The Americana Music Association℠ will present esteemed accolades to Robert Cray, Iris DeMent, Hi Rhythm, Van Morrison, Graham Nash and HighTone Founders Larry Sloven and Bruce Bromberg at Americana’s 16th Annual Honors & Awards in celebration of their creative impact. Held at the Ryman Auditorium on Wednesday, September 13, the prestigious event serves as the official kick-off for the 18th annual AMERICANAFEST℠: The Americana Music Festival & Conference.
This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance will go to Robert Cray. Cray has been bridging the lines between blues, soul and R&B for over four decades with five GRAMMY® wins. After bursting onto the scene as band leader for the Robert Cray Band in 1974, he and his band became responsible for bringing the timeless soul sound of their mentors John Lee Hooker, Etta James and Albert Collins to a younger audience. Throughout his expansive career, he has performed with the likes of Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, BB King, Bonnie Raitt and the late Chuck Berry. His latest album Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm (Jay-Vee Records) was produced by Steve Jordan at the historic Royal Studios in Memphis, Tenn.
Iris DeMent will be receiving the Americana Trailblazer Award and exemplifies what it means to forge your own path in the music industry. Her independently released 1992 debut Infamous Angel garnered such palpable buzz that it landed her a deal with Warner Bros. the following year without any support from mainstream country radio. Over the next two decades, DeMent never shied away from using her ethereal voice and songwriting craft to showcase introspection as well as to address more political topics such as sexual abuse, religion and government policy throughout her work.
The Hi Rhythm section, this year’s recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for Instrumentalist, is not your average group of musicians. During the ’70s, they served as the late producer Willie Mitchell’s secret weapon for his vision of Memphis soul, providing their incomparable musicianship for hit Hi Records albums by artists like Al Green and Ann Peebles at the historic Royal Studios in Memphis, Tenn. Originally formed in the late ’60s, members include the late Mabon “Teenie” Hodges (guitar), Rev. Charles Hodges (organ), LeRoy “Flick” Hodges (bass), Howard Grimes (drums), the late Al Jackson, Jr. (drums) and Archie “Hubbie” Turner (keyboard).
Co-presented by the First Amendment Center, this year’s Spirit of Americana Free Speech in Music Award will be presented to Graham Nash. A two-time Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee for his roles as a member of the Hollies and supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash (and later Young), the GRAMMY® Award-winning singer’s passionate voice continues to be heard in support of peace and social and environmental justice. The No Nukes/Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) concerts he organized with Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt in 1979 remain seminal benefit events. In 2011, Nash was instrumental in bringing MUSE back to the forefront with a concert to benefit Japan disaster relief and groups promoting non-nuclear energy worldwide.
HighTone Records founders Larry Sloven and Bruce Bromberg are the recipients of the Jack Emerson Lifetime Achievement Award for Executive. In the mid-’80s, these industry partners bonded over their wide-ranging roots music tastes and sought out an opportunity to create a label home for the melting pot of influences that is now Americana music. Artistic freedom was imperative to their business model from day one, and it made all the difference in providing a liberating platform for artists who have paved the way in Americana such as The Blasters, Big Sandy, Buddy Miller and more. For 25 years, HighTone Records produced 300 album releases and a number of landmark achievements including the release of the first and longest running #1 Americana Radio Airplay album, Tulare Dust: A Songwriter’s Tribute to Merle Haggard, and even a GRAMMY® Award for Dale Alvin’s King of California.
Van Morrison will be receiving the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting, as previously announced. After establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with in his British R&B group Them in the late ’60s, the six-time GRAMMY® Award winner’s unparalleled songwriting talents and evocative vocal delivery have pioneered his legendary career spanning over four decades. From the Sinatra-like soul of Moondance to the country-inflected Tupelo Honey, Morrison’s myriad of influences are equally matched by his consistency as an artist, leading his work to transcend generations upon generations to come.
“We are proud and humbled to honor these artists whose work has shaped what we not only call Americana today, but the musical landscape on the whole,” said Jed Hilly, Executive Director of the Americana Music Association℠. “We are inspired by their work and excited to see them all as they will honor us in song at the Ryman this fall.”
Tickets for the 16th annual Americana Honors & Awards are made available for purchase with an AMERICANAFEST℠ conference registration, which can be bought here. The award show is the association’s hallmark event, taking place during the week of AMERICANAFEST℠: The Americana Music Festival & Conference, September 12-17, 2017 in Nashville, TN.