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There are myriad awards shows in Nashville, but the annual Americana Honors and Awards are always a treat, with performances from newcomers and legends alike.

This year’s three-hour event, held at the Ryman Auditorium on Wednesday night, featured nearly two dozen performances and several memorable moments, ranging from the Drive-By Truckers’ captivating rendition of their song “What It Means” to Lifetime Achievement Award honorees Robert Cray and Hi Rhythm rattling the  rafters with “You Must Believe in Yourself.” . 

Here are a few other highlights:

Tributes to country music legends

The roots music world has lost far too many artists in the last few months, including Glen Campbell and Don Williams. Two performances last night paid tribute to their musical legacies. 

Duo of the Year nominees Billy Bragg and Joe Henry performed John Hartford’s “Gentle on My Mind,” which Campbell recorded 50 years ago. 

To close the show, Lauderdale, Emmylou Harris, Elizabeth Cook, Danny Flowers and more played “Tulsa Time,” a Flowers composition that Williams, country music’s gentle giant, took to the top of the charts in 1978.

 

Iris DeMent receives Trailblazer Award

In 1992, singer-songwriter Iris DeMent released her excellent debut, “Infamous Angel.” Twenty-five years later, she received the Americana Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Trailblazer Award, presented to those who’ve forged their own path in roots music. 

DeMent was presented the award by longtime friend and collaborator John Prine, who remembered the first time he heard her voice on a cassette tape years ago: “It kind of sounded like an old friend I’d never met before.”

At the microphone, DeMent explained through her tears, “I thought I was okay until John came out.” 

DeMent and Prine both played solo material (“Morning Glory” and “Lake Marie,” respectively) during this segment of the show, but their joint performance of “In Spite of Ourselves,” a duet the two recorded for Prine’s 1999 album of the same name, sparkled. 

 

Graham Nash and the Milk Carton Kids channel the Everly Brothers

Nash, a two-time inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, was this year’s recipient of the Spirit of Americana/Free Speech in Music Award

After charming the audience with an anecdote about the night that he sang with his musical heroes the Everly Brothers at a venue in Toledo, Nash brought out the Milk Carton Kids to sing with him. Together, the three men performed a gorgeous version of Phil and Don Everly’s classic, “So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad).” 

 

Rhiannon Giddens amazes

Giddens’ latest masterpiece, “Freedom Highway,” was nominated for Album of the Year. Though it didn’t win, Giddens, joined by fiddler/producer Dirk Powell, delivered a riveting performance of one of the record’s highlights: “Julie,” a song inspired by 19th-century slave narratives. 

 

 

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