Honorees Announced for 23rd Annual Americana Honors & Awards

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photo from Americana Awards

The Americana Music Association announced this year’s Lifetime Achievement Honorees for its 23rd Annual Americana Honors & Awards show on Wednesday, September 18. This group of top-honor recipients includes Dave Alvin, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Rev. Gary Davis, Shelby Lynne, Don Was and Dwight Yoakam. This year’s honorees will be celebrated during the prestigious ceremony at the Ryman Auditorium.

Dave Alvin. From the kinetic fury of The Blasters with his brother Phil to a decades-long solo career replete with songs from the moving to the mystical, Dave Alvin has made good on his claim that he makes “both kinds of folk music – quiet and loud.” As a songwriter, poet, and producer, Alvin helped the West Coast roots and country music scene of the 1980s and 1990s become legendary. His leather jacket and famous red neck bandana tell that story as part of a major exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The Downey, California, native won a GRAMMY for his 2000 traditional folk album, Public Domain: Songs From the Wild Land.

The Blind Boys of Alabama revolutionized Black gospel music in the 1940s and 1950s with an ecstatic performance style, charismatic audience engagement, and a break from the a cappella tradition – a grooving rhythm section. Established in Talladega, Alabama, in 1939, the group adapted to their times while never crossing over into pop. Several generations of singers and leaders inspired and preserved their approach, chiefly Clarence Fountain, George Scott, Sam Butler, and Jimmy Carter. They were signed by Peter Gabriel and produced by Booker T. Jones. They toured with Tom Petty and recorded with Lou Reed. They’ve won five GRAMMY Awards, performed at the White House three times, and earned numerous other honors.

Rev. Gary Davis was a pioneer of the Piedmont blues tradition, singing both sacred and secular songs with a ragtime feeling and intricate guitar counterpoint. He left his South Carolina home to entertain working people in the tobacco markets of Durham, North Carolina. Later in New York, his career blossomed again as a fixture in the folk revival of the 1960s. His songs and interpretations influenced the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, John Sebastian, Jorma Kaukonen and legions of others. Davis is the recipient of the Legacy Award presented in partnership with the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM).

Shelby Lynne has steered a fiercely independent path to become one of the most respected singers and songwriting artists in American music, through her immaculate reconception of country soul. The Alabama native was working with producer Billy Sherrill and recording for Epic Records by age 21. Her breakout album I Am Shelby Lynne helped secure a Best New Artist GRAMMY in 2001, and her Dusty Springfield homage Just A Little Lovin’ is regarded as a classic. Her many collaborations have included timeless recordings and performances with her younger sister Allison Moorer.

Don Was has been the longstanding bass player in the Americana Honors and Awards house band, but of course he is so much more. Indeed his career stretches the words eclectic and accomplished into new territory. He grew up in Detroit on blues, rock and jazz and established the pop/rock band Was (Not Was) in the 1980s. As a producer, he went supernova with major collaborations with Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Brian Wilson and more. Since 2012 he’s been president of the historic jazz label Blue Note Records. He’s earned five GRAMMY Awards, including Producer of the Year.

Dwight Yoakam’s electrifying songwriting, impeccable style, and singular voice have made him one of the most revolutionary and influential country recording artists of all time. Rooted in Eastern Kentucky bluegrass and old-time music, Yoakam moved to Los Angeles in the early 1970s. What followed was a string of historic albums in the 1980s and ’90s that revitalized and expanded the Bakersfield and honky-tonk country traditions, earning him multiple GRAMMY Awards. His cowpunk cool blended traditional country with a modern rock sensibility, and his broad appeal transcended the core country audience, paving the way for the alt-country movement that would later evolve into Americana.

The Americana Honors & Awards ceremony serves as the hallmark event of the association’s annual AMERICANAFEST, taking place September 17-21 in Nashville.

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