May 12th, 2014 was a special day for many in the Americana movement as the Americana Music Association revealed the nominees for the 2014 Honors and Awards Ceremony, set to take place on September 17. Looking at the list of this years nominees, a shift appears to be taking place where younger artists are beginning to turn heads amongst the Association faithful. As a member of the Association myself, I admit that it's a necessary shift.
Leading the list with the most nominations are Jason Isbell and Roseanne Cash. Nominated in three categories each, the nominations are much deserved as both artists issued stellar albums in the past year with Isbell's "Southeastern" and Cash's "The River and the Thread." Both albums are up for Album of the Year, with Isbell's "Cover Me Up" and Cash's "A Feather's Not a Bird" nominated in the Song of the Year category and both artists named in the Artist of the Year category. Rounding out the Artist of the Year category are nominees Rodney Crowell and Robert Ellis. As you can see, it's a great mix of two veteran artists who still bring it with every project they issue and two younger artists who are just hitting their creative stride.
A similar situation exists in the Song of the Year category with Robert Ellis receiving a second nod of the night for "Only Lies", while veteran Patty Griffin receives her only nod for "Ohio" off her American Kid album. The parable here is that the Association is (to some, finally) recognizing the amazing young talent that exists in this genre and acknowledging this talent accordingly by nominating these artists in categories with the well known veterans who have laid the groundwork for the Americana movement. While it may not be a full passing of the torch, it is nice to see the youth of the genre receiving this type of recognition. Having said that, it's always nice to see veteran artists like Rodney Crowell, Roseanne Cash and Patty Griffin receiving the same recognition by the only Association who appreciates the talent, skill and knowledge that only a veteran artist can bring to the table. They deserve to have their recent projects acknowledged accordingly where appropriate, as this is the only genre that considers a veteran/legendary act relevant in today's musical landscape.
Perhaps the most hotly contested category will be that of the Emerging Act of the Year. Sturgill Simpson and Parker Millsap are stone cold, straight ahead country artists, mixed in with the more roots based sounds of Hurray For The Riff Raff and Valerie June. The dark horse in this category could be St. Paul and the Broken Bones. I wrote about this act in my coverage of the 2013 Americana Music Festival and Conference, and I'm telling you, this group blew the doors, windows and roof off the High Watt in Nashville. They are one of the most unique and high energy acts on the road today, and they could very well walk out of the Ryman with the Emerging Act of the Year trophy in September ... an early prediction I know, but it's possible.
Regardless of who wins, the Americana Music Awards is a special show. It is a night where the community comes together and for some of us, it's a chance to catch up with old friends, make some new friends and celebrate the best music and art that is being created in the world today. I hope to catch up with many of you in Nashville from September 17 to 21. In the meantime, here is the list of nominees, courtesy of the Americana Music Association web site.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Build Me Up From Bones, Sarah Jarosz
The Lights From The Chemical Plant, Robert Ellis
The River And The Thread, Rosanne Cash
Southeastern, Jason Isbell
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
DUO/GROUP OF THE YEAR
The Avett Brothers
The Devil Makes Three
Hard Working Americans
Lake Street Dive
The Milk Carton Kids
SONG OF THE YEAR
"Cover Me Up", Jason Isbell
"A Feather's Not A Bird", Rosanne Cash
"Ohio", Patty Griffin
"Only Lies", Robert Ellis
EMERGING ACT OF THE YEAR
Hurray For The Riff Raff
St. Paul & The Broken Bones
INSTRUMENTALIST OF THE YEAR