Hear The Nominees For This Year's Americana Awards On World Cafe : World Cafe Nominations for the 2017 Americana Honors & Awards were announced Tuesday. Hear interviews and performances from some of the nominees, including the Drive-By Truckers and Sturgill Simpson.
NPR logo Hear The Nominees For This Year's Americana Awards On World Cafe

Hear The Nominees For This Year's Americana Awards On World Cafe

Jason Isbell joins Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers onstage during the Americana Music Honors & Awards Nominations Ceremony May 9, 2017. Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Americana Music hide caption

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Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Americana Music

Jason Isbell joins Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers onstage during the Americana Music Honors & Awards Nominations Ceremony May 9, 2017.

Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Americana Music

The nominations are in for the 16th annual Americana Awards, to be held Sept. 13 in Nashville as the signature event of AmericanaFest — and in at least one category, they tell a tale of how this progressive yet traditionalist community is rising to the political challenges of a complicated historical moment. Four of the five releases in the Album of the Year category have protest at their core, demonstrating how the genre is stretching itself even as it builds on long-established artistic family ties.

Sturgill Simpson and the Drive-By Truckers led the nominations; both are up for Album of the Year, Simpson for the contrarian A Sailor's Guide To Earth and the Truckers for the deeply political American Band. Simpson is also up for Artist of the Year and Song of the Year (his soulful bouquet of parental advice "All Around You," for which he released a kind of protest video in February), while the Truckers got a nod in the Duo/Group category.

Also tapped for Artist of the Year was Jason Isbell, whose new album with his band the 400 Unit, The Nashville Sound, comes out June 16 — and includes some powerful confrontations with issues like white privilege and the fear of extinction that plagues some members of the Southern working class.

The announcement program itself, which included an unexpected reunion of Truckers songwriters Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley and Isbell, who started his career in the band, also spoke of the way Americana music most meaningfully engages with a divided America. They performed the Isbell composition "Outfit," one of many Truckers songs to consider the internal arguments that consume many Americans — about progress versus conventionalism, and the love of one's small view out the window versus the awareness that America's social landscape is changing every day. "Don't try to change who you are, boy, and don't try to be what you ain't," Isbell and Hood sang as Cooley played lead acoustic guitar. Isbell's protagonist is trapped within such advice, but he also believes it.

Other Album of the Year nominations broaden the perspective on what constitutes a core American experience. Rhiannon Giddens is up for Freedom Highway, which continues her project of tracing the African-American roots of this music from slave times to the present day. And Hurray For the Riff Raff's The Navigator, through which Alynda Segarra presents an odyssey reflective of her Puerto Rican family story, is also under consideration. (The final AOTY nominee, Rodney Crowell's rich Close Ties, is a more individual take on an epic saga: one man's life story, lived within the singer-songwriter community.)

Beyond the intriguing AOTY category, Americana honored favorites older and newer, from emerging artists Brent Cobb and Aaron Lee Tasjan to young standard-bearers like Isbell and Margo Price to icons like John Prine. The full slate is listed below, followed by more World Cafe sessions with some of the nominees.

Album of the Year

American Band, Drive-By Truckers (Produced by David Barbe)
A Sailor's Guide To Earth, Sturgill Simpson (Produced by Sturgill Simpson)
Close Ties, Rodney Crowell (Produced by Kim Buie and Jordan Lehning)
Freedom Highway, Rhiannon Giddens (Produced by Rhiannon Giddens and Dirk Powell)
The Navigator, Hurray for the Riff Raff (Produced by Paul Butler)

Artist of the Year
Jason Isbell
John Prine
Lori McKenna
Margo Price
Sturgill Simpson

Duo/Group of the Year
Billy Bragg & Joe Henry
Drive-By Truckers
Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives
The Lumineers

Emerging Artist of the Year
Aaron Lee Tasjan
Amanda Shires
Brent Cobb
Sam Outlaw

Song of the Year
"All Around You," Sturgill Simpson (Written by Sturgill Simpson)
"It Ain't Over Yet," Rodney Crowell (feat. Rosanne Cash & John Paul White) (Written by Rodney Crowell)
"To Be Without You," Ryan Adams (Written by Ryan Adams)
"Wreck You," Lori McKenna (Written by Lori McKenna and Felix McTeigue)

Instrumentalist of the Year
Spencer Cullum Jr.
Jen Gunderman
Courtney Hartman
Charlie Sexton

Hear More World Cafe Sessions From The Nominees

  • Lori McKenna On World Cafe

    Lori McKenna's latest album, The Bird & The Rifle, is available now. Becky Fluke/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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    Becky Fluke/Courtesy of the artist

    Lori McKenna's latest album, The Bird & The Rifle, is available now.

