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Americana Music Association Honors Country, Folk, Bluegrass and Blues Artists

Alison Krauss and Buddy Miller perform at the Americana Music Association awards show, Oct. 13, 2011, in Nashville, Tennessee.
Alison Krauss and Buddy Miller perform at the Americana Music Association awards show, Oct. 13, 2011, in Nashville, Tennessee.
Katherine Cole

Justin Townes Earle, The Avett Brothers and Robert Plant were among the recent prize winners at the 10th annual Americana Honors and Awards Show.  The awards honor music based on the Country, folk, bluegrass and blues traditions.

The evening kicked off with Grammy winners Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss and Jerry Douglas performing “I’ll Fly Away” in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the hit “O’ Brother Where Art Thou?” movie soundtrack.

Song of the Year is a tough category at every music awards show, and it was no different at the Americana Honors and Awards. The Decemberists and Gillian Welch, Elizabeth Cook, Hayes Carll and Justin Townes Earle were all vying for the honor. And the winner? Justin Townes Earle for “Harlem River Blues,” the title track to his most recent CD.

“I wrote Harlem River Blues because when I was 17 years old I read the [book] ‘Basketball Diaries’ by Jim Carroll.  And he talked about jumping off the cliffs into the Harlem River, so I have to thank Jim Carroll,” he said.

In 2009, Justin Townes Earle won the New/Emerging Artist trophy - and this year that honor went to Mumford and Sons. The Avett Brothers had another Duo/Group of the Year win, their third after winning that category in 2001 and 2010.

Other highlights included Lifetime Achievement awards for Dobro player Jerry Douglas, and Lucinda Williams, who was honored for her songwriting. In her speech, Williams spoke of “giving back” to the music community.

“One of the most rewarding things for me is discovering, advising and helping new artists who are working so hard to make a life of music," she said  "Just like I was ‘that girl’ who was kicking around for so many years. I want this honor tonight to stand for that dream, to stand for the perseverance, the will and the heart it takes to make it all come true. I’m standing here now as living proof that it can happen. To make a life making music is the greatest thing you can do. It is a blessing and I am blessed.”

The third Lifetime Achievement Award of the evening was the one for performance, and it was given to Gregg Allman.

It was also a big night for multi-instrumentalist Buddy Miller, who led an all-star house band that supported the award show performers. Not only did Buddy win Artist of the Year, he also added another Instrumentalist of the Year trophy to his cabinet. But that’s not all - he was also singled out by Robert Plant who won Album of the Year for “Band of Joy.” In his acceptance speech, Plant profusely thanked Miller for his contribution to the album.

“I have to thank really especially Buddy Miller because I saw Buddy playing with Emmylou [Harris] back on that ‘Wrecking Ball’ tour in Dublin, Ireland a few years ago. I saw the consummate player of all the licks and beauty and the soliloquy of great American music that I’d ever heard in my life," Plant said. "Or put together in one guy with a hat on. And I was flabbergasted. When we toured the ‘Raising Sand’ tour, I said to the forces that be, I said we can’t go anywhere without Buddy Miller! And I’m never going to go anywhere without Buddy Miller. Ever!”

Robert Plant followed up his Album of the Year acceptance speech with a performance of the song “Monkey” from his award winning “Band of Joy” CD, just one of the many live performances of the evening.

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