Friday, September 22, 2006

'The mother church of Americana music'

News from the Sept. 22 AMA awards

NASHVILLE -- The Ryman Auditorium, a converted church, has long been the home of country music, but tonight it again became the home of Americana music -- stage for the annual Americana Music Awards.

First, the winners:

Album of the Year: James McMurtry, Childish Things

Artist of the Year: Neil Young

Duo/Group of the Year: Drive-By Truckers

Instrumentalist of the Year: Kenny Vaughan (of Marty Stuart's band, The Fabulous Superlatives)

Spirit of Americana/Free Speech Award: Charlie Daniels

New/Emerging Artist of the Year: The Greencards

Lifetime Achievement Award, Engineer/Producer: Allen Toussaint

Lifetime Achievement Award, Songwriting: Rodney Crowell

Lifetime Achievement Award, Performing: Alejandro Escovedo

The AMA President's Award: Mickey Newbury

Song of the Year: James McMurtry, "We Can't Make It Here"

Winner of two awards, McMurtry's rant against the state of the country (the U.S., not music) was a big crowd pleaser. He attacked overseas outsourcing, minimum wage, tax cuts for the wealthy and poor people fighting wars. He's no stranger to social comment. His "Land of the Bottom Line" is the first song of his that I can remember hearing. (Thanks, WMNF, for that play and so much more.)

Vince Gill sang a lovely version of Rodney's Crowell's "'Til I Gain Control Again."

Then he embarrassed the recipient of the AMA Lifetime Achievement Award with several risky stories about driving after being over served, mushrooms and "food poisoning."

Despite that, the rest of Gill's tribute was heartfelt and delivered without notes, from the heart.

Crowell, who says his last three CDs are the best of a long career, says he's not ready to retire.

And he offered some advice to songwriters, citing people like Guy Clark, with these words: "You gotta get rid of whatever doesn't serve the song, no matter how clever it makes you sound."

Great quote: Somebody once asked Mickey Newbury why he wrote so many sad songs. He supposedly said: "When I'm happy, I play golf. When I'm sad, I write songs."

Biggest surprise: He didn't win Emerging New Artist, but English R&B/soul singer James Hunter knocked everybody out with the title song of his CD, "People Gonna Talk." I need to find that CD.

Biggest tent: Americana always talks about a big tent. It doesn't get much bigger than this. Former punk rocker turned statesman and musical chameleon Elvis Costello presented Allen Toussaint with his award and then performed two songs with him. The two recorded The River in Reverse CD, and have been touring together.

MVP: Buddy Miller, last year's big award winner for "You Worry Too Much," once again led an all-star house band that included Sam Bush.

Performers included Rosanne Cash, Robinella, McMurtry, Crowell, Delbert McClinton, Marty Stuart and Escovedo.

The night ended with everyone on stage singing "Blowin' in the Wind." This is not your grandfather's Ryman Auditorium.

Good news/bad news: Escovedo was supposed to play a 12:30 a.m. set at the Cannery Ballroom after the show, but was forced to cancel because of his travel arrangements.

Where's the good news?

I'm going to bed. Thank you, and good night. -- MichaelK, TBPAC


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your overview of the show... Don't forget to find that James Hunter cd. I did, and it's fabulous. What you didn't see at the Ryman show was what a really incredible rockin' electric guitar player he is, in addtion to his voice that sounds like a cross between James Brown and Sam Cooke, with a little Nat King Cole thrown in. I discovered him at a showcase on Friday afternoon at the Convention Center. He was solo, and groovin' like crazy. Best show I've seen in years.

TBPAC said...

Thanks, Laurie. He's definitely on my list. The Brits always have loved American soul and R&B. Nice to have it come back the other way for a change. MichaelK/TBPAC