Awards Show Live-Streamed by NPR Music

Kansas City, MO (February 22, 2024) –The International Folk Music Awards – presented by Folk Alliance International (FAI), a 501(c)3 and the foremost global nonprofit for folk music— took place last night as part of the opening of the conference and Best of 2023 awards were won by Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway (Album of the Year); Billy Strings (Artist of the Year); and Iris Dement (Song of the Year). NPR Music and World Cafe live-streamed the awards show.

Press photos from the awards (OK to use).

The following have won awards at the ceremony (with the nominees listed), in addition to the below:

Album of the Year
Amatssou – Tinariwen (Wedge Records)
City Of Gold – Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway (Nonesuch)
False Lankum – Lankum (Rough Trade)
Stand in the Joy – William Prince (Six Shooter Records)
Welcome to Whatever – Rainbow Girls (self-release)

Artist of the Year (sponsored by the Folk Americana Roots Hall of Fame)
Billy Strings
Digging Roots
Gaby Moreno
Nickel Creek
Madi Diaz

Song of the Year
“Changes” written by Joy Oladokun & Dan Wilson, performed by Joy Oladokun
“Keep It On A Burner” written and performed by Margo Cilker
“Tears Run Dry” written by Abraham Alexander, Ian Barter, Leo Stannard, performed by Abraham Alexander
“The Returner” written by Allison Russell, Drew Lindsay, & JT Nero, performed by Allison Russell
“Workin’ On A World” written and performed by Iris Dement

Strings said, “I’m incredibly honored… The fact that my name even comes up in conversation with the other nominees just blows my mind. I made so many great friends at FAI in 2013-14 when I was ripping showcases and pickin’ all up and down them hallways and hotel rooms. I’d like to say thanks to Folk Alliance for giving us artists a place to come together and make lifelong friends, showcase our music, bump elbows, meet the right people, and start to grow our careers in an organic and natural way.”

Tuttle said, “I feel so lucky to be part of this folk music community. I draw so much inspiration from the folk tradition when I was writing this album, I imagined these songs being played by folks around the campfire. Music really is my City of Gold. I wish I was there with you all in Kansas City. I know we’d have a great time.”

The People’s Voice Award is presented to an individual who unabashedly embraces social and political commentary in their creative work and public careers. This year’s recipient is Alynda Segarra (of Hurray For the Riff Raff, which has released nine albums).

Segarra said, “I started writing songs as a way to have power in this world. I started a band to create a family. Since my first days playing music on the street in New Orleans, I’ve turned to the mysteries of songwriting to document, honor, and defend the people on the outskirts of society. Folk music drew me in because it tells the truth, it disgraces the warmongers, and it defends the innocent. It’s been enlivening to watch folk music become more visibly queer and radical.”

She then added, “I want to use this platform for an immediate and permanent ceasefire and an end to the occupation in Palestine.”

Lifetime Achievement Awards were granted to four-time GRAMMY Award-winner, thirteen-time GRAMMY nominee, and writer of a #1 Billboard Hot Country Song chart hit, Tracy Chapman; Chilean songwriter and activist Victor Jara; and McCabe’s Guitar Shop, which has been hosting concerts in southern California for over 50 years. (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.)

Walt McGraw of McCabe’s called for adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Performances included:

The Steel Wheels (also the house band)

“star in the making” (Folk Alley) Kaia Kater singing Odetta’s “Moving It On”;

Joy Clark, whose music is “pure magic to watch and hear” singing Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason”;

Latin GRAMMY winner Mireya Ramos singing Victor Jara’s “Manifiesto,” which was first released in 1974, shortly after Jara’s death by the Chilean military;

and the finale, with founding member of Old Crow Medicine Show, Willie Watson in a tribute to McCabe’s Guitar Shop, singing Elizabeth Cotten’s “Freight Train” at which point, Malena Cadiz, who “has a voice that grabs you within seconds” (NPR), joined the stage to sing Jackson Browne’s “Rock Me On The Water.”

