2017 Americana Lifetime Achievement honorees include Nash, Morrison, Cray, and Dement
Robert Cray Vevo/YouTube

Just a month after announcing a slate of award nominees that includes Sturgill Simpson, Margo Price, and Lori McKenna, the Americana Music Association unveiled its list of Lifetime Achievement Honorees on June 22. The list of artists joining the previously announced Van Morrison to be honored at the Americana Music Awards and Honors ceremony, held Sept. 13 at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, include Graham Nash, Robert Cray, Iris Dement, The Hi Rhythm Section, and HighTone Records founders Larry Sloven and Bruce Bromberg.

Robert Cray will receive the Americana Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance. For over forty years, the five time Grammy winner is a textbook example of an Americana pioneer. Labeled a blues guitarist, Cray has never been willing to play within those bounds, adding elements of soul, rock, and country to his sound throughout the years.

Receiving the Americana Lifetime Achievement Award for Instrumentalist is The Hi Rhythm Section. Like many “house bands” of the era, The Hi Rhythm Section are not household names, but are very likely present in more record collections than is known. The group, consisting of Mabon “Teenie” Hodges, Rev. Charles Hodges, LeRoy “Flick” Hodges, Howard Grimes, Al Jackson, and Archie “Hubbie” Turner, worked extensively with producer Willie Mitchell and were in large part responsible for the distinctive sound of Hi Records artists like Al Green, Ann Peebles, and Otis Clay.

The Americana Trailblazer Award will go to Iris Dement. Since her 1992 debut Infamous Angel, Dement has been a leading voice in the Americana scene. Her talent for penning deeply introspective but completely accessible songs, as well as an ability to shine a gentle but persistent light on pertinent political and social issues, garnered her a wide fanbase, as did her frequent collaborations with John Prine on songs like “In Spite of Ourselves.”

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Graham Nash will receive the Spirit of Americana Free Speech in Music Award, co-presented by the First Amendment Center. As a member of both The Hollies and supergroup Crosby, Stills, & Nash, Nash not only helped shape the foundation of what would become country-rock, but also used his status to fight for social justice. From co-organizing the Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) concerts in 1979 to his numerous songs advocating for social and environmental action, Nash is an artist who has exemplified the free speech platform honored by this award.

Larry Sloven and Bruce Bromberg will receive the Jack Emerson Lifetime Achievement Award for Executive. As founders of HighTone Records in 1983, the duo provided a much needed alternative to the cosmopolitan country and synth fueled rock and roll of the era. Focusing on blues, swing, and rockabilly, HighTone provided a platform for artists like Robert Cray, Buddy Miller, Dave Alvin, and Big Sandy.

Previously announced honoree Van Morrison will receive the Americana Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting. The six time Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is considered one of the greatest living songwriters. Whether recording “Gloria” with his band Them, Top 40 hit “Brown-Eyed Girl” as a solo artist, or any of his many other beloved songs, Morrison's ability to meld nostalgic longing and recollection with a catchy melody has served him well over his five decade career.

The 16th Annual Americana Music Awards and Honors will be held as part of the 2017 Americana Music Festival and Conference, Sept. 12-17 in venues throughout Nashville.