In a ceremony held at the Country Music Hall of Fame on May 9, the 2017 Americana Music Association Honors and Awards nominees were announced. Heading up the list of nominees is Americana superstar Sturgill Simpson, who garnered three nominations for Artist of the Year, Album of the Year for 2016's A Sailor's Guide to Earth, and Song of the Year for “All Around You.” Unlike most years at the Americana Music Awards, where two or three artists dominate all of the solo categories, this is the most wide open Awards in recent memory, with no other artist garnering more than two nominations.
The battle for Artist of the Year in 2017 is a generational one, with a living legend, two of the genre's most marketable stars of today, and two rising names vying for the trophy. Joining Simpson as nominee is fellow crossover sensation Jason Isbell, who snagged Album and Song of the Year in 2016 and is gearing up for the June release of his latest, Nashville Sound. They will be joined by a man who both have cited as primary influences in their careers, John Prine. Long one of Americana's most beloved stars, Prine finds himself back in the awards spotlight following the 2016 release of his duets album For Better...Or Worse. Rounding out the Artist of the Year nominees are 2016 Emerging Artist winner Margo Price, and Lori McKenna, whose The Bird and the Rifle made numerous “Best Of” lists in 2016.
The Album of the Year category is even more open, with only Simpson carrying over from the Artist of the Year pool. Joining Simpson and A Sailor's Guide to Earth is perennial awards season favorite Rodney Crowell, who is nominated for his solo album Close Ties after a couple of years of joint nominations with Emmylou Harris. Drive-By Truckers' politically charged American Band is also up for the awards, as are Rhiannon Giddens' Freedom Highway, and Hurray for the Riff Raff's The Navigator.
The Duo/Group of the Year nominations are similarly diverse. Snagging their second nomination of the day are Drive-By Truckers. Billy Bragg and Joe Henry are there for their recent collaborative album and tour. Fan favorite traditionalists Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives also garnered a nomination, as did folk-pop arena fillers The Lumineers.
The Emerging Artist of the Year award is one that fans of the Americana Music Awards have learned to watch closely, as numerous future Artist of the Year nominees, including this year's Sturgill Simpson and Margo Price won their first award here. This year, the artists AMA voters most think bear watching include Aaron Lee Tasjan, whose recent shows with the likes of Jason Isbell and Shovels & Rope have increased his profile tremendously in the last year. Another Isbell associate, wife and 400 Unit member Amanda Shires is also nominated on the strength of her breakout 2016 solo album My Piece of Land. Rounding out the nominations are So-Cal country crooner Sam Outlaw and singer-songwriter Brett Cobb.
The Song of the Year nominees are mostly pulled from artists represented in other categories. Simpson scores his third nomination with “All Around You.” Rodney Crowell receives a nomination for “It Ain't Over Yet.” Lori McKenna garners her second nomination for “Wreck You.” The sole artist nominated only in the Song of the Year category is Ryan Adams, who was nominated for “To Be Without You.”
Rounding out the nominations for 2017 is Instrumentalist of the Year. This year's list of instrumentalists represent a broad range of instruments, styles and eras. The nominees are Spencer Cullum, Jr., Jen Gunderman, Courtney Hartman, and Charlie Sexton.
The Americana Music Awards and Honors will be held Sept. 13 at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium. It is part of the Americana Music Festival and Conference, held Sept. 12-17 in venues throughout Music City.