It’s our last day of publishing for the year and as is our wont, we can reveal the winners of this year’s AUK readers’ vote. Hundreds of you voted – in fact we had more votes this year than we’ve ever had before – and while some of your choices mirrored ours, there are some nice surprises too. As always, it’s nice to see the UK Americana scene looking so vibrant with talent, with so much obvious support among our readership. So here we go, here are our 2022 winners – as chosen by you!
Best UK Americana act of 2022: Dean Owens
Runners up: Elles Bailey, Yola, Lady Nade, The Hanging Stars, Peter Bruntnell, Danny George Wilson
For the second year running, Edinburgh’s Dean Owens wins our best UK Americana artist category. Dean has had another big year, 2022 seeing him back out on the road, with his new band Dean Owens & The Sinners. Highlights included performing at Edinburgh Castle, numerous UK festivals, and as far afield as Germany and Netherlands. Dean told us: “Winning this award last year was special enough, but to win it for the second year running is bloody amazing! It really is. I know there are so many great artists out there who have been working their backsides off in the past year, a year in which we were all able to get back out and play to real live audiences again. And also a year in which I was finally able to release my new album Sinner’s Shrine, and get on the road with my new band The Sinners. It’s so lovely to be recognised by the Americana UK readers and I’m extremely grateful for all the support from those readers and the good people at Americana UK who do such a fab job of spreading the word about what’s happening in the world of UK Roots music. What a wonderful Christmas present. Thanks so much.”
Best international act of 2022: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
Runners-up: The Delines, Courtney Marie Andrews, Brandi Carlisle, Wilco, Allison Russell
Last year Allison Russell pipped Jason Isbell to the post and this year their roles were reversed. The man who our current chancellor once called “anodyne” (and no that wasn’t a clever self-referential alt-country joke) walks away with our best international act category this year for him and his band – and what a year it’s been for him with some outstanding UK performances, coming atop our best album of the 21st-century list and even being nice to fans who are narky with him. We contacted his PR but got their “we are on our Christmas break” out of office. As someone commented, Isbell is our first Americana superstar. Long may he hold that title.
Best breakthrough act of 2022: Margo Cilker
Runners-up: Lady Nade, Skibeard
Oregon-born Margo Cilker is our breakthrough category winner this year, whose album ‘Pohorylle’ we said of last year: “producer Sera Cahoone has assembled a strong lineup to accompany Cilker in the studio and that talent, taken alongside a distinctive vocal that is heaven-sent for this genre, results in a highly promising debut.” Our Features Editor Clint West described her performance in the tiny backroom of the Castle Hotel as his “favourite small venue gig of the year”. What a treat it is to be able to still see someone of Cilker’s calibre in intimate spaces – which may not last for long at this rate so make the most of them! Margo had this message for AUK readers: “Thank you for naming me your 2022 Breakthrough Artist of the Year! I successfully navigated a number of festivals in the UK and Ireland. I made friends among those who showed up to listen in back rooms and on big stages. I met the radio DJs who spread the word in the UK long before I got there. I’m grateful for your support and for the genuine connection we made over chats about music, Buckfast, and beyond. Massive thanks to my team, Loose Music, and my UK bandmates who made the wheels turn. I look forward to returning with new music Someday Soon. Much love, Margo.”
Best UK Americana album of 2022: Dean Owens “Sinner’s Shrine”
Runners-up: Dave Sutherland “Last Drop of Empty” Elles Bailey “Shining in the Half Light”
Dean Owens was the runner-up in this category last year for his ‘Desert Trilogy’ and this year wins it outright with the excellent ‘Sinner’s Shrine’ which AUK’s late Gordon Sharpe raved about back in February. Indeed the album made such an impact that it gets a mention in the latest Ian Rankin ‘Rebus’ book “A Heart Full of Headstones” – how’s that for an accolade?! Dean had this message for AUK readers: “I’m genuinely blown away to have won the best album award with Sinner’s Shrine. This album means so much to me. To be able to travel to Tucson, Arizona and make a record with Calexico, a band whose music has been the soundtrack to so many of my big US road trips over the years was just an incredible thrill and honour. It was also a huge adventure for me, as I had no idea how it would all turn out. Joey Burns, John Convertino and all their Calexico family gave so much of themselves to the making of this record and in the end the crazy little dream I had of working with those guys someday actually came true. I’m so chuffed with how the record turned out and the nice welcome it’s received from the Americana/Roots music community in various parts of the world. Some of my good friends have released brilliant records in the past year. We’re lucky we have so many amazing artists in this country, from all different parts of the UK. I highly recommend checking out all the other records which have finally been able to see the light of day in the past twelve months. There are some crackers. Thanks to everyone who voted for me. I know it can’t have been easy choosing just one. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone. Cheers.”
