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Jason Isbell extends legacy at Americana Honors and Awards

Performers sing “Will the Circle be Unbroken” during the finale at the Americana Music Association Honors & Awards Show.
Performers sing “Will the Circle be Unbroken” during the finale at the Americana Music Association Honors & Awards Show.

Singer songwriter Jason Isbell won album of the year and song of the year at the 2016 Americana Honors and Awards show, extending his legacy as the star of Americana music. Since launching his solo career after years with the Drive-By Truckers, Isbell has been racking up both critical acclaim as well as Americana and Grammy awards with his Southern rock albums. He won Wednesday night for his album “Something More Than Free,” and his song, “24 Frames.”

“This community has given us a place that was a lot bigger than it used to be,” Isbell said during the show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. “I am not a part of the first generation or the second generation or even the third generation of Americana performers.” Country singer and songwriter Chris Stapleton, whose 2015 album “Traveller” became a breakaway platinum hit, took home artist of the year. Stapleton said that before his successful solo country career took off, he wished he could play the Americana award show.

“I used to play in a little bluegrass band called the SteelDrivers,” he said “We were just starting out and we would beg and beg and beg to do something. So to be here tonight means a great deal to me.” The emerging artist of the year award went to Margo Price, who sounds like rock version of Loretta Lynn with her hard livin’ lyrics on her critically acclaimed debut album “Midwest Farmer’s Daughter.”

Price spent years trying to shop her music to Music City’s major labels and finally found a home at rocker Jack White’s label, Third Man Records. She thanked her family, “my in-laws, my outlaws, some of the people that passed on my record, who may be here.” Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell won for duo/group of the year and fiddler Sara Watkins won the instrumentalist of the year.

After British singer Billy Bragg received the spirit of Americana free speech in music award, he thanked Nashville for its generosity to “wayward Englishmen.” “Not only did you let Tom Hiddleston go out with Taylor Swift, you let him stand on this very stage and impersonate Hank Williams,” Bragg joked of Hiddleston’s role in the Williams biopic “I Saw the Light.” Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir got a standing ovation after receiving the lifetime achievement award for performance, while soul songwriter William Bell received the lifetime achievement award for songwriting and sang a duet with Bonnie Raitt.

Grammy-winning folk singer Shawn Colvin received the trailblazer award and the president’s award went to the late folk singer-songwriter Woodie Guthrie. Jim Lauderdale, the longtime award show host, choked up after he was given the WagonMaster award by country legend George Strait, who has recorded several of Lauderdale’s songs. The two performed a rousing rendition of “King of Broken Hearts.”-AP

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