Austin City Limits heads to Nashville for a special broadcast featuring performance highlights from this year’s Americana Honors & Awards. ACL Presents: Americana Music Festival 2014 premieres this weekend on PBS and delivers a stellar line-up of artists celebrating the best of Americana music today. Recorded live at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium in September, The Americana Music Association’s 13th Annual Honors & Awards ceremony, hosted by Americana stalwart Jim Lauderdale is a star-studded affair reflecting the magnitude of the genre’s reach. The performance-filled episode features the night’s Lifetime Achievement Honorees, award-winners, Americana’s rising stars and icons who helped define the genre; among them: Loretta Lynn, Jackson Browne, Jason Isbell, Rosanne Cash, Sturgill Simpson, Patty Griffin, Robert Plant, Flaco Jimenez, Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal.
Country legend Loretta Lynn, awarded the Lifetime Achievement Honor for Songwriter, performs her signature “Coal Miner’s Daughter” on the same stage where she made her Ryman debut in 1962. Veteran singer/songwriter/activist Jackson Browne, recipient of a Spirit of Americana award, performs a new song, the social wake-up call “The Long Way Around.” Tejano accordionist and Lifetime Achievement Honoree Flaco Jimenez dazzles with his trademark norteño music accompanied by longtime collaborator, guitarist extraordinaire Ry Cooder. Genre-defying bluesman Taj Mahal demonstrates how he earned a Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance with a show-stopping “Statesboro Blues.”
Award-winners and nominees also perform, led by Jason Isbell, who took top honors with wins for Artist of the Year and Album of the Year; he gives a stunning reading of his Song of the Year “Cover Me Up” from 2013’s landmark album Southeastern. Duo/Group winners The Milk Carton Kids, a Los Angeles-based acoustic folk duo, delight with their signature two guitar style. Singer/songwriter and multiple nominee Rosanne Cash performs “A Feather’s Not a Bird” from her critically lauded recent release The River and The Thread. Americana veteran Patty Griffin gives a beautiful rendition of her hit “Ohio,” joined in blended harmony by music icon and frequent collaborator Robert Plant.
Inspired turns by some of the genre’s newest innovators include Oklahoman singer/songwriter Parker Millsap, blues shapeshifter and Tennessee native Valerie June and dynamic Alabama soul outfit St. Paul and The Broken Bones, who bring the Ryman audience to its feet with a roof-raising performance. Emerging Artist winner and Nashville rebel Sturgill Simpson closes out the show with a standout rendition of his song “Life of Sin,” forecasting the future of American roots music.
Throughout the broadcast, the performers are backed by the Americana All-Stars, the evening’s ace house band. Led by musical director Buddy Miller, also named Instrumentalist of the Year, the ensemble features Don Was, Joachim Cooder, Tim Lauer, Nashville gospel group The McCrary Sisters and Americana trailblazer Ry Cooder. Viewers will find it hard to remain on their couches as the band heats up the Willie Dixon classic “You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover,” joined by emcee Jim Lauderdale.
“If there was a heat sensor for creativity pointed at the planet earth, the Americana Honors & Awards would be RED HOT on the gradient chart,” says Americana Music Association Executive Director Jed Hilly, adding “it’s truly humbling to host this event and we are honored to partner with the best in the land, Austin City Limits, to present the program for PBS viewers.”