Americana’s awards night becomes Miller’s time

Friday, September 18, 2009 at 10:07am

On Wednesday night, rock legend John Fogerty told a capacity crowd at the Mercy Lounge that sharing a stage with Buddy Miller was “heaven.” Thursday night at the Ryman Auditorium, the Americana Music Association evidently agreed, naming Miller, the versatile Nashville singer-songwriter, producer and sideman its artist of the year at its eighth annual awards ceremony.

Nominated in five categories, Miller took home the Americana Music Award in all but one. Along with artist of the year, Miller won album of the year for Written in Chalk, recorded with his wife, Julie.

Their song “Chalk,” written by Julie and recorded by Miller and Patty Griffin, was named song of the year. The Millers also shared the award for duo of the year.

Miller’s four honors made him the big winner of a night that celebrated career longevity, maturity and experience over flavors of the moment.

Fogerty, whose “secret” show at the Mercy Lounge Wednesday night was a highlight of the current Americana Music Conference, gladly accepted the AMA’s lifetime achievement award for songwriting.

The former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman performed as part of an all-star roster that included sterling Texas swing outfit Ray Benson & Asleep at the Wheel and instrumentalist Sam Bush, both of whom received lifetime award recognition.

John Prine and Nanci Griffith joined voices in honor of longtime folk producer Jim Rooney.

Justin Townes Earle took home the AMA’s honors for new emerging artist of the year, in a field of nominees that included Band of Heathens, The Belleville Outfit and Sarah Borges.

Artist/producer Gurf Morlix was the only recipient all night to snag an award away from Buddy Miller, claiming honors for instrumentalist of the year.

Receiving lifetime achievement recognition as an executive was Vector Management’s Ken Levitan.

With Jim Lauderdale serving as host, performers throughout the night included Rodney Crowell, Raul Malo, Reckless Kelly, The Gourds and The Flatlanders. The evening concluded with an all-star jam on the Little Feat classic “Dixie Chicken,” backed by a house band featuring Miller, steel-guitar great Al Perkins and Muscle Shoals keyboard giant Spooner Oldham.

The 10th annual Americana Music Festival & Conference continues through Saturday at venues around Nashville. A full lineup of events can be found at americanamusic.org.