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Saturday September 23, 2006

Neil Young, James McMurtry win Americana music awards

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) - Singer and songwriter James McMurtry took home album of the year and song of the year honors, and veteran rocker Neil Young was named artist of the year at the fifth annual Americana Honors and Awards. 

The awards, which honor American music based on the country, folk and bluegrass tradition, also recognized the Drive-By Truckers as duo/group of the year and guitarist Kenny Vaughan as instrumentalist of the year. They were presented Friday. 

McMurtry, 44, won album of the year for "Childish Things'' and song of the year for "We Can't Make It Here Anymore,'' a pointed commentary on the economy, war and other issues. 

The Austin, Texas-based singer is the son of "Lonesome Dove'' author Larry McMurtry and credits his father with exposing him to country music as a boy. 

Young, 60, is one of rock's most influential figures _ and one of its most erratic, shifting from tender folk ballads to feedback-drenched grunge, electronica, rockabilly, blues and full-blown country. 

Last year, he released "Prairie Wind,'' a country-flavored album recorded in Nashville, and this year put out "Living with War,'' a collection of protest songs that included the blunt "Let's Impeach the President.'' 

Held at the historic Ryman Auditorium, the awards show was hosted by Jim Lauderdale and featured appearances by Elvis Costello, Rosanne Cash, Rodney Crowell, Charlie Daniels, Vince Gill and many others. 

Crowell received a lifetime achievement award for song writing and Alejandro Escovedo received one for performing. 

Besides instrumentalist of the year, Vaughan also was honored with the new lifetime achievement award for instrumentalist. 

Daniels became the fifth recipient of the Spirit of Americana Free Speech Award, while the family of songwriter Mickey Newbury accepted the President's Award, traditionally given in posthumous recognition to an artist for outstanding career achievement. 

The awards were presented by the Americana Music Association. It is in part a reaction to slicker mainstream country music that grew in popularity in the 1990s, the organization said.-AP T