Category Archives: Americana

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September has a lot of album releases that I’m really enjoying or looking forward to. In fact, it’s the most lucrative month for music for my taste in quite some time.

Last Tuesday (September 7), Rounder Records released The SteelDrivers’ second album, Reckless (which is pretty spectacular, by the way) and this week, they will be releasing Robert Plant’s follow up to his 2007 collaborative album with Alison Krauss, also on Rounder. From the streaming preview that can be heard on NPR’s website until release day, the album is a wonderfully rootsy project helmed by Plant and Buddy Miller and includes guitar work from Darrell Scott. October will also finally see the release of Joe Diffie’s bluegrass album on the label.

When one learns that an album will be released through Rounder Records (which has recently been sold to Concord Music Group), it’s pretty much automatically expected that the project will be quality. Whether it’s The SteelDrivers, Robert Plant, Joe Diffie, John Mellancamp, Alison Krauss or Willie Nelson, it’s reasonable to assume certain aspects of a Rounder release, including that the album may even stray from a typical artist release to be more rootsy in approach, as is the case with the recent Willie Nelson and John Mellancamp albums, along with the upcoming Diffie project. More often than not, I can count on Rounder Records to please my musical sensibilities, even with unexpected artists, since I never expected that Robert Plant would be recording some of my favorite roots music.

As much as I love and count on Rounder Records to produce great music, my absolute favorite record company is Sugar Hill Records (owned by Vanguard Records). Incidentally, Joey+Rory will be releasing their anticipated second album through Sugar Hill on Tuesday (September 14). Additionally, Marty Stuart’s recent release, the excellent Ghost Train, was released through them as well. Other artist who have been associated with Sugar Hill include, but are not limited to: Nickel Creek, Ricky Skaggs, Guy Clark, Dolly Parton, Darrell Scott, Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson, The Duhks, Sarah Jarosz, and the list goes on. As with Rounder Records, many artists seem to release albums with Sugar Hill as a deviation from the music for which they are most popularly associated, as is the case with Dolly Parton, Ricky Skaggs, and even Rodney Crowell, who released his venerable The Houston Kid on the label.

Right now, it seems that my favorite record labels aren’t in the business of releasing music that we hear on mainstream country radio, though Joey+Rory are attempting to crack through. While I don’t have the inside knowledge to say that it doesn’t exist, we don’t hear about the red tape and politics that is ever present with major companies like, lets say, the infamous Curb Records, which has produced some rather publicly disgruntled artists, most notably Tim McGraw and the two Living Hank Williamses.

But when I was a kid, MCA Records was the label that seemed like the powerhouse record company for country music to me. Some of my favorite artists were on that label, including Trisha Yearwood, George Strait, Reba McEntire and, of course, Vince Gill. I admired the country roster of Arista as well, which included Alan Jackson, Diamond Rio, Radney Foster, and Blackhawk.

Along with reminding you about some good releases that have recently been released and will soon be available, this is the very long and self-indulgent way of getting to the question of:

What is the record label that you most admire and can count on to release your favorite music?

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Americana Music Association Awards & Honors

The Americana Music Association handed out its yearly awards and honors Thursday night at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN. The evening, which is a part of a four-day festival and conference, was hosted by Jim Lauderdale and featured an All-Star Band led by Buddy Miller.

The following were the nominees, with the big winners of the evening in bold:

Album of the Year:
Trouble in Mind, Hayes Carll
Raising Sand, Alison Krauss and Robert Plant
Just Us Kids, James McMurtry
Dirt Farmer, Levon Helm

Duo/Group of the Year:
Alison Krauss & Robert Plant

Drive By Truckers
Kane Welch Kaplin
The Avett Brothers

Artist of the Year:
Steve Earle
Levon Helm
Jim Lauderdale
James McMurtry

Instrumentalist of the Year:
Buddy Miller

Chris Thile
Gurf Morlix
Sam Bush

New Emerging Artist of the Year:
Justin Townes Earle
Mike Farris
Ryan Bingham
The SteelDrivers

Song of the Year:
“Broken,” Tift Merritt (written by Tift Merritt)
“Cheney’s Toy,” James McMurtry (written by James McMurtry)
“Gone Gone Gone,” Alison Krauss & Robert Plant (written by Don & Phil Everly)
“Poor Old Dirt Farmer,” Levon Helm (written by Tracy Schwarz)
“She Left Me for Jesus,” Hayes Carll (written by Hayes Carll & Brian Keane)

Lifetime Achievement Awards:
John Hiatt (songwriting)
Jason & the Scorchers (performance)
Tony Brown (producer/executive)
Larry Brown (instrumentalist)
Terry Lickona (executive (Austin City Limits))

Trailblazer Award: Nanci Griffith

“Spirit of Americana” Free Speech in Music: Joan Baez

President’s Award: Jerry Garcia


“She Left Me For Jesus,” Hayes Carll (keep watching until the end for Hayes Carll’s explanation of the future video for this song…)

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