that Don Henley has an amazing body of work and a lifetime of music to be damn proud of. But where is the connection to "Americana"?
And by the way, where the hell is Malcolm Holcombe???? If anyone deserves a Lifetime Achievement Award for his music, it's Malcolm Holcombe. When you look at his body of work over the past twenty years, you realize how infest the folk music scene is with whiny babies. When Malcolm Holcombe takes the stage it's like an adult has finally entered the room and he's seething with barely controlled rage.
Anyway, would love to hear your thoughts on the awards.