Best international Americana album of 2022: Bonny Light Horseman “Rolling Golden Holy”
Runners-up: The Delines “The Sea Drift”, Wilco “Cruel Country”, Mary Gauthier “Dark Enough to See the Stars”, James McMurtry “Horses and the Hounds”
We commented in our review of Bonny Light Horseman’s ‘Rolling Golden Holy’ that “Of course it’s hardly a secret that Anaïs Mitchell, Josh Kaufman, and Eric D. Johnson have been denying like mad that they are a supergroup – although by any accepted definition of the term that is exactly what they are.” It’s a genuinely fantastic record and the runner-up in our writers’ choices for 2022, just behind the Delines which were your runners-up. We are so in tune with our readership – we should go for a drink sometime… The band told us: “Wow! Grateful to the Americana UK readers for recognizing our album! Thanks for your ears + hearts! We can’t wait to bring this music to the UK in February. Love, BLH”
Best Americana festival of 2022: Black Deer
Runners-up: Maverick, AmericanaFest (Nashville), Rambling Roots
There is real competition these days for best UK Americana festival, such is the wealth of choice we have, but this has been a dormant category for the last couple of years due to the pandemic. It’s reassuring then to know that out the other side so many superb Americana festivals have survived, and none is more worthy than Black Deer who despite a storm of epic proportions had one of the best festival line-ups ever in 2022. That’s what happens when you have 3 years to prepare. Debs Shilling & Gill Tee, Co-Founders told us: “Thank you to the readers of the catalytic Americana UK for voting Black Deer as your Festival of the Year 2022. We have been fortunate enough to be nominated for a few awards since we debuted in 2018, but this feels different for many reasons. To be recognised by your peers is one thing, but to be told you’re doing a good job by the very community you feel proud to be a part of… well, that feels very special. We’re proud to be the UK’s ‘Festival Of Americana’, proud to be readers and supporters of Americana UK and immensely proud to be voted ‘Festival Of The Year’ by you, the discerning readers of Americana UK. Thank you once again and happy Christmas! We’ll see you all in the deer park in 2023… ” Also this is the first time we’ve been described as “catalytic”!
Best radio show of 2022: Bob Harris Country, BBC Radio 2
Runners-up: Mike Ritchie on Sunday, Richard Leader’s American Pie, Radcliffe and Maconie
When so much of the modern world has changed in recent years (or maybe this is just getting old), it’s a reassuring constant that the delightful tones of Bob Harris are still on our airwaves after all these years, and once again he takes the best radio show category. Bob told us: “Thank you with all my heart for the support you have given The Country Show again this year. It is a wonderful weekly meeting place for the UK Americana/Country community and I’m so proud that we have broken all listening figure records this year. It’s incredible. Thank you to my producer Mark Hagen and to Radio 2 for keeping the door open. Here’s to more amazing music in 2023. Much love, Bob.”
Hero of 2022: Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Runners-up: Marcus Rashford, Mick Lynch
The winner of 2022’s hero of the year was probably not in doubt, nice to know that AUK readers share the same values as Time magazine, although bear in mind they have also awarded it to Adolf Hitler, Nikita Khrushchev, Ayatollah Khomeini and Joseph Stalin (twice). It’s fair to say when he started off life as a comedian a career-path to wartime leader probably wasn’t the obvious choice. Also how many people do you know with four ys in their name?
Villian of 2022: Boris Johnson
Runners-up: Liz Truss, Putin
This category should just be renamed “worst Tory” although it seems BoJo still generates more ire than his briefly-lived successor. And to the reader who voted for Jeremy Corbyn in this category, nice to know that he is still living rent-free in your head. Merry Christmas comrades!
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