See full winners and photos below.
For 22 years now, the Americana community has been rising up to attempt to highlight the music and artists that are often overlooked or put out to pasture by the country music industry in Nashville. But with the rising popularity of independent artists, Americana has taken on and entirely different complexion where it’s quickly becoming an equal to the country music industry.
When you have arena acts such as Tyler Childers and Billy Strings challenging the status quo in country, it’s no longer about offering a hand up. It’s more about offering a more healthy alternative.
As part of the week-long AmericanaFest in Nashville this week, the Americana Music Association conducted their annual awards ceremony at the Ryman Auditorium. Though Charley Crockett and Margo Price were the most nominated artists in 2023 with considerations in both the Album, Song, and Artist of the Year categories, it was Tyler Childers, Billy Strings, The War & Treaty, S.G. Goodman, and Bonnie Raitt walking away with the big honors.
Billy Strings became the Americana Artist of the Year for the second year in a row, bolstered by his massive sold-out arena shows, and his recent traditional bluegrass tribute album to his pops, Me/And /Dad. The War & Treaty were also repeat winners in the category of Americana Duo or Group of the Year, speaking to their continued rise in the country and Americana realm.
Bonnie Raitt and her song “Just Like That” continue their incredible run by winning the Americana Music Award for Song of the Year. Some may remember in February at the Grammy Awards, Raitt shocked the popular music world by winning the all-genre Song of the Year for “Just Like That,” after picking up Best American Roots Songs as well. At 73, Raitt continues to prove she’s still a vital songwriter.
Album of the Year was awarded to Tyler Childers for his 3-disc Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven? despite receiving mixed reviews. In 2018 after his album Purgatory won in the same category, Childers said in his acceptance speech, “As a man who identifies as a country music singer, I feel Americana ain’t no part of nothin’. It is a distraction from the issues that we are facing on a bigger level as country music singers.”
Nonetheless, the Americana community continues to show their support for Childers. He was not in attendance to accept the award, but Kentucky poet laureate and Childers friend Silas House accepted for him.
S.G. Goodman also won for Emerging Artist of the Year. Along with releasing two critically-acclaimed albums in Old Time Feeling (2020) and Teeth Marks (2022), Goodman’s profile has also been bolstered by Tyler Childers covering the fellow Kentuckian’s song “Space and Time” in concert, and now on his new album Rustin’ In The Rain. S.G. performed the song right before winning Emerging Artist.
“Y’all are great for allowing a slow talker to make an acceptance speech,” Goodman said. “I’ve got a list as long as my leg of people to thank…”
See a full list of nominees and winners below.
Other awards went to The Avett Brothers and Nickel Creek for the Trailblazer Award, Patty Griffin was awarded the Lifetime Achievement in Songwriting, and Bettye LaVette accepted the Legacy of Americana Award. Presenters included Brandi Carlile, comedian Sarah Silverman, and Kacey Musgraves made a surprise appearance to hand out the Trailblazer Award to Nickel Creek.
Bettye LaVette brought the house down when she was reading off her acceptance speech and said, “I’m suffering from a disease called CRS … can’t read shit.” She later took a more thankful tone, saying, “After hiding in plain sight, it feels good to finally be acknowledged.”
While receiving the Trailblazer Award, Seth Avett said the band never wanted to be called rock, and never wanted to be called country, because they both felt too limiting. But when it came to Americana, it felt just right. “It’s so beautiful to be called that, and we never want out.”
Other surprise presenters included Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, also known as The Tennessee Three. No, this was not the backing band for Johnny Cash, but the members of the Tennessee State House who were reprimanded after attempting to stop down proceedings to push for gun legislation in light of the school shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville. They presented Allison Russell with the Spirit of Americana/Free Speech in Music Award.
But just as much as the awards, it was the performances that helped mark the 2023 Americana Music Awards. The show was opened by Logan Ledger paying tribute to Jimmy Buffett by singing “Come Monday,” and was closed by a tribute to Robbie Robertson through an all-star rendition of “Up On Cripple Creek.”
The debut album of Tom Waits, Closing Time released in 1973, was also paid tribute, with Rufus Wainwright singing the opening song “Ol’ ’55” that was eventually covered by The Eagles. He was accompanied by Logan Ledger.
Other performers included surging country soul outfit 49 Winchester, Adeem the Artist, 2022 Album of the Year winner Allison Russell, Angel Olsen, Brandi Carlile, Brandy Clark, Margo Price, The Milk Carton Kids with Noah Kahan, Rufus Wainwright, Sunny War, and William Prince.
The Americana Music Awards were streamed on multiple formats, and will be edited for proper rebroadcast via Austin City Limits at a later date.
2023 Americana Music Awards Winners
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Big Time, Angel Olsen; Produced by Angel Olsen and Jonathan Wilson
Can I Take My Hounds To Heaven?, Tyler Childers; Produced by Tyler Childers – WINNER
El Bueno y el Malo, Hermanos Gutiérrez; Produced by Dan Auerbach
The Man from Waco, Charley Crockett; Produced by Bruce Robison
Strays, Margo Price; Produced by Margo Price and Jonathan Wilson
ARTIST OF THE YEAR:
Billy Strings – WINNER
DUO/GROUP OF THE YEAR:
The War and Treaty – WINNER
EMERGING ACT OF THE YEAR:
Adeem the Artist
S.G. Goodman – Winner
Thee Sacred Souls
SONG OF THE YEAR:
“Change of Heart,” Margo Price; Written by Jeremy Ivey, Margo Price
“I’m Just a Clown,” Charley Crockett; Written by Charley Crockett
“Just Like That,” Bonnie Raitt; Written by Bonnie Raitt – WINNER
“Something in the Orange,” Zach Bryan; Written by Zach Bryan
“You’re Not Alone,” Allison Russell featuring Brandi Carlile; Written by Allison Russell
INSTRUMENTALIST OF THE YEAR:
Allison de Groot
SistaStrings – Chauntee and Monique Ross – WINNER
All photos by Kyle “Trigger” Coroneos