A moment of silence was observed at the outset of the awards to acknowledge the shooting that happened across the street last week.

In addition to the IFMAs and presentations, over 2,000 artist performances are taking place under one roof this week. The 36th Annual Conference runs through Saturday in Kansas City, MO, representing a convening of some of the music industry’s leading authorities and creators to address the ability of folk music to galvanize and catalyze movements to advance our world.

(Final nominees for Album, Artist, and Song of the Year are compiled from US, Canadian, and international “best of” annual industry and media lists in addition to the year-end Folk DJ Charts. Award winners are determined by FAI’s voting membership. )

For The Rising Tide Award (sponsored by Levitt Foundation), FAI tapped Guatemalan songwriter, vocalist, and activist in defense of women’s and indigenous people’s rights, Sara Curruchich, who is the first musician to use Kaqchikel language of her people in popular music for an international audience. The Rising Tide 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.

Curruchich said, “Being the first Maya singer-songwriter to be recognized with this prestigious award is a dream come true. This award not only represents a personal achievement but is also a step and a testement to the diversity and richness that we, as indigenous artists, bring.”

The Clearwater Award and Spirit of Folk Awards were awarded and new members to the Folk Radio Hall of Fame were inducted. The Clearwater Award is presented to a festival that prioritizes environmental stewardship and demonstrates public leadership in sustainable event production and this year will go to LEAF Global Arts Festival. The Spirit of Folk Awards went to Lead Belly Estate’s Terika Dean; artist from the Métis Nation of Ontario, Amanda Rheaume; Jim Fleming, founder of the booking agency Fleming Artists; and FAI’s own Jerod Rivers, who has served in the organization for eleven years in a number of roles, presently as Conference Director. 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, their community building, and their demonstrated leadership.

Rheaume spoke about her start and the importance of keeping open mics running and related it to acts of kindness, saying, “I started playing music by going to open mics. All I did was travel around Toronto and Ottawa playing open mics. I used to get so much joy by who would sign up and sing. Without community, we’re really not going anywhere. We really do need each other.”

Dean said, “My first introduction to Folk Alliance [International] was in 1998. I am extremely honored and grateful that I’m standing here able to pick up where my grandmother left off.”

In presenting the award to Fleming, Tom Paxton talked about what Folk Alliance International means to him, saying, “This is easily my favorite week of the year. I come in the door of the hotel and I am home.”

In presenting Dean with the Award, the Rainbow Girls said, “We all know we wouldn’t be here if not for the black musicians who forged the way with blues.”

Newly minted Folk Radio Hall of Famers include Folk Alley’s Linda Fahey; forty-plus year veteran Jan Vanderhorst; Mountain Stage founder Larry Groce; Bob Sherman, whose “Woody’s Children” show graced NYC’s airwaves for nearly 55 years; and Celtic music ambassador Brian O’Donovan. The Folk Radio Hall of Fame was established to recognize radio DJs who have made an outstanding contribution to the preservation, promotion, and presentation of folk music, and who have demonstrated and inspired leadership in the broadcast field.

Folk Alliance International interim director Jennifer Roe also announced from the stage that next year’s conference will take place February 19-23, 2025, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada at the Queens Elizabeth Hotel, where John Lennon and Yoko Ono recorded “Give Peace a Chance.”

More About The Theme

Folk Alliance International’s 2024 Conference theme Alchemy: A Transformative Force explores how changes in culture alter the ways we make and share music, which, in turn, transforms lives and changes the world. The power of alchemy can manifest, for example, when an artist processes their individual pain into words and vibrations that connect and comfort listeners. The alchemy theme invites us to lean into processes of discovery and experimentation and to think about how we nurture the sparks of creativity that light fires of change. The conference will explore the idea of alchemy and transformation as it relates to:

* the power and transformative force of the creative process, and its cultural influence, to alter the world and effectuate meaningful change
* new frontiers in technology to provide a path to transformation
* resilience and innovation in business
* the important chemistry between artist and audience

More About the Conference

Official Showcases feature jury-selected, tour-ready musicians representing diverse cultures, languages, and sounds. These thirty-minute sets are performed on full production stages.

