The Americana Music Association has always been an organization that celebrated not only roots music artists, but musicians from a diverse array of genres who influenced modern roots music. Today's announcement of the four artists being honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards at the 2014 Americana Music Awards, being held Sept. 17 at Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium, continued that tradition. This year's list includes a classic country superstar, a country-rock pioneer, a bluesman with world music influences, and a tejano trailblazer.
Receiving the Spirit of Americana Free Speech in Music Award is country rocker Jackson Browne. The Spirit of Americana Award is co-presented by the First Amendment Center and honors artists who use the platform of their music to promote social change. Jackson Browne, in addition to being a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer known for hits like "Runnin' On Empty" and "Doctor My Eyes" has also been a tireless voice for numerous issues. Browne has performed on behalf of organizations like Farm Aid and Vote for Change, and is the co-founder of Musicians United for Safe Energy.
The Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting goes to Loretta Lynn. One of the most popular female country artists of all time, Lynn's work has also profoundly influenced multiple generations of Americana artists. Lynn's signature hit, "Coal Miner's Daughter", portrayed an unvarnished look at life in rural Kentucky. But what made Lynn so popular among Americana artists was her willingness to challenge the conventions of country music in her songwriting. Her work consistently rattled conservative country establishment with her honesty. From the then-taboo issue of birth control in "The Pill", to the double standard of divorce in "Rated X" to opening up the secrets of the bedroom in "Don't Come Home Drinkin' With Lovin' On Your Mind", Lynn has never shied away from controversy and her lyrics are a window into history's treatment of women.
Tejano accordian master Flaco Jimenez seems an unlikely recipient for the Lifetime Achievement Award for Instrumentalist, but Jimenez's music has always transcended genre boundaries. While best known as a pioneer of the conjunto musical, the 75 year old musician has worked with everyone from Dr. John to Ry Cooder. Country fans will recognize his work from Dwight Yoakam and Buck Owens' "Streets of Bakersfield."
Throughout his 40 year career, Taj Mahal has embraced the spirit of Americana by refusing to let genre dictate where his music goes, and it is for this reason he will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance. Emerging as a blues musician, Taj Mahal quickly embraced the cultural melting pot of his adopted home of Los Angeles. A student of musical history, Taj Mahal began to explore the African and West Caribbean origins of blues music, as well as elements of jazz, gospel, zydeco, and numerous other genres. Taj Mahal remains a popular collaborator to this day. Just over a month ago he co-led a Superjam performance at the Bonnaroo festival with Derek Trucks, David Hidalgo, and Chaka Khan.
The Americana Music Awards and Honors are part of the Americana Music Festival and Conference, which will be held Sept 17-21 in venues throughout Nashville. Showcase performers for the festival include Buddy Miller, Todd Snider, and Paul Thorn. You can find a full list of performers here.