What is Ameripolitan? The Ameripolitan Awards Weekender website‘s list of nominees for the 2023 honors ends with a note defining the term as “a word that represents the different heritage of roots music that inform the artists that you see here. Much of the music is hard to define to a single genre and as musicians, we tend to draw inspiration from many things to create a unique voice or sound.”

The Ameripolitan awards are given in four categories: Western Swing, Outlaw, Rockabilly, and Honky Tonk. Artists in each category were well represented at last weekend’s event with showcases Friday and Saturday and the Awards show Sunday night.

Founded by Dale Watson in 2014 in Austin, Texas, the Ameripolitan nonprofit organization moved to Memphis, Tennessee, when he did in 2018. This year’s Weekender was held at the Guesthouse at Graceland, on Elvis Presley Boulevard. Coming back from a two-year COVID hiatus, and with the sights and sounds of the hit movie Elvis lingering in the air, this year’s event was a humdinger!  

The column is fortunate to have had Kevin Smith there to report on the weekend. While his photos have frequently been featured in this column, his last full report was in 2019, when he highlighted the rockabilly fest Nashville Boogie.

The 2023 Ameripolitan Awards Weekender by Kevin Smith 

This grand celebration of music involved so many wonderful performances that I simply can’t talk about all of them here, so I’m just going to mention a few highlights and takeaways. (You can browse the full schedule here — what a list of names!)

The singular highlight for me was the incomparable Sierra Ferrell, who took home the Western Swing Female Award. Part old-time mountain music, part honky-tonk, with a healthy dash of 1930s Django jazz thrown in, Ferrell played a highly exciting set to a packed house at the Graceland Theater. Truly a unique and creative soul, and at the top of her game, it’s no wonder that she has quickly become a beloved performer.

Other singer-songwriters who grabbed me included Texan Kaitlin Butts, and Nashville’s Kristina Murray and Emily Nenni. Also from Nashville, Melissa Carper and Brennen Leigh played a batch of western swing-inspired songs and were joined by Grammy-winning vocalist and fiddler Katie Shore from Asleep at the Wheel. Another highlight was India Ramey, who performed at a Hanks Williams tribute. 

Ultra-traditionalist Jake Penrod was a crowd favorite, playing honky-tonk the way it was done back in the golden era of country music, and he just may have the best Hank Williams vocal interpretation of anybody. Rockabilly was well represented, and it is always a thrill to catch Joey Simeone, frontman for The Bellfuries.  True to form, his Sam Cooke-inspired vocals absolutely wowed the crowd.  

Fans of country and rockabilly guitar had lots to rave about as well. Kyle Eldridge and Sean Mencher put on a performance for the ages featuring tributes to guitar greats Merle Travis, Chet Atkins, and Joe Maphis. Rising guitar star Mitch Polzak also dazzled with his instrumental interpretation of Sergio Leone’s theme music for spaghetti westerns. By far, though, the most popular band representing the rockabilly genre at the moment is The Hi-Jivers from Nashville. They are a husband-wife duo that focuses on a hybrid of rockabilly that’s steeped in the blues.  

The Awards

Complete with a fashion show, red carpet, and an afterparty, the awards ceremony closed out the weekend on Sunday night with performances by The Whitmore Sisters, Wayne Hancock, Brennen Leigh, and many more. In addition to the annual awards, listed below, some of the music’s legends received special awards for their lifetime contributions. This year’s recipients were country music trailblazer Johnny Rodriguez and honky-tonkers The Adams Brothers. Rodriguez was a popular star in the late ’70s and into the early ’80s. He’s well known as a superior vocalist, and he performed on this night, playing Lefty Frizzell’s “That’s the Way Love Goes” to a standing ovation.  Perhaps best known as the touring band for both George Jones and Johnny Paycheck, The Adams Brothers’ roots run deeper still, as they backed up other legendary performers including Ray Price and Marty Robbins, Loretta Lynn, Little Jimmy Dickens, Merle Haggard, and Buck Owens.  

What a weekender, my head is still buzzing. 

