Kentucky-reared singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton was named artist of the year Wednesday by the Americana Music Assn. for his breakthrough with his debut solo album “Traveller.” Meanwhile, Alabama’s Jason Isbell took two other top honors — album of the year for his latest release “Something More Than Free” and song of the year for “24 Frames.”
Results were announced at the AMA’s awards ceremony in Nashville, where the organization also paid tribute to four respected Americana musicians who died during the previous year: bluegrass patriarch Ralph Stanley, country music giant Merle Haggard, esteemed Texas troubadour Guy Clark and New Orleans R&B, rock and funk mastermind Allen Toussaint.
“You take musical traditions from England, Ireland, Scotland, Spain a little bit, a little bit from France, and blend them together with a rich variety of African musical traditions, and stir it up,” Grateful Dead member Bob Weir, who also took home the association’s performance award, said during the tribute segment.
“You let it simmer for 200 or 300 years and see what happens,” Weir added. “This could only happen in a new land. Physically, culturally, and spiritually. That place was and is America. It could only have happened here.”
Fast-rising singer and songwriter Margo Price was named emerging artist of the year; L.A.-based fiddler, singer and songwriter Sara Watkins became the first woman to take instrumentalist of the year honors, and veteran Americana trailblazers Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell took the duo of the year award.
Lifetime achievement awards went to Woody Guthrie (posthumously collecting the President’s Award), Billy Bragg (Spirit of Americana/Free Speech award), William Bell (songwriting), Shawn Colvin (Trailblazer), and longtime award show emcee, singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale (WagonMaster).
The awards ceremony anchors the 17th Americana Music Festival, which continues through Sunday.
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