Jason Isbell continued his run of dominance at the Americana Music Awards Wednesday night, but he didn’t take home the night’s top honor or give the most political speech.
Isbell and his band, the 400 Unit, won in three of the four categories they were nominated in, including Album of the Year for The Nashville Sound. They played “White Man’s World” from the record during the ceremony. They also won Song of the Year for "If We Were Vampires" and Duo/Group of the Year.
Isbell had previously won the association’s top honor Artist of the Year, but that went to one of his mentor’s, 71-year-old John Prine.
Both Prine and Isbell are known for being outspoken on political issues. But it was Rosanne Cash who was given the "Spirit of Americana" Free Speech award. She took the opportunity to promote equal support and equal respect for women. She also pushed for passage of the Music Modernization Act and better pay for music makers from streaming services.
Cash then turned to school shootings.
"I believe with all my heart that a single child’s life is greater and more precious and more deserving of the protection of this nation and of the adults in this room than the right to own a personal arsenal of military style weapons," she said, turning emotional on stage at the Ryman Auditorium.
The daughter of Johnny Cash also performed, joining an onstage presentation that balanced elder statesmen with emerging artists.
The broadcast will now be seen by a larger audience. In addition to airing on PBS, CMT will also carry the ceremony.
Other 2018 Winners and Honorees:
Emerging Artist of the Year: Tyler Childers
Instrumentalist of the Year: Molly Tuttle
Americana Trailblazer Award: k.d. lang
Lifetime Achievement Award for Instrumentalist: Buddy Guy
Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance: Irma Thomas
Jack Emerson Lifetime Achievement Award for Executive: Cris Williamson and Judy Dlugacz of Olivia Records