Allison Russell, Brandi Carlile and Billy Strings were among the winners Wednesday night at the Americana Honors & Awards ceremony in Nashville, where love spread among the genre’s current top stars.
Six different artists prevailed in the six voted categories, with newcomer Sierra Ferrell, instrumentalist Larissa Maestro and husband and wife duo The War and Treaty also winning.
The competition can be more family-friendly at the Americana Awards than at other shows, and the top three nominees, Carlile, Russell and Yola, who garnered three nominations each, have been particularly close in supporting and guesting with each other. Carlile was even instrumental in helping Russell land his record deal with Fantasy Records.
In the end, Russell and Carlile shared two of the prizes to which they aspired. Russell, a first-time nominee, was honored as album of the year for her debut solo release, “Outside Child,” which topped many critics’ top 10 lists (including Variety‘s) at the end of 2021.
Carlile, who had previously won five Americana awards, earned her sixth Wednesday night song of the year, for “Right on Time.” (The singer-songwriter shared the song award with three co-writers, band members Phil and Tim Hanseroth and producer Dave Cobb.)
Those two were also nominated for artist of the year. But that was for Billy Strings, a neo-bluegrass touring monster who won his first Americana Award. He had been nominated last year but then lost to Carlile, who had won in that category two of the previous three years. (Strings was on tour and absent from the ceremony, and host Jerry Douglas accepted his award on his behalf.)
The War and Treaty earned their second American Music Association award as Duo/Group of the Year winners after winning the Emerging Artist trophy three years ago. Her rendition of “That’s How Love Is Made” earned a standing ovation earlier in the night.
The association’s lifetime achievement honors went to the Fairfield Four, Indigo Girls, Chris Isaak, the late country star Don Williams and legendary Stax executive Al Bell, all previously announced. Added to their ranks was a surprise lifetime award for Buddy Miller, who led the house band during the show, as he has for most of the ceremony’s 21 years. Robert Plant, who has had Miller lead his and Alison Krauss’s band in the past, presented the award to Miller.
Tribute was paid to Luke Bell, a cult favorite among fans of traditional country music who killed himself in August. JP Harris said he had been called back from the road a few days earlier to greet Bell with a song and sang “The Bullfighter,” preceding a message about the need to pay more attention to mental health needs and the message : “Luke never got the chance to sing this song himself from this stage like he should have, so I’m going to do my best in your place, little brother.”
Lukas Nelson paid tribute to a deceased singer who received his recognition in life, Don Williams, who covered “Lord, I Hope This Day is Good.”
Most of the night’s nominees performed at some point during the three-hour-plus show, including a joint performance of “You’re Not Alone,” Russell’s new single, featuring Carlile, which appears on the record. Carlile sang his own “You and Me on the Rock” with the duo Lucius, who contributed harmonies on the album version “In These Silent Days”. Other acting nominees included Adia Victoria, James McMurtry, Neal Francis and Morgan Wade along with winners Ferrell and War and Treaty and honorees Indigo Girls, Fairfield Five and Isaak, the latter preceded by his award presenter Lyle Lovett.