By Grady Smith
Updated October 14, 2011 at 10:33 PM EDT
Avett Brothers
Credit: Erika Goldring/American Music Assoication

Ever since the diamond-selling O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack exploded in 2001, acoustic Americana acts have been building fan bases and selling albums without much help from mainstream radio, and the genre has quietly become a major force in the music industry over the past decade.

Just look at 2011! Banjo-flaunting bands like Mumford & Sons, The Avett Brothers (pictured), The Civil Wars, and Wilco have all enjoyed strong and enduring album sales this year. And the boys of Mumford and Avett got to perform with Bob Dylan at February’s Grammy Awards, which included the category “Best Americana Album” for the first time ever.

Merriam-Webster even created a musical definition for “Americana” in its esteemed dictionary which reads: “a genre of American music having roots in early folk and country music.”

Last night, the genre’s very best met in Nashville at the famous Ryman Auditorium for the 10th Annual Americana Honors and Awards Show, which celebrates all the rootsy musicians leading this folk revolution. The show, which you can listen to in full over on NPR, was one big lovefest.

From Emmylou Harris and Alison Krauss’ opening “I’ll Fly Away” duet, to Lucinda Williams’ tearful Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech, to AMA executive director Jed Hilly’s bold predictions about the industry (“I believe [Americana music] holds keys to the success and resurgence of the music business as a whole.”), the entire program was steeped in sentimental affection for the nominees and the sort of music they make. It was all very charming.

Singer and guitarist Buddy Miller was the night’s big winner, taking home two awards, for Artist of the Year and for Instrumentalist of the Year. Robert Plant was recognized for Album of the Year for his band’s 2010 disc Band of Joy.

The Avett Brothers were named Duo/Group of the Year for the third time, while the ultra-buzzy Brits of Mumford & Sons were acknowledged as New/Emerging Artist of the Year, beating out The Civil Wars, The Secret Sisters, and Jessica Lea Mayfield, all of whom performed at the show. (Side note: The Civil Wars were amazing, as usual.) The Song of the Year award went to Justin Townes Earle’s “Harlem River Blue,” beating out one of Miranda Lambert’s favorites, Hayes Carll.

Check out the winners (including five Lifetime Achievement Award winners) below:


Winner: Buddy Miller

Elizabeth Cook

Hayes Carll

Robert Plant


Winner: Band of Joy, Robert Plant

Welder, Elizabeth Cook

Harlem River Blues, Justin Townes Earle

Blessed, Lucinda Williams


Winner: Mumford & Sons

The Civil Wars

The Secret Sisters

Jessica Lea Mayfield


Winner: The Avett Brothers

The Civil Wars

Mumford And Sons

Robert Plant and the Band Of Joy


Winner: Justin Townes Earle, “Harlem River Blues”

The Decemberists with Gillian Welch – “Down By The Water”

Elizabeth Cook – “El Camino”

Hayes Carll – “Kmag Yoyo”


Winner: Buddy Miller

Gurf Morlix

Kenny Vaughan

Sarah Jarosz

Will Kimbrough

Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriter: Lucinda Williams

Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance: Gregg Allman

Lifetime Achievement Award for Instrumentalist: Jerry Douglas

Jack Emerson Lifetime Achievement Award for Executive: Rick Hall

Trailblazer Award: Bob Harris

An edited version of the event will be broadcast on PBS stations on November 19 as a special episode of Austin City Limits Presents, and it’s currently available for listening on NPR. You can check out photos from the event here.

Tell me, readers, are you a fan of Americana? Do you think that the style will continue to grow in the coming years? And are you, like me, starting to hear its influence in country music as well?

Answer any of these questions — or just gush about how much you love these bands — in the comments!


The Avett Brothers

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