Private Showcases turn hotel rooms into listening rooms. These performances are more intimate, often without any amplification, and turn each floor of the hotel into its own festival.

The Folk Alliance International conference also offers various networking and mentoring opportunities, including Peer Sessions (for agents, labels, festivals, and artists), speed meetings, artist mentorship meetings, summits, and Affinity Group sessions for communities including BIPOC, LGBTQ2IA+, Women, Folks 55+, Folks with Disabilities, and more.

About Folk Alliance International

Founded in 1989, and governed by a 21-member board of directors, Folk Alliance International (FAI) is the world’s largest membership organization for the folk music industry and community. Its mission is to serve, strengthen, and engage the global folk music community through preservation, presentation, and promotion.

FAI values diversity, equity, inclusion, and access, is committed to 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.

Past Artist in Residence partnerships include UNESCO, the International Rescue Committee, the WWI Museum, Kansas City Ballet, the Kansas City Police Department, the Topeka Women’s Correctional Facility, UMKC’s Mathematics Dept., the Kansas City Art Institute, and Friends of the Kaw River.

Additionally, FAI provides information, advocacy, education, and professional development for over 19,000 in its community and oversees an IRS Group Exemption program in support of over 50 US non-profits.

About The Steel Wheels

Virginia-based folk-rock band The Steel Wheels have spent almost twenty years writing, recording, and touring, all the while constantly honing their evolving brand of American roots music. Additionally they are the founders and hosts of the Red Wing Roots Music Festival, a beloved staple of the Shenandoah Valley. Through the years, The Steel Wheels have drawn on both traditional form and modern sounds to capture the beauty in all of life’s varied trials and triumphs. Their new album, Sideways, which was released on February 9, 2024 via Big Ring Records, is a meditation on resilience and survival. Trent Wagler, the band’s lead singer and primary songwriter, penned many of the songs in response to loss, and the uncertainty that comes with facing what we can’t control.

About Tracy Chapman

Four-time Grammy Award winner and thirteen-time nominee, Tracy Chapman first commanded the world’s attention with “Fast Car,” a stunning 1988 single that felt both intensely personal and universal. As listeners discovered her self-titled album that same year, Chapman emerged as one of the most important musical voices of her generation. Songs like “Baby, Can I Hold You” and “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” showed different facets of her writing, as did her 1995 Billboard Hot #3 smash, “Give Me One Reason.”

Chapman grew up in a black working-class neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio. She earned a scholarship to attend a boarding school in Connecticut then enrolled in Tufts University. She performed acoustic sets in Boston while still in college; at the age of 24, she released Tracy Chapman, the first of her eight studio albums. “Fast Car” found a new audience when Luke Combs’ rendition reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart in 2023.

About Victor Jara

Victor Jara wrote beautiful and powerful songs that reflected the lives of everyday Chilean citizens in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a politically turbulent time in that country’s history. With his spellbinding guitar and a warm, confiding voice, Jara sang eloquently about common struggles and social unrest. Due to his support of Chilean president Salvador Allende and the left-wing Popular Unity party, Jara was beaten and killed in 1973 during a right-wing coup in Santiago.

Born into poverty in 1932, Jara found his calling on the stage after time spent in seminary and military service. He enrolled in the theater department at the University of Chile and met his future wife, Joan. In 1957, he befriended Chilean folk singer Violeta Parra, whose mission was to revitalize and preserve traditional Chilean folk music. Both musicians are considered key figures in what became known as the “Nueva Canción” (New Song) movement.

About McCabe’s Guitar Shop

McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, California, has been a landmark for acoustic, jazz, and world music since 1958. Founded by furniture maker Gerald McCabe, the store initially built its clientele among the area’s folk and roots performers who could buy instruments, books and records, or have their guitar repaired. Through instructional classes, McCabe’s has introduced generations of aspiring musicians to the pleasure of playing acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin, dulcimer, and numerous other instruments.

