2017 Americana Music Awards nominees announced

The Americana Music Association unveiled its nominees for the 2017 Americana Music Awards in a press event at the Country Music Hall of Fame.  It’s a nice mix of veterans (Rodney Crowell, John Prine), today’s mainstays (Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson) and emerging artists (Aaron Lee Tasjan, Margo Price and more.)

Album of the Year

“American Band,” Drive-By Truckers, Produced by David Barbe

“A Sailor’s Guide to Earth,” Sturgill Simpson, Produced by Sturgill Simpson

“Close Ties,” Rodney Crowell, Produced by Kim Buie and Jordan Lehning

“Freedom Highway, Rhiannon Giddens, Produced David Bither, Rhiannon Giddens and Dirk Powell

“The Navigator,” Hurray for the Riff Raff, Produced by Paul Butler

 

Artist of the Year

Jason Isbell

John Prine

Lori McKenna

Margo Price

Sturgill Simpson

 

Duo/Group of the Year

Billy Bragg & Joe Henry

Drive-By Truckers

Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives

The Lumineers

 

Emerging Artist of the Year

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Aaron Lee Tasjan

Amanda Shires

Brent Cobb

Sam Outlaw

 

Song of the Year

“All Around You,” Sturgill Simpson, Written by Sturgill Simpson

“It Ain’t Over Yet,” Rodney Crowell (with Rosanne Cash & John Paul White), Written by Rodney Crowell

“To Be Without You,” Ryan Adams, Written by Ryan Adams

“Wreck You,” Lori McKenna, Written by Lori McKenna and Felix McTeigue

 

Instrumentalist of the Year

Spencer Cullum, Jr.

Jen Gunderman

Courtney Hartman

Charlie Sexton

Review: Jason Wilber’s “Echoes”

By Paul T. Mueller
wilberJason Wilber is best known to many as the nattily dressed guy who stands to the right of the great John Prine on stage, playing guitar and mandolin and singing harmony. Wilber also happens to be a singer-songwriter in his own right, with nine solo albums to his credit.

The newest, Echoes, finds him performing songs by other writers. He’s covering a lot of ground here – Leon Russell’s “A Song for You,” the Rolling Stones’ “As Tears Go By,” Pink Floyd’s “Echoes,” Joni Mitchell’s “Edith and the Kingpin,” David Bowie’s “Oh You Pretty Things” and Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed” are among the 11 tracks. Of course Wilber’s boss gets his due, with a solemn reading of “Paradise,” Prine’s lament about the despoiled coal country of Kentucky.

Echoes follows several years’ serious effort by Wilber to improve his singing voice, and while he will probably always be more noted as a guitarist than as a singer, his vocals do justice to the essence of these songs. The album benefits from spare but clean production by Paul Mahern, who also handled percussion duties, with help on a couple of tracks from Devon Ashley. The rest of it – guitars, bass and vocals – is all Wilber.

 

 

Preview: Cayamo music cruise 2016

By Paul T. Mueller

The ninth annual Cayamo music cruise sails from Miami on Jan. 31, en route to a week of music and fun under the Caribbean sun. Produced by Atlanta-based Sixthman aboard the chartered Norwegian Pearl, Cayamo is a weeklong music festival at sea, featuring dozens of scheduled performances in indoor venues ranging from small lounges to a thousand-seat auditorium, as well as a couple of open-air stages on the pool deck.

Cayamo is also known for passenger participation; a fair number of the 2,000-plus cruisers bring along their instruments and can be found jamming at pretty much any hour of the day or night. These sessions often draw the attention, and participation, of some of the professional musicians as well.

Americana’s best

While it’s not specifically an Americana cruise, this year’s Cayamo features a couple of the biggest names in Americana music at the moment – Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton, both still touring on the strength of excellent 2015 albums (Something More Than Free and Traveller, respectively). Other scheduled performers include two-time Cayamo veteran Lucinda Williams; three-timer John Prine; John Hiatt, back for a sixth tour; Nashville (and Nashville) superstar Buddy Miller, a fixture on every Cayamo except 2009; Shawn Colvin, who’s sailed five times before; John Fullbright, a two-time Cayamoan, and Steve Earle, back after two previous sailings. Atlanta-based singer-songwriter Shawn Mullins, the only performer who’s been on every Cayamo, also returns to keep his streak unbroken.

New to the cruise

Buzzworthy newcomers this year include Alabama-based singer-songwriter Paul Thorn; former Maine resident turned Austin folkie Slaid Cleaves; Hurray for the Riff Raff, featuring neo-New Orleanian Alynda Segarrra; Irish singer Foy Vance; and Angaleena Presley, also known as a member of Nashville’s Pistol Annies.

Returning to the Cayamo music cruise after successful debuts on previous cruises are country songbird Kacey Musgraves, whose duet show with Prine was a big hit last year; Amanda Shires, a fiddler and singer-songwriter who’s married to Isbell and is a member of his band, the 400 Unit; the talented duo Birds of Chicago (2015); Texas singer-songwriter Robert Ellis (2013), and Knoxville, Tenn.-based The Black Lillies (2015).

