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Allison Russell, Brandi Carlile, The War and Treaty, First Avenue’s Dayna Frank celebrated at Americana Honors & Awards

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 14: Allison Russell and Brandi Carlile perform onstage for the 21st Annual Americana Honors & Awards at Ryman Auditorium on September 14, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 14: Allison Russell and Brandi Carlile perform onstage for the 21st Annual Americana Honors & Awards at Ryman Auditorium on September 14, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. Erika Goldring/Getty Images

by Luke Taylor

September 15, 2022

As has happened at previous Americana Honors & Awards programs, the question frequently arises among invited speakers and honorees: What, exactly, is Americana? 

Wednesday night’s ceremony, which took place at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville as part of this year’s Americana Music Association’s annual conference, AmericanaFest, proved no exception as the question was raised time and again. Program emcees the Milk Carton Kids (Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale) broached the topic in their opening remarks, with Pattengale pondering whether Americana was a subgenre or a trade group. Ryan offered his take: “It’s just community; it feels we’re back with family; it feels like Thanksgiving dinner.”

2022 Americana Honors and Awards
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 14: Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale of The Milk Carton Kids speak onstage for the 21st Annual Americana Honors & Awards at Ryman Auditorium on September 14, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Erika Goldring/Getty Images

Michael Trotter of The War and Treaty, as he and his wife Tanya Trotter accepted the award for Duo/Group of the Year, posited, “If you want to know what Americana is, it’s the sound of family.”

Musician and the night’s bandleader, Buddy Miller, who later would be presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award, offered a paraphrase of the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, saying, “I still don’t know what Americana is, but I know it when I hear it.”

Brandi Carlile (who won Song of the Year for “Right On Time”) in the course of presenting an award, even semi-joked, “Is [Americana] country music for liberals?”

Clearly it’s a question on people’s minds at the annual gathering that celebrates Americana music in its various forms, and the night’s performances illuminated those various forms, as artists including Allison Russell, Neal Francis, The McCrary Sisters, Brandi Carlile, Chris Isaak, Lucinda Williams, Adia Victoria and Lyle Lovett all took turns onstage, drawing thunderous standing ovations from the enthusiastic audience.

Interspersed throughout the performances, awards were distributed to artists across six juried categories, while others were honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards for a range of accomplishments. A full list of honorees is below, but some highlights from the evening: 

Multi-instrumentalist Larissa Maestro, when presented with the Instrumentalist of the Year Award, said she “didn’t think this thing was possibility to me” until she pointed out the other people of color that had been nominated in recent years for Instrumentalist of the Year, naming drummer Megan Coleman, keyboardist Ray Jacildo and drummer Jerry Pentecost. ““I’m 39 years old, and I [previously] didn’t see people that looked like me in this category,” Maestro said, “and I got to see that — and they’re my friends!”

Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe of Lucius delighted the audience with some lighthearted self-parody as they gave the introduction to the Duo/Group of the Year Award completely in unison, reflecting the way their voices blend in their music while also celebrating the duo/group category.

Allison Russell won Album of the Year with her 2021 release, Outside Child. In her acceptance speech, an emotional Russell thanked her family, producers and manager, and she also thanked Brandi Carlile for being such a positive force. Russell extended her thanks to everyone in the room. “I wasn’t lucky with the family I was born to or fostered by,” she said, “but this community saved me.”

2022 Americana Honors and Awards
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 14: Allison Russell and Brandi Carlile perform onstage for the 21st Annual Americana Honors & Awards at Ryman Auditorium on September 14, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Erika Goldring/Getty Images

Carlile, who is never shy about recognizing the talents and achievements of others, embraced the opportunity to bestow the honor of the Spirit of Americana / Freedom in Music Award upon the Indigo Girls. In her introductory speech, Carlile detailed the Indigo Girls’ work as activists and musicians, and provided personal insight by sharing the effect the Indigo Girls had on her own life. “I get to walk through the world that the Indigo Girls built for me,” Carlile said. “They helped me make my dreams come true.” 