The store moved down the street from its original location in 1964. By the end of the decade, McCabe’s started booking intimate concerts inside the store. Elizabeth Cotten and Jackson Browne were among the first to perform shows there, with Bill Monroe, John Fahey, Ralph Stanley, Townes Van Zandt, Memphis Slim, Doc Watson, John Lee Hooker, Linda Ronstadt soon to follow. The small room soon attracted incredible talent eager to play for quiet, attentive audiences. The independent, family-owned McCabe’s Guitar Shop moved to its current location in 1972 and remains a cornerstone of the Southern California music community. Beck, Rufus Wainwright, Elvis Costello, Aimee Mann, Justin Townes Earle, Jeff Tweedy, The Jayhawks, Fiona Apple, Eric Clapton, Emmylou Harris, Kathleen Edwards, KT Tunstall, Lucinda Williams, Monsters of Folk, PJ Harvey, Roseanne Cash, R.E.M., Vince Gill, Tom Waits, and Taj Mahal have all performed at McCabe’s.

About Alynda Segarra

After running away from home in the Bronx at 17, Alynda Segarra founded two bands in New Orleans some 15 years ago, Dead Man’s Orchestra and Hurray For the Riff Raff, whose ninth album, The Past is Still Alive, releases this week on Nonesuch Records. In February 2014, Hurray for the Riff Raff had their ATO Records debut with Small Town Heroes. The album featured “The Body Electric,” a song that NPR’s Ann Powers called “The Political Song of the Year” in 2014, saying the record “sweeps across eras and genres with grace and grit.” From there, Segarra reconnected with her Puerto Rican heritage on Hurray for the Riff Raff’s 2017 album, The Navigator. After that, Alynda began delivering musical instruments and inspiration to students in Puerto Rico. HFRR’s 2022 Nonesuch debut, Life on Earth, delves into survival and what that means for both individuals and society. They remain on an essential exploration of the best role of the activist artist who can use an outsider perspective to inspire.

About Sara Curruchich

Since emerging in 2012, Guatemalan songwriter and vocalist Sara Curruchich has sung in both Spanish and the Kaqchikel language of her people, the first musician to use the latter in popular music for an international audience. Her music is thus born from her people’s collective and individual feelings, history, memory, culture, languages, and struggles, as well as her own, personal stance as an artist. Her 2015 song “Ch’uti’xtän” first gained her fame within her country. Since then, she has released two albums and multiple singles. Curruchich is also an activist in defense of women’s and indigenous people’s rights, for which, she won the MIAW Transformer Award at the 2021 MTV Millennial Awards, served as an ambassador for the HeForShe movement with UN Women Guatemala, and was selected for the Ford Fellowship Foundation Global Fellowship Program. Sara’s voice and message of love, awareness, respect, and defense of life in all its forms, have led many people to regard her as a beacon of light and hope.

About LEAF Global Arts Festival

LEAF, the Lake Eden Arts Festival, has created a remarkable vision for a music festival that forms the foundation for a non-profit organization working on a global basis from its western North Carolina location. Since 1995, LEAF Global Arts has worked to connect cultures and create community through music, arts education and experiences, to cultivate curiosity, preserve cultures and promote global understanding. LEAF prioritizes sustainability with filtered water refill stations, extensive composting, recycling, and repurposing as much as material as possible (such as tent frames). All vendors use compostable cups, plates, and utensils. They also installed grid power to eliminate generators, except as emergency backups. The campus now conserves water via lower-flow filters and saves energy via newly installed, efficient light bulbs and fixtures.

