The Late Nanci Griffith and Acclaimed Conjunto Artist Flaco Jiminez to Receive Lifetime Achievement Recognition
Kansas City, MO (April 7, 2022) – Folk Alliance International(FAI), the foremost global nonprofit for folk music and the producers of the International Folk Music Awards presented by Yamaha, announced this year’s upcoming recipients and Best of 2021 nominees in a livestream this afternoon (OK to share or embed).
Originally scheduled for February, the live awards show will be held May 18th in Kansas City on the opening night of FAI’s annual conference, and will be broadcast online.
The Elaine Weissman Lifetime Achievement Awards are presented each year to honor the cultural impact of legendary folk music figures: one Living, one Legacy, and one Business/Academic. This year’s honorees are legendary accordionist Flaco Jiménez; the late legendary songwriter and interpreter Nanci Griffith; and Denver-based folk music center Swallow Hill Music.
Jason Mraz, the multi-platinum GRAMMY Award-winning singer-songwriter known for his positivity and a consistent attention to conservation, human rights, and LGBTQIA+ issues, will receive The People’s Voice Award, which is presented to an individual who unabashedly embraces social and political commentary in their creative work and public careers. Past recipients include Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Buffy Saint Marie, Ani Difranco, and Bruce Cockburn.
The following are the finalists for the 2021 Album, Song, and Artist of the Year, including newly-minuted GRAMMY winners Rhiannon Giddens, Kalani Pe’a, and Arooj Aftab; breakout artist and recent Late Show with Stephen Colbert guest Allison Russell; the “powerful voice” (NY Times) of Amythyst Kiah; four-time GRAMMY Award winner Sarah Jarosz; and one of America’s “most intriguing, fully formed new talents” (NY Times), Valerie June.
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 (sponsored by Yamaha)
“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
The final ballot for Best Song, Album, and Artist of the year is based on US, Canadian, and international industry year-end lists as well as folk DJ airplay. Winners are determined by the voting membership of FAI (with the ballot open until April 15).
The Spirit of Folk Awards are presented to honor and celebrate people and organizations actively involved in the promotion and preservation of folk music through their creative work, community building, and demonstrated leadership. The 2022 recipients will include musician, educator, and documentary producer Eugene Rodriguez of Los Cenzontles; composer, producer, performing artist, and Louisiana Red Hot Records Vice President and Head of A&R Lilli Lewis; NPR Tiny Desk Contest winner, musician, and disability rights activist Gaelynn Lea; Canadian Live Music Association President & CEO Erin Benjamin; Bolivian-American multi-instrumentalist, composer, and instrument maker Amado Espinoza; and Sound Diplomacy founder Shain Shapiro.
Award-winning Smithsonian Folkways Recordings artist from Odanak Wabanaki First Nation, member of the band Lula Wiles, journalist; and founder and Executive Director of the Bomazeen Land Trust non-profit Mali Obomsawin will receive the Rising Tide Award. The award was launched in 2021 to celebrate a new generation (under 30) artist who inspires others by embodying the values and ideals of the folk community through their creative work, community role, and public voice.
Colorado-based Planet Bluegrass will receive the Clearwater Award (sponsored by the Levitt Foundation), which is presented to a festival that prioritizes environmental stewardship and demonstrates public leadership in sustainable event production.
Past award recipients Mary Gauthier, Darlingside, SONiA Disappear Fear, Raye Zaragoza, Preservation Hall’s Ben Jaffe, and more appeared for the livestream to announce the upcoming recipients and finalists.
All awards will be presented, and the Best of 2021 winners will be announced during the International Folk Music Awards in Kansas City on May 18 on the opening night of the 34th annual Folk Alliance International Conference.
About Folk Alliance International
Folk Alliance International (FAI) was founded in 1989 to connect folk music leaders aiming to sustain the community and genre. Today FAI is the leading international voice for folk music with a network of more than 3,000 members: a worldwide community of artists, agents, managers, labels, publicists, arts administrators, venues, festivals, and concert series presenters.
From its U.S. headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri, FAI produces the world’s largest conference for the folk music industry, the International Folk Music Awards (IFMAs), an Artist in Residence program, the Folk ExChange market development program, the Ethno USA gathering (on behalf of JM International), community outreach, and a Finest Folk concert series.
FAI values diversity, equity, inclusion, and access, strives to ensure gender parity in all its programming, celebrates multiple languages and cultures, and actively welcomes participation from marginalized, disenfranchised, and underrepresented communities.
