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Americana Music Awards nominees led by Isbell, Cash, Ellis

Jason Isbell joins Rosanne Cash and Robert Ellis with three Americana Music Awards nominations.
Jason Isbell joins Rosanne Cash and Robert Ellis with three Americana Music Awards nominations.Photo by Skip Bolen

The nominees for the 2014 Americana Music Awards were announced today, May 12 in an hour-long ceremony hosted by Sirius XM host and Americana artists Elizabeth Cook. Leading the pack of nominees is a trio of artists that represent three generations of Americana Superstars.

Jason Isbell has been having one of the best years imaginable, with 2013's "Southeastern" landing high in many critics' year end "Best Of" lists among all genres. Today, that success was recognized by the voters of the Americana Music Association, who nominated Isbell for three awards. Isbell will be competing for Album of the Year and Artist of the Year honors, as well as Song of the Year for "Cover Me Up."

Joining Isbell with 3 nominations is second-generation superstar Rosanne Cash. After wowing Americana Music Festival audiences in 2013 with a top to bottom run through of her new album "The River and the Thread", her first album of original maeterial since 2006, Cash released the album in January to great critical acclaim. In addition to Artist of the Year and Album of the Year nominations, Cash's "A Feather's Not a Bird" received a nod for Song of the Year.

The third 3 nomination star is relative newcomer Robert Ellis. Only on the Americana music scene since 2009, Ellis has quickly rocketed up the Americana charts and ridden positive reviews of both his albums and his live performances. This year's "The Lights From the Chemical Plant" from New West Records is his most acclaimed album to date. Ellis joins Cash and Isbell with Album of the Year and Artist of the Year nominations, as well as a Song of the Year nomination for "Only Lies."

While Isbell, Ellis, and Cash may have taken up 75% of the nominations in three categories, they've got some stiff competition from the fourth competitor in each. Sarah Jarosz joins the three with a nomination for Album of the Year. The 22 year old artist's third album "Build Me Up From Bones" was highly praised by critics as a coming of age album for Jarosz as an artist and songwriter. Vying for Artist of the Year is veteran Americana artist Rodney Crowell. Crowell's duet album with Emmylou Harris, "Old Yellow Moon", racked up at the 2013 awards and he should never be taken lightly in a category. The fourth nominee for Song of the Year is "Ohio" by Patty Griffin. Long an Americana Awards magnet, winning the award would hardly be considered an upset.

While all of those artists have firmly established their brand in the Americana world, the Emerging Artist of the Year nominees are all young stars who have started to make waves in the last 12 months. New Orleans based Hurray for the Riff Raff has stormed the festival circuits, including Americanafest 2013, and gathered a strong following in their wake. 20 year old Parker Millsap's self-titled album has caught the attention of critics and fans alike for his slice-of-life storytelling. Sturgill Simpson has turned the Americana world upside down with his mix of traditional country vocals with a new-age aesthetic. His "Metamodern Sounds in Country Music" is being hailed as a genre buster. Alabama soul purveyors St. Paul & the Broken Bones have ridden their high energy live performances to slots playing at major festivals all over the world. Rounding out the nominees is newcomer Valerie June, whose blend of gospel, soul, and Appalachian bluegrass has turned a lot of heads.

In the Duo/Group of the Year category, some familiar faces are joined by some rising youngsters for what should be a tight battle. In any other year, Americana Music Association member favorites Milk Carton Kids would be a near lock in this category. But their close harmonies and humorous on-stage banter will have to fight off some stiff competition. Not much can be said about The Avett Brothers that hasn't already been written. Long time Americanafest favorites, the band has caught the attention of wider audiences and parlayed that into headlining arena and festivals worldwide. Hard Working Americans may not be a name that rings a bell to some fans, but the all-star group's members know a thing or two about high profile concerts. Led by Todd Snider and Dave Schools of Widespread Panic, the band mixes Americana lyrics with jam band instrumentals to make a sound all their own. Rising stars Lake Street Dive and punk/Americana showstoppers Devil Makes Three round out the nominees.

If you put the nominees for Instrumentalist of the Year together, you'd have one hell of a band. Guitarist Buddy Miller and Larry Campbell are frequent nominees and always among the favorites to win. They are joined by legendary multi-instrumentalist Fats Kaplan and frequent collaborator Bryan Sutton.

The Americana Music Awards will be presented on Sept. 17 at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium. The Awards show is always the kickoff to the Americana Music Festival and Conference, which runs from Sept. 17-21. Tickets are available here.