McKenna, Giddens, Yola Lead Female Dominated Americana Awards Nominees

Lori McKenna, who led the 2019 Americana Music Award nominations with three. Photo provided by Americana Music Association.

Lori McKenna, who led the 2019 Americana Music Award nominations with three. Photo provided by Americana Music Association.

On May 14, the Americana Music Association presented their nominees for the 2019 Americana Music Awards and Honors. The centerpiece of the Americana Music Festival, being held Sept. 10-15 in venues throughout Nashville, The Americana Honors and Awards is the place to celebrate the best of the best in the genre. And this year, the best of the best are almost all female, with Lori McKenna leading the pack with three nominations followed by John Prine, The War and Treaty, Yola, and Rhiannon Giddens, who scored a pair each.

You have to go back to 2012 to get the last female Americana Artist of the Year winner, Gillian Welch, but 2019 is guaranteed to be the next one as all four Artist of the Year nominees are women. Fresh off her surprise major category nominations at the Grammy Awards, it's no surprise to see Brandi Carlile on the list. Rhiannon Giddens is a multi-time nominee both as a solo artist and with her band Carolina Chocolate Drops and has been on a roll in the last couple of years, with a pair of critically acclaimed albums, a MacArthur Fellowship, and an IBMA Keynote Speech that went viral. Kacey Musgraves is a rare artist who appeals to the mainstream country fan but still maintains the love of the Americana community for her deep appreciation for country tradition. And the nominees are topped off by a legend who influenced all of her fellow nominees, soul and gospel pioneer Mavis Staples.

For Album of the Year, female artists ruled but it is producer Dave Cobb who is the real winner, producing three of the year's four nominees. While John Prine will not be going for a three-peat after winning Artist of the Year in 2017 and 2018, his Tree of Forgiveness scored an album of the year nomination. Lori McKenna notched the first of her three nominations with her album The Tree. 2017 Emerging Artist of the Year winner Amanda Shires proved that she has officially emerged with a nomination for To the Sunset. The only non-Dave Cobb produced effort came from the category's one newcomer. British vocalist Yola scored a nod for her Dan Auerbach-produced Walk Through Fire, our review of which you can read here.

The Duo/Group of the Year category is the most competitive in years. Newcomers The War and Treaty, our favorite group at last year's Americanafest scored a nod after a strong year. Competing with them this year is a trio of supergroups. I'm With Her consists of multi-time solo nominees Sarah Jarosz, Sara Watkins, and Aoife O'Donovan. Tedeschi Trucks Band is led by blues master Susan Tedeschi and former Allman Brothers guitarist Derek Trucks. Our Native Daughters is the collaboration between Artist of the Year nominee Rhiannon Giddens, Amathyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla of Carolina Chocolate Drops, and Allison Russell of Birds of Chicago.

Emerging Artist of the Year is always an exciting category with a strong history of correctly predicting future superstars like Margo Price, Hayes Carll, and Sturgill Simpson. This year's crop looks like a lock no matter who wins. Yola and The War and Treaty both notch their second nominations here. They are joined by Erin Rae, whose Single Lock debut Putting on Airs made her a fast rising star, British sensation Jade Bird, whose debut album dropped in April, and Kenyan singer-songwriter J.S. Ondara, whose debut album Tales of America, has been getting rave reviews.

The Song of the Year category finds Lori McKenna competing with herself. Her first nomination is a solo one for “People Get Old.” Her second is a collaborative effort with Mark Erelli, Rosanne Cash, Sheryl Crow, and Josh Ritter for their gun violence call to action “By Degrees.” Ruston Kelly notches a nomination for his “Mockingbird.” Finally, John Prine scored his second nod for “Summer's End.”

Instrumentalist of the Year is rarely a place where the household names get featured but always brings out the genre's best. This year, guitarist Chris Eldridge of Punch Brothers, Grand Ole Opry house fiddler Eamon McLoughlin, prolific collaborator Chris Powell, and studio mainstay Michael Rinne are vying for the award.

The Americana Honors and Awards ceremony will be held on Sept. 11 at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium on day 2 of the Americana Music Festival. While you'll have to purchase a full conference registration to attend the Awards and Honors in person, $90 festival wristbands are on sale now, with one Americanafest venue typically streaming the Awards show.