The Americana Music Association has set Elvis Costello, Maria Muldaur, Delbert McClinton and the songwriting team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant for its lifetime achievement honors at the org’s annual awards show Sept. 11 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
These honorees join the already announced Rhiannon Giddens and the late Frank Johnson, who’ll be dually awarded with the Legacy of Americana Award, being given out for the first time in conjunction with the National Museum of African American Music.
Staples and Giddens have an unusual distinction at the 17th annual show: besides being given these lifetime awards (with Staples showing up to belatedly accept hers 12 years after it was awarded), they’re competing against one another in the contemporary category of artist of the year, where Brandi Carlile and Kacey Musgraves are the other two nominees. This marks the first time the top artist category has had a slate of exclusively female contenders.
The Americana Honors & Awards is the rare awards show where nearly as much time is devoted to lifetime achievement honors as to the purely contemporary kudos, with a house band led by Buddy Miller typically backing up the veteran honorees in performance, in a show usually aired on NPR, AXS, CMT and PBS’ “Austin City Limits.” (Broadcast details for 2019 have not yet been announced.)
“We are beyond humbled to honor this group of incredibly venerable musicians,” said the Americana Music Association’s executive director, Jed Hilly. “All of these artists are luminaries in their own right and have helped to build a perennial foundation for Americana music to prosper as an art form today. Our community looks forward to welcoming them with open arms on our biggest night of the year in September.”
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Costello — who just wrapped up a co-headining tour with Blondie, and will be back out on the road in the fall — is getting the lifetime achievement award for songwriting. He may have fewer mixed feelings about receiving plaudits from the Americana Association than he notably did about recently being set to receive an MBE in his native England.
Texas blues-rocker McClinton’s honor comes in the performance category. Muldaur is getting the Americana Trailblazer Award for her work going back to her time as part of the folk group Jim Kweskin & the Jug Band in the 1960s, prior to her successful solo career as a pop artist in the ’70s. Being posthumously awarded the 2019 President’s Award is the husband-and-wife team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, whose catalog of thousands of songs, including “All I Have to Do is Dream” and “Bye Bye Love,” already won them induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Staples will be re-recognized, in person this time, as the winner of the Spirit of Americana Free Speech Award, just one of many kudos she picked up on the way to receiving a Kennedy Center honor. Giddens’ notoriety encompasses everything from a role on “Nashville” to having recently formed the group Our Native Daughters with three other black female artists to highlight the legacy of slave narratives in song. Giddens is being named alongside the late Johnson, a pioneering folk singer whose Antebellum-era work inspired hers.
The Sept. 11 awards show at the Ryman marks the start of the annual Americana Music Festival, which features seminars by day and showcases in Nashville’s clubs and theaters by night, running through Sept. 15.