The Americana Music Association has announced the slate of nominees for this year's awards. I don't know the ins and outs of how artists get nominated, so I'm not going to comment on that. But I'm gonna make some picks. Mind you, I'm not necessarily picking who I think will win because I don't know the process. My picks are my recommendations in terms of who to listen to.
Your picks? Comments? I'd like to hear from you at the bottom of the page.
Album of the Year:
- American Band, Drive-By Truckers, Produced by David Barbe
- Close Ties, Rodney Crowell, Produced by Kim Buie and Jordan Lehning
- Freedom Highway, Rhiannon Giddens, Produced David Bither, Rhiannon Giddens and Dirk Powell
- The Navigator, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Produced by Paul Butler
- A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, Sturgill Simpson, Produced by Sturgill Simpson
I love me some Sturgill Simpson, but his album just didn't do it for me. Likewise for Hurray For The Riff Raff. Big fan of the band, but not this year's album. I am super impressed with Rhiannon Giddens and I try to follow everything she does. I think she's going to be the Nina Simone of the 21st century. I'm putting Freedom Highway into rotation but I'm not sure I'd put it into album of the year. Which leaves me with the Drive-by Truckers. and Rodney Crowell. I dig American Band, but I gotta go with Rodney Crowell's Close Ties.
Artist of the Year:
- Jason Isbell
- John Prine
- Lori McKenna
- Margo Price
- Sturgill Simpson
Calvin's picks: If the category was lifetime achievement, I'd go with Prine. But the award is for the year. Lori McKenna and Sturgill Simpson are both strong and valid contenders for the category. But in my mind it comes down to Margo Price and Jason Isbell. Jason Isbell is clearly the guy to be watching these days and everyone's waiting for his Nashville Sound album. On the other hand, no one is a bigger fan of Price's Midwest Farmer's Daughter than I am. Isbell's album will be out by the time the awards are given. But given I have not heard it yet, I gotta give the edge to Margo Price on this one. She's a strong songwriter and knows how to convey the emotional punch of a song.
Duo/Group of the Year:
- Billy Bragg & Joe Henry
- Drive-By Truckers
- Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives
- The Lumineers
Calvin's picks: I have not heard the Lumineer's latest. I think Marty Stuart's album is an impressive studio effort. But I have to tip my hat to the Drive-by Truckers on this one because they never, ever disappoint at their shows.
Emerging Artist of the Year:
- Aaron Lee Tasjan
- Amanda Shires
- Brent Cobb
- Sam Outlaw
Calvin's picks: Oy. This is the toughest category for me. I gotta go with Aaron Lee Tasjan. Normally I don't go for heavily produced albums, but I think he has the gravitas to not get drowned in it all and he makes it work.
Song of the Year:
- “All Around You,” Sturgill Simpson, Written by Sturgill Simpson
- “It Ain’t Over Yet,” Rodney Crowell (feat. Rosanne Cash & John Paul White), Written by Rodney Crowell
- “To Be Without You,” Ryan Adams, Written by Ryan Adams
- “Wreck You,” Lori McKenna, Written by Lori McKenna and Felix McTeigue
Calvin's picks: This one is no contest for me. Nothing but kudos to the other entries in this category, but I gotta go with "It Ain't Over Yet" by Rodney Crowell.
Instrumentalist of the Year:
- Spencer Cullum, Jr.
- Jen Gunderman
- Courtney Hartman
- Charlie Sexton
Calvin's picks: Gotta go with Spencer Collum, Jr. on this one. He's an inventive pedal steel player and I can't wait for the June release of his ism album.