Spring and fall festivals on the historic site of Black Mountain College, where founder Jennifer Pickering grew up, celebrate the roots and branches of the music and dance of American traditional music and the music of the African diaspora. LEAF works year-round, establishing LEAF Global Headquarters as a cultural center in Asheville’s historic Club Del Cardo, presenting field trips for students from preschool through high school, Schools and Streets Camps through the summer, and during winter break for elementary students, and engaging in cultural preservation, expeditions, and global arts education, all based in love and gratitude.

About Jerod Rivers

A musician, engineer, and producer (with a background in urban planning and architectural engineering, and a love for outdoor adventuring), Jerod has devoted almost eleven years of service to Folk Alliance International. He was the first local hire when FAI relocated to Kansas City, serving initially as the Membership Manager, later taking on systems and technology responsibilities as operations evolved, and ultimately landing as Conference Director. He has administered the board election process for years, been a steadfast support for the regional elections, and throughout it all has focused on community relations: working to assist members, volunteers, and industry alike.

About Terika Dean

Terika Dean, great-great niece of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and Blues Hall of Famer Lead Belly, chairs the Blues Foundation, is a board member for the Lead Belly Foundation, and serves as the Licensing Manager for the Lead Belly Estate. Dean advocates passionately for the preservation and celebration of the blues while strengthening the connections among the folk, blues, and Americana communities. In 2012, she left the healthcare field to work full time for the Lead Belly Estate, where Dean develops projects that continue to expand Lead Belly’s cultural legacy using his name, image, and likeness.

About Amanda Rheaume

Amanda Rheaume, a citizen of the Métis Nation of Ontario and an artist that has self-managed her music career for nearly 20 years, co-founded Ishkode Records and serves as Operations Director of the International Indigenous Music Summit. As an artist, with five albums and four EPs, she has explored her Métis roots that were not stressed in her childhood. Her 2013 album based in family stories, Keep A Fire, earned a Juno nomination and won a Canadian Folk Music Award for Indigenous Songwriter of the Year. Amanda is a proud member of the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

About Jim Fleming

Forty-five years ago, Jim Fleming founded the agency that has been known as Fleming Artists for more than a quarter century. A partnership with David Tamulevich during the 1980s moved the agency from theatre to folk music and led to representation of such artists as Ani DiFranco, Tom Paxton, Judy Collins, and Jeff Daniels. Jim was part of a cohort of the leading folk agents whose support proved essential to the early years of Folk Alliance bringing artists and presenters into the fold. Fleming Artists has remained committed to advancing the careers of artists who work for a better world and developing positive partnerships among presenters, artists, and agents.

About Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway

GRAMMY Award-winning singer, songwriter and musician Molly Tuttle’s City of Gold follows Tuttle’s acclaimed 2022 record, Crooked Tree, which won Best Bluegrass Album at the 65th Annual GRAMMY Awards and led NPR Music to call her, “a female flat picker extraordinaire with agility, speed and elegance who distinctively brings American roots music into the spotlight,” adding that the album “marries the improvisatory solos of traditional bluegrass with singer-songwriter sophistication.”

Produced by Tuttle and Jerry Douglas and recorded at Nashville’s Sound Emporium Studios, City of Gold was inspired by Tuttle’s constant touring with Golden Highway these past few years, during which they have grown together as musicians and performers, cohering as a band. These 13 tracks—mostly written by Tuttle and Ketch Secor (Old Crow Medicine Show)—capture the electric energy of the band’s live shows by highlighting each members’ musical strengths. In addition to Tuttle and Secor, Mason Via also co-wrote “Down Home Dispensary,” while Melody Walker and Shelby Means co-wrote “Next Rodeo.”

American Songwriter called her “one of the world’s best guitar players.”

About Billy Strings

One of the top emerging artists across all genres of music, Billy Strings has made his most ambitious album to date with Renewal, a 16-song collection that effortlessly positions him as a singular talent—one who reveres the history of the acoustic music that inspired him, while pushing it forward into new spaces and audiences through his incredible live shows.

Serving as a reflection of Strings’ diverse musical influences, Renewal reaches well beyond bluegrass with elements of heavy metal.

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