Brandi Carlile, Sturgill Simpson and the late John Prine were among those receiving kudos at Wednesday night’s 20th annual Americana Honors & Awards, which returned to an in-person ceremony at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium after being announced online last year due to the pandemic.
Even without having a new album out — yet (there’s one coming Oct. 1) — Carlile was named artist of the year, an honor she previously picked up in 2019. During the pandemic, Carlile notably stood as a model of how to keep an audience engaged through livestreams, from formal recreations of her studio albums to informal live campfire sessions.
John Prine won artist of the year in 2020, posthumously — but that didn’t mean he was done winning plaudits from the Americana Music Association, as he merited one (presumably) final trophy this year, too, for song of the year. He was awarded it for “I Remember Everything,” his one-off final recording; co-writer Pat McLaughlin shared the award.
Album of the year went to Sturgill Simpson’s “Cuttin’ Grass – Vol. 1 (The Butcher Shoppe Sessions).” It wasn’t a first-time win in that category; he also won album of the year in 2017 for “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.” Like Prine, Simpson is also a past artist of the year winner, as well, having earned that honor back in 2015.
Not everyone picking up trophies was a repeat winner in his or her category. Black Pumas won duo/group of the year for the first time. Last year it went to the Highwomen, a group that includes Carlile, who won three 2020 awards in all. Black Pumas hadn’t been shut out last year, though — they’d won in 2020 for emerging artist of the year.
Following in Black Pumas’ footsteps as this year’s emerging act of the year was harley Crockett. The Texas singer/songwriter may be skirting the edges of newcomer status — the album he released just last week, “Music City USA,” is his tenth album in six years — but it’s been only recently the indie artist has come into greater prominence.
Violin and fiddle player Kristin Weber was named instrumentalist of the year.
The previously announced “honors,” aka lifetime achievement awards, went to Memphis soul great Carla Thomas, Keb’ Mo’, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, producer/engineer Trina Shoemaker and the Mavericks.
Performers on the show, which was broadcast on Circle All Access, NPR’s website and SiriusXM’s Outlaw Country channel, included Carlile, Crockett, Jason Isbell, Allison Russell, Amythyst Kiah, Valerie June, Steve Earle, Margo Price and Sarah Jarosz.
Other guests included “CBS This Morning” host Anthony Mason, who gave Carlile her prize, and Shooter Jennings, who accepted Simpson’s award in his absence. Kiefer Sutherland accepted on behalf of Black Pumas. Fiona Prine, the widow of John Prine and president of Oh Boy Records, accepted the song of the year award on his behalf from Joe Henry and Aoife O’Donovan.
The complete list of winners for the competitive awards at the Americana Honors & Awards:
Album of the Year: “Cuttin’ Grass – Vol. 1 (The Butcher Shoppe Sessions),” Sturgill Simpson, Produced by David Ferguson and Sturgill Simpson
Artist of the Year: Brandi Carlile
Song of the Year: “I Remember Everything” John Prine, written by Pat McLaughlin and John Prine
Duo/Group of the Year: Black Pumas
Emerging Act of the Year: Charley Crockett
Instrumentalist of the Year: Kristin Weber
The complete list of honorary awards:
Legacy of Americana Award, presented in partnership with the National Museum of African American Music: Fisk Jubilee Singers
Trailblazer Award: The Mavericks
Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance: Keb’ Mo’
Lifetime Achievement Award for Producer/Engineer: Trina Shoemaker
Inspiration Award: Carla Thomas