Patty Griffin accepted the artist of the year award from the Americana Music Association on Thursday night (Nov. 1) in Nashville, although she struggled to find the words to express her gratitude. After thanking her management team and her bandleader, she called herself “honored and humbled,” adding, “I wish I could be more eloquent.”
That’s not something often said about Griffin, whose musical power comes as much from her lyrics as her strong voice. She also earned an Americana honor for album of the year for Children Running Through. She ran from the upstairs dressing room, where she said she was eating potato chips with Emmylou Harris, to accept the trophy.
“It’s quite an honor to be honored in this town,” she said during the annual Americana Honors presentation at the Ryman Auditorium. “The legacy is huge and beautiful and rich, and I’m always inspired by it.”
Toward the end of a very long ceremony, Griffin performed “Trapeze” with Harris singing the harmony she provided on the recording. Earlier in the night, Griffin harmonized with Buddy Miller on a brand new song written by Miller’s wife, Julie Miller. It was so new, host Jim Lauderdale said, it didn’t even have a name yet — but its melancholy lyrics and brooding melody made it a highlight of an evening overflowing with music.
The Avett Brothers, an ambitious, high-energy trio from North Carolina, picked up duo/group as well as new and emerging artist honors. Whenever their name was mentioned throughout the show, the decibel level consistently increased. Despite being some of the best showmen in the Americana genre, the band seemed rather shocked at the acknowledgements. Seth Avett graciously called the duo/group win “a fine surprise.”
Darrell Scott’s “Hank William’s Ghost” was named song of the year, and he thanked his father, who raised him to the tunes of Williams, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. Scott performed the song during the ceremony and was one of many musicians appearing at showcases around Nashville during the Americana Music Association’s convention and festival which began Wednesday (Oct. 31) and concludes Saturday night (Nov. 3).
None of the trophies mentioned earlier were presented within the first two hours of the show. That time was reserved for a plethora of lifetime achievement awards for the likes of Mavis Staples (free speech), Jim Dickinson (producer-engineer), Ry Cooder (instrumentalist), Mary Martin (executive), Willie Nelson (songwriting) and Joe Ely (performer). The late Townes Van Zandt was recognized with the President’s Award and suitably memorialized by Guy Clark’s rendition of “To Live Is to Fly.”
Additional performers included Elizabeth Cook, Rodney Crowell, the Hacienda Brothers with Dan Penn, Bruce Hornsby and Ricky Skaggs, Amy LaVere, Gurf Morlix, Old Crow Medicine Show, Todd Snider, Sunny Sweeney and Uncle Earl.
As the night drew to a close, Lyle Lovett accepted the Americana Trailblazer Award and was persuaded by presenter Tony Brown to sing one of his signature songs, “If I Had a Boat” — which received a very warm and familiar reception. Finally, after more than three hours had passed, all the musicians united for one last song, a gratifying cover of Porter Wagoner’s “A Satisfied Mind.”