On May 26 at the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, Keb’ Mo’ and Old Crow Medicine Show frontman Ketch Secor announced the nominees for the 2021 Americana Honors & Awards — many of which are artists based right here in town.
The live and web-streamed awards event celebrating the “melting pot of Americana’s influences including roots, folk, country, blues and soul-based music” will return to Ryman Auditorium on September 22. (The pandemic year’s ceremony and week-long Americanafest were fully virtual.)
Now in its 20th year, Americana Honors & Awards nominees include familiar and perennially recognized favorites Jason Isbell, Brandi Carlile and the late John Prine. But the 2021 nods are notably more diverse across race and gender, including two Black female nominees who performed solo at the afternoon ceremony: West Tennessee native Valerie June — whose song “Smile” you can hear on WNXP and appears on her “Album of the Year” contender The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers — and local singer-songwriter/roots performer Allison Russell.
Russell’s debut solo record Outside Child was recently our Record of the Week, and was profiled for NPR Music by WNXP’s Jewly Hight. Her Smithsonian Folkways collaboration with fellow banjo players Rhiannon Giddons, Leyla McCalla and Amythyst Kiah — Our Native Daughters — is nominated for “Duo/Group of the Year,” as is multiracial Austin soul-rock band Black Pumas and four-part-harmony supergroup The Highwomen, featuring Brandi Carlile with Nashvillians Amanda Shires, Maren Morris and Natalie Hemby. East Tennesseean Amythyst Kiah‘s debut solo record will be released next month, and Kiah is recognized with nominations for “Emerging Act of the Year” and for “Song of the Year” for her unabashed identity anthem “Black Myself.”
WNXP’s January 2021 Nashville Artist of the Month, Nashville’s Joy Oladokun, is nominated alongside Allison Russell, Amythyst Kiah, twangy indie-rocker Waxahatchee and gothic country-blues artist Charley Crockett for “Emerging Artist of the Year.”
In the coveted “Artist of the Year” category, three of five nominees are Nashville-based: Jason Isbell, Margo Price and rising psychedelic bluegrass picker Billy Strings. Repeat nominee and 2019 “Artist of the Year” winner Brandi Carlile rounds out the category with Kathleen Edwards, a critically acclaimed songwriter who released her fifth LP Total Freedom in 2020 after a nearly decade-long hiatus from music. (Edwards credits cowriting in Nashville as an inspiration to revive her artistry.)
Alongside Valerie June, “Album of the Year” nominations go to alt-country indie artist Sturgill Simpson for his bluegrass record Cuttin’ Grass – Vol. 1 (Butcher Shoppe Sessions); Jason Isbell’s Reunions; Steve Earle & The Dukes‘ tribute to Earle’s son, J.T.; and World on the Ground by Nashville-based songwriter Sarah Jarosz, whose folk trio I’m With Her won “Duo/Group of the Year” in 2019.