What are the odds of seeing Robert Plant and Gregg Allman jamming together on the same stage? Pretty good, actually, if it's the Americana Music Association Honors and Awards.
The two rock icons teamed up with an all-star cast Thursday night (Oct. 13)at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium to close the 10th annual awards ceremony.
Americana kingpin Buddy Miller led the house band once again and also triumphed by winning awards for artist and instrumentalist of the year. Plant picked up album of the year honors for Band of Joy, and singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle took home the song of the year prize for "Harlem River Blues."
The North Carolina-based the Avett Brothers won in the duo/group category, with Mumford & Sons winning in the new/emerging artist category. Dobro player Jerry Douglas, who earlier had been awarded the Americana Music Association's lifetime achievement award for instrumentalist, accepted the new/emerging trophy for members of the British band who were unable to attend the event.
Allman received the AMA's lifetime achievement award as a performer, and Lucinda Williams was honored with a lifetime achievement award as a songwriter. Rick Hall, founder of Fame Recording Studio in Muscle Shoals, Ala., was presented the lifetime achievement award as an executive. His studio helped create hits for Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Clarence Carter, Etta James, Mac Davis, Bobbie Gentry, the Osmonds and many others. Emmylou Harris presented the Trailblazer Award to veteran BBC broadcaster Bob Harris for his years of promoting American country, folk and roots-rock music.
Miller was, as usual, modest about his accomplishments, even though he's now won 12 Americana awards.
"I feel like I get away with murder," he said. "I'm really, really not that good. ... But I get to play with some wonderfully incredibly talented people."
Plant disagreed with the assessment, noting that after collaborating with Miller on several projects, including Band of Joy and the subsequent tour to promote the album, he can't imagine working without the guitarist.
In accepting his album of the year trophy, the former Led Zeppelin vocalist recalled his longstanding love of American music.
"I stole a great deal with my old companions, and I was very fortunate, the last few years, to be welcomed by some spectacular people, especially in this town," Plant said.
Plant was joined by the Band of Joy, including Miller and vocalist Patty Griffin, to perform "Monkey," a track from the award-winning album.
Alison Krauss and bassist Don Was joined Harris, Miller and Douglas to open the show with "I'll Fly Away," the classic gospel song featured in the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the hit film that broadened the popularity of traditional music.
Musical highlights included the Civil Wars' "Barton Hollow," the Avett Brothers' "The Once and Future Carpenter" and soul singer Candi Staton's tribute to Hall with "Heart on a String." Earle delivered "Harlem River Blues," the Secret Sisters provided a hardcore country edge with Hank Williams' "Why Don't You Love Me" and Scott and Seth Avett of the Avett Brothers provided background vocals during Jessica Lea Mayfield's "For Today." Other performers included Miller ("Gasoline and Matches"), Lucinda Williams ("Blessed"), Amos Lee ("Cup of Sorrow"), Elizabeth Cook ("El Camino"), Hayes Carll ("KMAG YOYO") and awards show host Jim Lauderdale ("Life by Numbers").
The show's finale began when he introduced Allman, who played acoustic guitar and sang "Melissa," a track from the Allman Brothers Band's classic album, Eat a Peach. Allman then moved to the Hammond B-3 organ and led Plant, Griffin, Miller, Lee and others on an extended version of the gospel standard, "Glory, Glory Hallelujah."
Among the others presenting awards were Raul Malo, Carrie Rodriguez, Keb' Mo', Marshall Chapman, John Oates and the Greencards, along with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and Mark Olson and Gary Louris of the Jayhawks.
The awards show is the centerpiece of the Americana Music Conference and Festival that began Wednesday and continues through Saturday (Oct. 15) with a series of seminars and live performances.