FAI defines folk broadly as “the music of the people” (reflective of any community they are from), and programs a diverse array of sub genres including, but not limited to, Appalachian, Americana, Blues, Bluegrass, Celtic, Cajun, Global Roots, Hip-Hop, Old-Time, Singer-Songwriter, Spoken Word, Traditional, Zydeco, and various fusions.
About Jason Mraz
A vegan “short supply-chain” organic farmer, Mraz is an investor in Café Gratitude and a supporter of Why Hunger, founded by the late folk singer Harry Chapin and radio DJ Bill Ayres. To raise awareness about the environment, he has visited Antarctica, endorsed The Nature Conservancy, and participated in Farm Aid. Mraz took part in a non-profit rescue mission in Ghana to liberate children sold into slavery, performed in Myanmar to raise awareness about human trafficking, and was present at Standing Rock.
His own foundation benefits multiple organizations addressing issues he is committed to, and in 2020, Mraz donated all profits from his “Look for the Good” album to Black Lives Matter and other groups working toward equality and justice.
Planet Bluegrass (Clearwater Award)
For over 30 years, Planet Bluegrass (producers of Telluride Bluegrass, Rockygrass Festivals, and Rocky MTN Folks Festival) has embraced a “Leave No Trace” ethic and demonstrated environmental leadership engaging in strategic community-level plans and programs to center the idea of stewardship. In 2018, after rigorous external review of its operations, Plant Bluegrass became a certified Public Benefit Corporation in 2018 — a legal entity recognized formally as committed to business practices that are sustainable and beneficial to society and the environment.
At each of its respective festivals, Planet Bluegrass incentivizes reuse over recycling. This includes a reusable plate program, annually monitoring and reporting on waste diversion of over 60% (twice that of the national average), employing solar power to offset over 10 tons of CO2 emissions annually, providing composting and compostable bottles, offering free filtered water on site, and donating leftover festival food to local community organizations.
Eugene Rodriguez (Spirit of Folk Award) is an acclaimed musician, educator, and documentary producer who founded Los Cenzontles, both as a band and as a non-profit music academy and community space for Latinx artists, youth, and families in the San Francisco Bay area. He has produced over 30 recordings of Mexican roots music and cross-cultural projects and was nominated for a GRAMMY for the bilingual recording “Papa’s Dream”. He has produced three documentaries for the Cultures of Mexico in California series and conceived of the film project Linda and The Mockingbirds. He serves as a board member of the Arhoolie Foundation and has received numerous awards for his cultural and community service.
Lilli Lewis (Spirit of Folk Award) is a composer, producer, and performing artist with three critically acclaimed releases on Louisiana Red Hot Records where she serves as VP and the Head of A&R. She conceived of and hosted the ongoing “Committing to Conservation” initiative to develop safe space for diversity within the folk community and spearheaded the “Country Soul Phone Book” as a developing directory of BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and disabled artists under served by the music industry. She co-produced the inaugural “Black Opry Fest”, an event designed to reclaim the legacy of Black artists in Americana, folk, and country music. She also co-wrote/produced and performed “Mask Up” as an anthem for a New Orleans-focused public health campaign.
Gaelynn Lea (Spirit of Folk Award) was the 2016 winner of the NPR Tiny Desk Contest and has since toured 45 states and nine countries, captivating audiences with haunting original songs and traditional fiddle tunes. A champion of disability rights and venue accessibility, she uses her music as a platform to advocate for disabled people, to engage and inform allies, and to promote positive social change. Gaelynn is the co-founder and Vice President of RAMPD – Recording Artists and Music Professionals with Disabilities, and is an in-demand speaker as featured on TEDx Talks, The Moth Radio Hour, PBS NewsHour, and On Being with Krista Tippett. She is currently creating original music for a Broadway production of Macbeth starring Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga.
Erin Benjamin (Spirit of Folk Award) began her career as a singer-songwriter and label owner before becoming the inaugural Executive Director of Folk Music Ontario, establishing the organization’s conference as the national gathering of the Canadian folk music community. She went on to lead the Canadian Arts Presenting Association and currently serves as the President and CEO of the Canadian Live Music Association providing industry leadership, advocacy, and resources. She is the founder of the Ottawa Women in Music Industry group and led major community relief fundraising. She is an FAI Board alum and continues to serve multiple organizations including Unison Benevolent Fund, Ontario Creates, and the Ottawa Board of Trade.
