Allison Russell and Crys Matthews Among Honorees at International Folk Music Awards
Allison Russell accepts an award onstage at the International Folk Music Awards in Kansas City on Wednesday. (Photo by Katie Rich)
Folk Alliance International bestowed its Best of 2021 awards as well as a new batch of lifetime achievement and other honors Wednesday evening on the first day of its conference being held in Kansas City.
Allison Russell won Artist of the Year as well as Album of the Year for Outside Child (ND story) in the International Folk Music Awards, and Crys Matthews’ “Changemakers” was named song of the year.
Here are the nominees for the three 2021 awards (with the winners in bold):
Album of the Year
They’re Calling Me Home by Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi
Wary + Strange by Amythyst Kiah
Un Canto por México, Vol. 2 by Natalia Lafourcade
Outside Child by Allison Russell
The Fray by John Smith
Song of the Year
“On Solid Ground” by Reggie Harris
“Painted Blue” by Sarah Jarosz
“We Believe You” by Diana Jones
“Call Me A Fool” by Valerie June
“Changemakers” by Crys Matthews
Artist of the Year
The Longest Johns
John Francis Flynn
In accepting her awards, Russell spoke about her fond memories of past Folk Alliance conferences and the meaning of the folk community to her: “I cannot tell you how much this means to me coming from this community in particular… It was at Folk Alliance where I first met JT [Nero, her husband and musical partner] and so many of the people who would become a part of my chosen family … This is a beautiful community. It’s growing and I’m very proud of the fact that we understand collectively and truly believe that tolerance is not enough. Tolerance is for mosquitos. We tolerate mosquitos. Humans require love … This is like a family reunion. We know and understand, we have the conviction that art and music is an essential service and a sacrament. It saves lives. It saved my life. And it reduces harm in the world. It bridges the gulfs between. It turns fear into love. It’s magic.”
As previously announced, Elaine Weissman Lifetime Achievement Awards, named for Folk Alliance’s founder, were presented to accordionist Flaco Jiménez, the late songwriter and interpreter Nanci Griffith; and Denver-based folk music center Swallow Hill Music. (See a list of past lifetime achievement award winners here.)
Jason Mraz received The People’s Voice Award, an honor for an individual who has embraced political and social commentary in their careers.
“I was a little shy at first, thinking I’m too young for this award, that I haven’t done or said enough,” he said. “Then I realized those thoughts and feelings never go away, that nagging thought that I haven’t done enough. But it’s that nagging thought that’s an indication that we still have energy to give and want to and will. In my few years lapping the planet, I found solace in seeing political and geographical borders dissolve when the lights go down and a concert begins, a clear reminder that we are all just humans connected by stories and/or the energy and vibe of a song … It’s always good to inspire in a song because you never know who’s listening.”
Spirit of Folk awards, which honor people and organizations working to promote and preserve folk music, went to Eugene Rodriguez of Los Cenzontles, artist and Red Hot Records vice president Lilli Lewis, NPR Tiny Desk Contest winner and disability rights activist Gaelynn Lea, Canadian Live Music Association leader Erin Benjamin, Bolivian-American artist and instrument maker Amado Espinoza, and Sound Diplomacy Founder Shain Shapiro.
Lula Wiles member and executive director of the Bomazeen Land Trust nonprofit Mali Obomsawin received the Rising Tide Award, launched in 2021 to recognize artists under 30 advancing folk music and ideals.
Planet Bluegrass, which presents the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, RockyGrass, and the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, received the Clearwater Award, which recognizes festivals that model environmental stewardship.
Angela Page, host of Folk Plus on radio station WJFF/Radio Catskill in Jeffersonville, New York, and Dr. Johnathan Øverby of Wisconsin Public Radio were inducted into the the Folk DJ Hall of Fame.
You can watch a recording of the full show below:
Folk Alliance International’s 34th annual conference continues through Sunday. Here is a playlist from FAI featuring artists who are performing during the event: