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Chris Isaak, Indigo Girls, Fairfield Four and more to receive Lifetime Achievement Awards from Americana Music Association

Americana Music Association

Yesterday the Americana Music Association announced this year’s slate of Lifetime Achievement Award honorees for its 21st Annual Americana Honors & Awards show on Wednesday, September 14th.

The recipients include the Fairfield Four, Chris Isaak, Indigo Girls, Don Williams, and Al Bell.

"The Legacy of Americana Award" will be presented to the Fairfield Four, in partnership with the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM). The Four transformed American gospel music from the 1930s onward with its rhythm-and-blues influenced a cappella singing. Launched at the Fairfield Baptist Church 101 years ago as a youth group, the Fairfield Four went national after Rev. Sam McCrary took over as leader in the 1930s. They found an audience on radio station WLAC and toured relentlessly, becoming a key influence in their genre and beyond, including Elvis Presley and B.B. King.

Chris Isaak will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for "Performance." Isaak took rockabilly revival and country noir mainstream in the 1990s with a warm, resonant voice, throwback cool and some boosts from his super fan, filmmaker David Lynch. Isaak’s songs “Wicked Game,” “Somebody’s Crying” and “Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing” were highlights of a diverse creative career. As an accomplished actor, Isaak appeared in productions directed by Lynch and Bernardo Bertolucci, as well as two TV series under his own name.

"The Spirit of Americana Award", presented in partnership with the First Amendment Center, will be presented to the Indigo Girls. When they launched their harmony-forward folk-rock duo in the mid 1980s, the idea of out lesbians commanding a huge fan base was radical, but that changed, thanks in part to Emily Saliers and Amy Ray’s advocacy and example. The lifelong friends honed their artistry in high school and college in their native Atlanta, GA before their first album did well and was picked up by Epic Records. Even as their music career soared, they kept social issues in the spotlight, chiefly LGBTQ rights, the death penalty, and the environment.

"The President’s Award" will go to the late Don Williams, the laid back Texas-born singer and songwriter who quietly stormed the country charts between 1974 and 1991. His breakout came with the Pozo-Seco Singers folk group, and he was ushered into Nashville by Cowboy Jack Clement. Williams’ style and relatable hits like “You’re My Best Friend” and “I Believe In You” helped “The Gentle Giant” become a global star who entered the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010.

Al Bell — one of the most impactful African American music executives, having steered Stax Records in Memphis to some culture-shaping moments before moving on to run Motown Records in the 1980s — will receive the "Jack Emerson Lifetime Achievement Award for Executive". As a young DJ, Bell played records by artists from Memphis on the Stax label. In 1965, Bell joined Stax as head of promotions and would go on to own the company, in the meantime overseeing 1972’s legendary Wattstax festival and elevating the careers of Isaac Hayes and the Staple Singers.

The association also honors distinguished members of the music community with six member-voted annual awards, revealing the winners on Americana music’s biggest night at the Ryman Auditorium.

Brandi Carlile, Allison Russell and Yola are the leading nominees for the 2022 Americana Honors and Awards, with each one up for album of the year, artist of the year and song of the year. You can see the complete list of nominees here.

Mel is the WFPK morning host. Email Mel at mfisher@lpm.org.

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