2021 Americana Music Honors and Awards preview: These winners could influence the upcoming Grammys

If you’ve been following the Grammys for the past few years, you may have noticed the prevalence of an often overlooked genre in some marquee categories: Americana has had a big resurgence, and the Grammys have been one of the places where this ever-evolving genre has shined through. Thus, the Americana Music Honors and Awards — which will be presented on September 22 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee — have become a good place for Grammy watchers to look if they want to get ahead of the curve and predict those dark horse artists. Let’s take a look at the nominees, the possible winners, and why these matter much more than you might think.

Album of the Year is stacked with well-known artists inside the genre. Sarah Jarosz’s “World on the Ground,” which won the Grammy for Best Americana Album this past March, is nominated alongside Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s “Reunions,” which was eligible for the previous Grammys but missed the nom (despite Isbell being a four-time Grammy winner in the American roots field). The other three nominees are all eligible for the upcoming Grammys. Steve Earle and The Dukes’ “J.T.” is a heartfelt tribute to the front man’s deceased son and has been met with critical acclaim. This could be enough for a win here, and perhaps a win at the Grammy too.

There’s also Valerie June’s “The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers,” which launched the Americana hit “Call Me A Fool” and was also acclaimed. Last but not least, Grammy winner Sturgill Simpson is nominated for his compilation “Cuttin’ Grass – Vol. 1 (Butcher Shoppe Sessions)”; you might remember Simpson from his surprise Grammy nomination for Album of the Year in 2017, when his “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth” competed alongside the much higher-profile Adele (“25”), Beyoncé (“Lemonade”), Justin Bieber (“Purpose”), and Drake (“Views”). This AMHAs category is tough, but I think the race will boil down to one of the three past Grammy winners, with Jarosz or Isbell having the slight edge.

Moving to Song of the Year, it should be an easy posthumous win for “I Remember Everything” by the late John Prine. The song is the last from a beloved icon in Americana music and swept the American roots field at the Grammys this past March. Still, if anyone could beat Prine, it’s likely to be AOTY nominee Valerie June for the aforementioned “Call Me A Fool,” or perhaps we could see a passion vote for Amythyst Khia’s “Black Myself.” Khia is also an Emerging Act of the Year possibility, running against Charley Crockett, Joy Oladokun, Allison Russell and Waxahatchee for the prize.

For Artist of the Year, there are a few possibilities. You should never underestimate Brandi Carlile for an award, especially with the abundant support she always gets from Americana crowds. That said, with additional Album and Song of the Year nominations this year, Jason Isbell could triumph here, earning his second win in the category (if Carlile wins, it would also be her second). The rest — Kathleen Edwards, Margo Price, and Billy Strings — could be on the outside looking in.

So who can we expect from this lineup at the Grammys? Keep a big eye out on the three Album of the Year nominees eligible for the next Grammys, especially if one of those ends up winning here. Previous AMHA Album of the Year winners here like Simpson’s “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth” and Alison Krauss and Robert Plant‘s “Raising Sand” have earned nominations in the general field at the Grammys (with Krauss and Plant winning Record and Album of the Year from the recording academt), and others like Prine’s “The Tree of Forgiveness” and Isbell’s “Something More Than Free” and “The Nashville Sound” have gotten Grammy noms in their field. If you look at the SOTY winners, several have been nominated and even won at the Grammys, like The Highwomen’s “Crowded Table,” Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett’s “The Weary Kind,” and Isbell’s “24 Frames.”

With no Grammy nominations review committees this year, we will see how truly influential the Americana field can be in the general field or if its surge in recent years was due mostly to lobbying in those secret panels. It’s a growing genre that has been long under-recognized, so perhaps you should start thinking about switching out some of those big pop stars for one or two of these beloved industry artists.

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