Stepping out from sideman roles with scheduled sets of their own are Buick 6 (Lucinda Williams’ band, consisting of guitarist Stuart Mathis, bassist David Sutton and drummer Butch Norton) and Jason Wilber, Prine’s longtime guitarist.

A wide range of artists

The rest of the announced lineup for the Cayamo music cruise includes Jim Lauderdale, David Bromberg, Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams, Watkins Family Hour (featuring former Nickel Creekers Sean and Sara Watkins and others), Johnnyswim, Angaleena Presley, Langhorne Slim, The Bros. Landreth, Sam Lewis, American Babies, Mingo Fishtrap, The Alternate Routes, Rainey Qualley, Kate York and Joe Pisapia, Sugar & the Hi-Lows, Maren Morris, Martin Harley and Jimmy Galloway. The winners of this year’s Soundcheck

competition for spots on the roster include the Andrew Duhon Trio, from New Orleans; The Novel Ideas, a Massachusetts-based folk quintet, and the aforementioned Slaid Cleaves. And the possibility of a “stowaway” surprise artist can never be ruled out; last year Todd Snider filled that role, coming aboard mid-cruise and performing a couple of excellent sets.

A good many Cayamo passengers don’t much care where the cruise goes and would just as soon sail around in circles for a week. But for those who like a little sightseeing with their music, this year’s ports of call are Tortola, one of the British Virgin Islands, and St. Maarten/St. Martin, which consists of both Dutch and French territory. There will also be four full days at sea, providing time for traditional cruise-ship activities – and for even more music than on port days.

(Cayamo music cruise photos by Paul T. Mueller.)

2015 Americana Music Festival notebook

By Ken Paulson

ama_logo_button_redRandom thoughts and observations about the Americana Music Festival week that was: The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band‘s 50th anniversary show at the Ryman was the perfect kick-off and an extraordinary event. Take the four current members of the Dirt Band – Jeff Hanna, John McEuen, Jimmie Fadden and Bob Carpenter – and add Byron House, Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas, and you have the ultimate Americana band. Then you add appearances by Jackson Browne, Vince Gill, John Prine, Alison Krauss, Rodney Crowell and returning Dirt Band member Jimmy Ibbotson and you have a singular evening. Recorded for PBS, the show’s few flubs just meant we had a chance to hear the classics twice – most notably Jerry Jeff Walker and the band doing his “Mr. Bojangles. …Based on their most recent album, we had high hopes for Dustbowl Revival and they absolutely delivered, even inspiring some City Winery patrons to dance, a scene we hadn’t witnessed before…

Dustbowl Revival at the City Winery

Dustbowl Revival at the City Winery

Our single favorite song of the week was Steve Earle doing “Mississippi, It’s Time,” a stirring song about the Confederate flag that reminded us how powerful truly topical songs can be….On the same stage, we saw Loretta Lynn, whose stage show probably hasn’t changed much in the past 40 years – and that’s just fine…We used the new app for our schedule all week and just have one request: build bios into the app for artists and panel members rather than passing us through to websites….We were honored to present the Spirit of Americana Free Speech in Music award to Buffy Sainte Marie on Wednesday night and then sat in when she visited with Middle Tennessee State University students the next day. They loved her energy and sage advice: “Don’t believe any of that junk about genres.”…We saw some tremendous unbilled shows at various receptions around town, including the new trio Applewood Road…. The Americana Music Festival remains the best single week for music in Music City –and that’s saying something.

The 10 best lines on the Cayamo music cruise 2015

By Paul T. Mueller

The 10 best lines from artists on the 2015 Cayamo cruise:

Amy Speace

Amy Speace

  • It was sad knowing everyone I knew or loved was going to hell. – Elizabeth Cook on her fundamentalist upbringing (Saturday)
  • This has been a very palpable evening. – Jim Lauderdale, during John Fullbright’s “Unlikely Sit-In” show (Saturday)
  • I starred in “Shakespeare in the Parking Lot” – Amy Speace on her days as a Shakespearean actress in New York (Monday)
  • Thanks, Mom. – John Prine, in response to a female audience member’s shout of “You’re sexy, John Prine!” (Monday)
  • The difference between a freeloader and a free spirit is about three chords. – Todd Snider (Wednesday)
  • This was No. 1 for about two weeks on the radio in Serbia. Take that, Lyle Lovett! – Amy Speace on the title track of her new CD, “That Kind of Girl” (Thursday)
  • Morning, everyone! – Lucinda Williams, at a 1:30 p.m. show (Thursday)
  • He doesn’t consider himself an Eagle, but I do. No, I consider you an egret. – Shawn Colvin to guitarist Steuart Smith, who tours with The Eagles (Thursday)
  • What we do on Cayamo stays on Cayamo. – Shawn Colvin (Thursday)
  • Since you probably played on the original record, play a little guitar right here, good brother. – Rodney Crowell to David Bromberg, during “Like a Rolling Stone” (Friday)

 

 

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