Carlile also mentioned how the Indigo Girls had recently been in Duluth (Minnesota, not Georgia) to participate in the Water Is Life festival, underscoring the Indigo Girls’ commitment to music and activism.

And one particular moment that seemed almost spontaneous — but clearly was not — happened in Nashville yet reverberated in Minneapolis and across the nation. Chris Cobb, who is the president of Music Venue Alliance Nashville, described the formation of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) and its work in passing the economic relief bill known as the Save Our Stages Act. In so doing, Cobb recognized First Avenue CEO Dayna Frank for her work in forming NIVA and for helping to bring about the economic relief package that proved so crucial during the pandemic. “This room is filled with amazing, brilliant and talented people, but only one of you led the charge that saved our entire ecosystem,” Cobb said of Frank. “Without her, thousands of venues across the country would have folded, taking with them the stages for artists to play; the rooms for the community to share art; and tens of thousands of jobs. But because of her undying, unrelenting, unwavering leadership, this industry of mom-and-pop believers have survived. And because of her, the independent music community will thrive.”

Cobb then looked up to the balcony in the Ryman, where Frank was seated among the audience. A spotlight found her as Cobb requested amid applause, “Dayna Frank, please stand up so we can all thank you for your most humble, most excellent servant-leadership when we needed it most.”

Listen: First Avenue CEO Dayna Frank recognized at the 2022 Americana Honors & Awards

Frank wasn’t the only business leader to be recognized on Wednesday night. Music executive Al Bell received the Jack Emerson Lifetime Achievement Award. Bell’s career began as a radio DJ before he joined the famed Memphis label Stax Records, where he advanced the careers of such artists as the Staple Singers and Isaac Hayes. The evening concluded with the McCrary Sisters leading a sing-along to the Staple Singers’ hit, “I’ll Take You There,” which includes some lyrics written by Bell.

As for what is Americana? Although the question wasn’t answered outright during the course of the evening, simply a look at the performances and the nominees and winners offers a clue as to what Americana just might be: It’s a music community that puts inclusivity, authenticity and love of music at the forefront, and it checks categorization at the door.


2022 Americana Honors and Awards Winners

Winners in bold

Album of the Year

In These Silent Days, Brandi Carlile, Produced by Dave Cobb and Shooter Jennings

Outside Child, Allison Russell, Produced by Dan Knobler

Raise The Roof, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Produced by T Bone Burnett

A Southern Gothic, Adia Victoria, Produced by Mason Hickman and Adia Victoria, Executive Produced by T Bone Burnett

Stand for Myself, Yola, Produced by Dan Auerbach 

Artist of the Year

Brandi Carlile

Jason Isbell

Allison Russell

Billy Strings


Duo/Group of the Year

Big Thief

Los Lobos

The Mavericks

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss

The War and Treaty

Emerging Act of the Year

Sierra Ferrell

Neal Francis

Brittney Spencer

Adia Victoria

Morgan Wade

Instrumentalist of the Year

Ethan Ballinger

Brian Farrow

Larissa Maestro

Shelby Means

Justin Moses

Song of the Year

“Canola Fields,” James McMurtry, Written by James McMurtry

“Diamond Studded Shoes,” Yola, Written by Dan Auerbach, Natalie Hemby, Aaron Lee Tasjan and Yola

“Juanita,” Sturgill Simpson featuring Willie Nelson, Written by Sturgill Simpson

“Persephone,” Allison Russell, Written by Jeremy Lindsay and Allison Russell

“Right On Time,” Brandi Carlile, Written by Brandi Carlile, Dave Cobb, Phil Hanseroth and Tim Hanseroth

Lifetime Achievement Awards

Legacy Of Americana Award

Fairfield Four

Jack Emerson Lifetime Achievement Award For Executive

Al Bell

Lifetime Achievement For Performance

Chris Isaak

Spirit Of Americana / Free Speech In Music

Indigo Girls

President's Award

Don Williams

Program United States of Americana with Bill DeVille, Sundays 8 to 10 a.m.
Stream Radio Heartland

Americana Music Association - official site