Americana Honors & Awards 2010
What if they held an awards show, and a concert broke out?
It would be an interesting affair, particularly if the concert in question came from Robert Plant and his Band of Joy at the Ryman Auditorium, and if it came at the end of an Americana Honors & Awards show that had already featured performances from John Mellencamp, Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Rosanne Cash and others whose roots-based music has landed them in the expansive genre known as Americana.
After Ryan Bingham, whose “The Weary Kind” was an Academy Award-winning highlight of the Crazy Heart movie soundtrack, won the artist of the year prize, host Jim Lauderdale took the stage to perform his Robert Hunter co-write, “Patchwork River.”
Then, after a brief set change, Plant came on with his Band of Joy, which includes Texan Patty Griffin and Nashvillians Buddy Miller, Darrell Scott, Byron House and Marco Giovino. They played an unannounced, roughly half-hour set that capped a night that had already included honors for Bingham, Cash, Miller, Mellencamp, T Bone Burnett, Hayes Carll, The Avett Brothers, Brian Ahern, Luke Lewis, Wanda Jackson, Greg Leisz and Mary Chapin Carpenter.
Bingham was the night’s only double-winner, triumphing in the top artist category and sharing the best song trophy with Burnett, who co-wrote “The Weary Kind.” Bingham’s new Junky Star album has just been issued on Lost Highway, the label that’s helmed by Lewis, who won a lifetime achievement prize for his work as a music executive.
Cash collected the album of the year award for The List, a project inspired by father Johnny Cash’s personally delivered list of 100 essential country songs. The Ryman stage is a special spot for the Cash family: Johnny Cash’s ABC television show was filmed at the Ryman, and the building was the spot where Johnny Cash first met Rosanne’s stepmother, June Carter.
Rosanne Cash grew emotional in talking of The List, a project through which she fully embraced her family’s heritage in country music.
“Most of all, I want to thank my dad for making this list for an 18-year-old girl who had a dream to be a songwriter,” she said.
The evening opened with a multi-artist run-through of the Rolling Stones’ “Tumbling Dice,” accentuating the notion that “Americana” influences can come from across the ocean. Don Was, who produced a recent reissue of the Stones’ classic album Exile On Main Street, played bass all night in the house band.
Burnett, the guiding force behind the soundtracks to Crazy Heart and O Brother, Where Art Thou? and the producer of the multi-million-selling Alison Krauss and Robert Plant vehicle Raising Sand, was thanked at the beginning of the evening by songwriting lifetime achievement award-winner Mellencamp. (Burnett produced Mellencamp’s new album, Better Than This.) Cash brought Mellencamp to the stage, introducing him as “a quintessential Americana artist.”
Leisz, whose steel guitar and lap steel work has graced albums by Joni Mitchell, Dave Alvin, Shawn Colvin and many others, won a lifetime achievement trophy as an instrumentalist, and Plant presented Miller (the co-producer of his new Band of Joy album) with the instrumentalist of the year prize.
Harris and Crowell presented Ahern with a lifetime achievement trophy for production. Ahern has produced hallmark albums for Harris, Johnny Cash, George Jones and more, and he mentored Crowell, Tony Brown, Steve Fishell, Ricky Skaggs, Emory Gordy and other important producers.
Texas-based singer-songwriter Hayes Carll took home the emerging artist award, while the Avett Brothers won the duo/group trophy. Rocker/producer Jack White came onstage to introduce Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Wanda Jackson, for whom he’s been producing a new album. Calling her “a founding mother of rock ’n’ roll,” White presented Jackson with a lifetime achievement prize for performer.
At the conclusion of an already music-heavy show, Plant and his band offered the value-added portion of the evening, previewing material from the Band of Joy album that’s due out on Sept. 14 on Rounder Records.
Plant’s set concluded a night of rock star turns, plaintive, acoustic performances, instrumental wizardry and music that crossed roots music spectrums and leapfrogged decades.
-Peter Cooper, The Tennessean