Amado Espinoza (Spirit of Folk Award) is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and instrument maker from Cochabamba, Bolivia, who has called Kansas City home since 2014. Amado specializes in the Charango and Andean flutes, performs with multiple ensembles, and is the co-founder of Resonation Music and Arts, using educational programming to inspire curiosity and respect for world cultures through music, dance, and storytelling. He is a Charlotte Street Foundation Performing Arts Fellow, Lighton International Artist Exchange recipient, TedxKC presenter, and Adjunct Professor in the Graduate Student Theatre Department at UMKC.
Shain Shapiro (Spirit of Folk Award), PhD, is the founder and CEO of Sound Diplomacy. Focused on assessing the value of music, his work has influenced over 75 cities and countries to invest in music and culture and his co-founded Music Cities Convention has become the world’s largest convening of city planners, developers, policy makers, and music industry representatives. He is also the Managing Director of the Center for Music Ecosystems, a global non-profit. A writer, consultant, and speaker, his music advocacy work has influenced the UN, OECD, European Commission, and Greater London Authority.
Flaco Jiménez (The Elaine Weissman Lifetime Achievement Awards LIVING)
Flaco Jiménez is an accordionist from San Antonio, Texas, known for playing Norteño, Tex Mex, and Tejano music. Jiménez has been a solo performer and session musician as well as a member of the Texas Tornados and Los Super Seven. Over the course of his seven decade career, he has received numerous awards and honors, including Lifetime Achievement Awards from the GRAMMYs, Americana Music Awards, Tejano Music Awards, and Billboard magazine. He is featured in the film This Ain’t No Mouse Music, and Hohner has even released a Flaco Jiménez Signature series line of accordions. He has worked with Bob Dylan, Ry Cooder, The Rolling Stones, and recorded on the number one Billboard Country song “Streets of Bakersfield” by Dwight Yoakam and Buck Owens.
Nanci Griffith (1953 – 2021) (The Elaine Weissman Lifetime Achievement Awards LEGACY)
Born in Seguin, Texas, Nanci Griffith began performing in a local coffeehouse at age 12 and released her first album “There’s a Light Beyond These Woods” at age 25. Winner of the 1994 GRAMMY Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album for her cover album entitled “Other Voices, Other Rooms”, she affectionately called her style “folkabilly”. Her style was humble and poignant, perhaps best exemplified in her song “Love at the Five and Dime” and her interpretations of others’ work were intimate and reverent, including her version of Julie Gold’s “From a Distance.” Living in Nashville, Griffith recorded duets with many artists including John Prine, Emmylou Harris, Mary Black, Don McLean, Jimmy Buffett, Dolores Keane, Willie Nelson, and the Chieftains. She was inducted into Austin Music Hall of Fame in 1995, was awarded the 1995 Kate Wolf Memorial Award, the 2008 Americana Trailblazer Award, and the 2010 BBC Radio 2 Folk Lifetime Achievement Award.
Swallow Hill Music (The Elaine Weissman Lifetime Achievement Awards BUSINESS/ACADEMIC)
Founded in 1979, Swallow Hill Music is a Denver-based nonprofit providing music education, outreach, programming, and concerts for more than 138,000 people annually. Focused on diverse music traditions on stage and in the classroom, the organizational values promote inclusiveness. Their school offers music education to all ages, in private lessons, workshops and camps, and group class formats. Swallow Hill also hosts open stages and jams open to members and non-members alike, and are designed to be a collaborative and educational experience for all participants. Community and school outreach programs have also been a central part of Swallow Hill’s activities, reaching well over 12,000 students in the Denver Metro area through assemblies, field trips, and in-school and after-school enrichment programs.
Mali Obomsawin (Rising Tide Award)
Mali is an award-winning Smithsonian Folkways Recordings artist from Odanak Wabanaki First Nation. She is a bassist, singer-songwriter, and composer who embraces multiple music traditions and has toured internationally as part of the band Lula Wiles. She is also a proud member of Welcome to Indian Country, an Indigenous performance production, and has worked with Red Sky Performances. Her latest project, Sweet Tooth, explores concepts of Indigenous identity, colonization, and resistance. Known for her sardonic songwriting, beyond the stage Mali is also a freelance journalist, penning insightful must-read articles for The Boston Globe, National Performance Network, and Smithsonian Folklife Magazine. She is a tireless advocate for Indigenous sovereignty and collective liberation, and works with the organizations Racial Equity and Justice as well as the Sunlight Media Collective. She is the founder and Executive Director of Bomazeen Land Trust, a Wabanaki-led nonprofit for land rematriation and food sovereignty. Mali is currently scoring and serving as musical supervisor for the upcoming film We Are The Warriors, addressing racist mascots and verbiage.