    Becky Fluke/Courtesy of the artist

    Talking with songwriter Lori McKenna is a little like talking to the other parents at back-to-school night. She may be an award-winning Nashville songwriter with multiple No. 1 hits to her name, but she lives a down-to earth lifestyle raising her five kids in Stoughton, Mass., far from Music Row. Perhaps it's that normal life that helps keep her songs grounded and relatable. Read more.David Dye

    Lori McKenna On World Cafe

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  • Marty Stuart On World Cafe

    Marty Stuart's new album is Way Out West. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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    Courtesy of the artist

    Marty Stuart's new album is Way Out West.

    Courtesy of the artist

    Marty Stuart is a walking, talking, singing, guitar-slinging repository of American popular music. The multiple-Grammy winner has had a long and storied career rooted in country music, but spanning everything from honky-tonk to "hillbilly rock" and from Southern gospel and blues to Native American balladry. Read more.Ann Powers

    World Cafe Nashville: Marty Stuart

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  • Brent Cobb On World Cafe

    Brent Cobb at EastSide Manor Studios in Nashville, Tenn. Todd Burkett/WXPN hide caption

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    Todd Burkett/WXPN

    Brent Cobb at EastSide Manor Studios in Nashville, Tenn.

    Todd Burkett/WXPN

    The writing rooms of Nashville aren't always magical places. Though many top-notch creative minds meet in those Music Row offices to pen country hits, the marketplace demands that they produce highly average material for stars seeking to dominate the radios inside American SUVs. Every so often, though, a truly original voice emerges from within Nashville's workaday milieu. Brent Cobb is one. The man whose work has been recorded by Luke Bryan, Little Big Town, Kellie Pickler and many others is now emerging as a crucial voice on his own. Read more.Ann Powers

    Nashville Sessions: Brent Cobb

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  • Aaron Lee Tasjan On World Cafe

    Aaron Lee Tasjan performs in the World Cafe studio. Tiana Timmerberg/WXPN hide caption

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    Tiana Timmerberg/WXPN

    Aaron Lee Tasjan performs in the World Cafe studio.

    Tiana Timmerberg/WXPN

    On the cover of Aaron Lee Tasjan's latest record, Silver Tears, he almost looks the perfect picture of an Americana star. He's wearing a cowboy hat, he's got a brooding expression and he's walking thoughtfully under a cloudy sky. And then there's the Bonanza-meets-disco-ball suit. Bejeweled with hand-glued pieces of mirror, it's a fitting outfit for an artist whose avant-garde and often irreverent approach reflects Americana back at itself. Read more.Talia Schlanger

    Aaron Lee Tasjan On World Cafe

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  • Ryan Adams On World Cafe

    Ryan Adams performs live at the World Cafe 25th anniversary concert in Philadelphia. Joe Del Tufo/WXPN hide caption

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    Joe Del Tufo/WXPN

    Ryan Adams performs live at the World Cafe 25th anniversary concert in Philadelphia.

    Joe Del Tufo/WXPN

    Is Ryan Adams' latest album, Prisoner, as heartbreaking as Heartbreaker, his classic 2000 solo debut? In this session, we do talk with Adams about breakup songs, but he says that some of the somber songs on Prisoner came at a different stage in his life. "Strangely, as heavy as the record is for some people, I wrote it when I was very much falling down a rabbit hole of feeling very romantic again in my life," he says. Read more.David Dye

    Ryan Adams On World Cafe

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  • The Lumineers On World Cafe

    The Lumineers perform for World Cafe at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia. Breanna Keohane/WXPN hide caption

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    Breanna Keohane/WXPN

    The Lumineers perform for World Cafe at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia.

    Breanna Keohane/WXPN

    Fueled by the ubiquitous stomp-along "Ho Hey," The Lumineers' self-titled 2012 debut album went to No. 2, and "Ho Hey" itself sold more than two million copies. The Lumineers released a follow-up, Cleopatra, in April 2016. In this session, the band performs some of the new music on stage at World Cafe Live. Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites discuss their post-"Ho Hey" roller-coaster ride and explain how they rooted themselves in a similar creative pattern to their first album as they worked on the new one. Read more.David Dye

    The Lumineers on World Cafe

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