AMA festival, awards show bring the stars out

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 at 12:55am
 Sam Bush

Grammy winner Nanci Griffith as well as the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Raul Malo and the Greencards are just a few of the headliners set for Thursday night’s eighth annual Americana Music Association Honors and Awards ceremony at the Ryman Auditorium.

The 7 p.m. show is the ‘centerpiece’ event for the 10th annual Americana Festival and Conference that continues through Saturday at several locations throughout the city.

Jim Lauderdale once again plays host and Buddy Miller returns to conduct the house band for the show, which not only recognizes winners in six categories chosen by members of the Americana Music Association, but also presents special awards to designated honorees.

Among this year’s special recipients will be Ken Levitan, who’ll receive the Jack Emerson Lifetime Achievement Awards for an Executive. Levitan is the founder and current Co-President of Vector Management as well as a Grammy-winning producer.

Levitan helped launch or escalate the careers of many artists, such as Lyle Lovett, Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, John Hiatt and Buddy Miller. Current Vector Management clients includes those five, plus Kid Rock, Hank Williams Jr., Bon Jovi, Ben Folds, Michael McDonald, Trisha Yearwood, Trace Adkins, Dierks Bentley and current rock sensations Kings of Leon, another group whose star potential he was among the first to notice.

The spectacular vocal and instrumental ensemble Asleep at the Wheel will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. They remain among the foremost exponents of Western swing, though their albums have also delved into blues, jazz, honky-tonk, R&B and pop tunes.

Other Lifetime Achievement award winners include the master mandolinist, bandleader and multi-instrumentalist Sam Bush and Producer/Engineer Jim Rooney.

Rooney’s musical contributions date back to his days as Director and Talent Coordinator for the Newport Folk Festival. He later served a stint as tour and production manager for the Newport and New Orleans Jazz Festival. Though he managed Albert Grossman’s Bearsville Sound Studios in Woodstock during the early 1970s, Rooney’s base has been Music City for the last 35 years, where he’s produced such artists as Hal Ketchum, Alison Krauss and Townes Van Zandt. He’s also written the acclaimed volumes Bossmen: Bill Monroe & Muddy Waters and Baby Let Me Follow You Down: The Illustrated Story of the Cambridge Folk Years.

Bush, who’s been called the ‘King of Newgrass,’ was co-founder and leader of the seminal progressive bluegrass band New Grass Revival through 1970s and 80s. He has spent the last 15 years — when not heading his own band — as a mandolin sideman for Emmylou Harris, Lyle Lovett, the Flecktones and others. He also spearheaded boundary-stretching collaborations with Edgar Meyer, Mark O'Connor, and David Grisman.

Other major Conference events include Thursday morning’s Keynote interview from 10:45 until noon at the Nashville Convention Center with the magnificent singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash. Author/journalist Michael Streissguth, author of the new volume Always Been There: Rosanne Cash, The List and the Spirit of Southern Music (Da Capo), will conduct the freewheeling discussion.

Singer/songwriter Radney Foster, whose new CD Revival, is getting rave reviews, will introduce a screening of the documentary Behind the Confessions: Radney Foster’s Revival, from noon-2 p.m. Thursday at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, 222 5th Ave. S. Admission is $12-20, free for kids five and under.

Thursday night Raul Malo, a nominee for Americana Artist of the Year, performs at 3rd and Lindsley (818 3rd Ave. S., 259-9181). Friday night the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band appears at the Cannery Ballroom (One Cannery Row, 251-3020). Saturday night Nanci Griffith joins Elizabeth Cook and Mary Gauthier in a special “in the round” setting at the Station Inn (402 12th Ave., S, 255-3307).

For more information about either Americana Music Festival and Conference events or the Americana Awards and Honors show go to or call 386-6936.


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