Brandi Carlile couldn’t help it.
She was in the middle of a red-carpet interview at the Americana Honors & Awards show in September when her attention diverted to the most heavenly sound of sister harmony floating toward her general direction. The source of the music was the powerful voices of the McCrary Sisters, members of the all-star house band onstage that night.
“I want to take every lesson from them,” Carlile told CMT.com.
Carlile is among the artists performing on CMT’s 2018 Americanafest special, airing Thursday (Dec. 6) at 9 p.m. ET. The night will highlight all the action from the Americana Honors & Awards where Carlile was nominated for three awards, including album of the year for By the Way, I Forgive You.
But what thrilled Carlile most about being part of the show was how Americana as a genre accurately reflects the diversity of American roots music and culture.
“This is the time I feel most honored to be part of Americana of any genre because of the special effort that Americana has taken to spotlight women, pioneering women and LGBTQ artists,” Carlile said.
Empowering female moments were among the highlights of the night, as well as performances by Buddy Guy, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Tyler Childers and Rosanne Cash, the 2018 recipient of the Spirit of Americana/Free Speech in Music Award.
Buddy Miller leads the all-star house band comprising of revered musicians Don Was, Jerry Pentecost, Joe Pisapia, Ian Fitchuk, Lillie Mae, Joshua Grange, Jim Hoke and the McCrary Sisters.
Here are more top reasons to watch.
Margo PriceErika Goldring/Getty Images for Americana Music Association
Price will light up the stage with a selection from her stunning All American Made album. “I look at all the Americana nominees and there’s a lot of poeticism there,” Price said on the red carpet. “It’s not about the smoke in mirrors or the huge production of the show. You get onstage, you hear John Prine sing his songs, it touches people.”
The Milk Carton KidsJason Davis/Getty Images for Americana Music Association
The Milk Carton Kids’ Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan have for a long time hosted the annual nominees’ announcement each spring. But this year marked their first time hosting the show. On the red carpet, Pattengale described what it means to be an Americana fan best when he said, “It’s a testament to the way people really appreciate art, which is not separated by genre, geography or class.”
Irma ThomasErika Goldring/Getty Images for Americana Music Association
New Orleans’ Queen of Soul will take the stage as the 2018 Lifetime Achievement honoree for performance. “Being able to have a conversation with her,” The War and Treaty’s Michael Trotter tells CMT.com, “hear her heart and hear that she often feels like she’s forgotten … that speaks to not only our job as upcoming artists and as fans, but it also speaks to her humility; to be so humble and to not think she’s all of that. She is, and I feel it is very important that we honor her properly tonight.”
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit takes the stage as Americana Music’s overall winning act for 2018. The band took home album of the year for The Nashville Sound, song of the year for “If We Were Vampires” and duo/group of the year. Before the show, Isbell told CMT.com on the red carpet, “I like [the Americana genre] because everybody is united under the banner of making honest songs based on American roots music, and that’s a pretty broad thing. That can include a lot of other kinds of music, and I think it should. I don’t listen to just one type of music. I don’t really know anybody who does anymore.”
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night SweatsErika Goldring/Getty Images for Americana Music Association
“The Americana genre itself is open to multiple genres of music,” Rateliff said on the red carpet. “What makes Americana interesting is it’s music from different cultures coming together to create things like blues and bluegrass and all sorts of things. I feel like all those types of music have always encouraged us to write and influence us.”