Here’s a list of the 2023 Ameripolitan Award nominees and winners (in bold):

Hannah Juanita
Kathryn Legendre
Kristina Murray
Summer Dean

Dallas Burrow
Garrett T Capps
Jeremy Pinnell

Cory Grinder & The Playboy Scouts
Croy & The Boys
The Shootouts
The Waymores

Brit Taylor
Emily Nenni
Kaitlin Butts
Rachel Brooke

Coleman Williams
Scott H. Biram
Vincent Neil Emerson
Willi Carlisle

Dallas Moore Band
Jenny Don’t & The Spurs
The Rhyolite Sound
The Whitmore Sisters

Amy Griffin
Jane Rose
Mozzy Dee
Saudia Young

Eddie Clendening
Mitch Polzak
Nic Roulette
Sean K. Preston

The Hi-Jivers
The Phantom Shakers

Brennen Leigh
Carolyn Sills
Melissa Carper
Sierra Ferrell

A Jay Wade
Kyle Eldridge
Sage Guyton
Wild Earp

The Southwest Biscuit Company
Sad Daddy
West of Texas
Western Swing Authority
The Lucky Stars

Daniel Mason (banjo)
Katie Shore (fiddle)
Kullen Fox (trumpet + piano)
Mike Bernal (drums)
T. Jarrod Bonta (piano)

Celia Villagran – Texas Hellkitten Radio
Jimi Palacios – Country Du Monde
Kevin Martinez – Colonel Paco Chaos Pacobilly Hour
Marivi Yubero Garcia – Marivipolitan
Del Villarreal – Go Kat, GO! The Rock-A-Billy Show!

Knuckleheads, Kansas City
Rattlesnake Saloon – Munich, Germany
Roosters Country – Mesa, Arizona
The Southgate House Revival – Newport, Kentucky
Sagebrush – Austin, Texas

Michael Hearne’s Big Barn Dance – Taos, New Mexico
Western Swing Out – Tehachapi, California
Vintage Torque Fest – Dubuque, Iowa
Zoofest – Lincoln, Nebraska


We welcome you to SXSW 2022! This year, I am proud to present Goldy, an LA based four piece, who makes rock ‘n roll pop music. Their songs are very catchy and melodic and this is their first conference. The came to me via Producer Marvin Etzioni who has been very busy in the studio this year, also working with client’s Grey DeLisle and Eddie Clendening in The Roughhousers project I wrote about last month. Expect a sneak peak as the media is chomping at the bit! Grey will serve as out Emcee and comic relief on this magic carpet ride. Eddie will showcase his hot Rock-a-billy band from Vegas.

Annie Marie Lewis and Danny B Harvey will be in tough competition this year for cutest family band! As a guitarist, producer and composer Danny has played and recorded with such great artists as Levi Dexter, Tim Polecat, Johnny Ramone, Nancy Sinatra, Lemmy Kilmister, Lee Rocker, Slim Jim Phantom and Wanda Jackson. In recent years he has have been performing and recording with the very talented singer Lynda Kay Parker as 1/2 of the Duo called THE LONESOME SPURS. Their first CD was released in the fall of 2006 on Cleopatra records to critical acclaim. He is also well known as a founding member of the “take no Prisoners” rock’n’roll trio THE HEAD CAT. A band he started in 2001 with Lemmy Kilmister from Motorhead and Slim Jim Phantom from the Stray Cats. In recent years Danny B started a Gothabilly Group with Jyrki 69 from the Finish Goth Band 69 EYES which they call The 69 Cats. They have two records out in Cleopatra Records. The most important new musical project Danny B is involved with his with his new wedded wife Annie Marie Lewis. She is none other than the niece of the “Killer” Jerry Lee Lewis and it was at his concert that Danny B first saw Annie Marie opening the show for the rock’n’roll icon. They are just back from the Outlaw Country Cruise.

We expect to see their Family Band competitors there next year;) Please meet NOCONA, I am very excited to kick off a great season with this new band to the roster.
Nocona begins with the husband/wife team of Adrienne and Chris Isom. The Isoms – who played in New York, Austin, and Toronto before finally relocating to Los Angeles. Nocona is a rock band who draw their roots from Country, Folk, Punk, Rock and psychedelia. Known for taking the psychedelia of the 13th Floor Elevators and mashing it up with the Bakersfield sound—Roky and Buck; Love and the Burrito Brothers, their previous albums, Nocona and Long Gone Song drew rave reviews and the band has played some of the biggest festivals in America – Outside Lands, Bonnaroo, and Stagecoach. Los Dos out July 10, 2020 finds the band digging deeper into its bracing melding of hard-edged Americana and a keen punk-bred sensibility. Right up my alley, right?

What can I say about beloved hometown fiddle hero Warren Hood? He is a class act, he has recently shared stages with Wilco, Alejandro Escovedo and Sheila E. You do not want to leave Austin without dancing to Warren’s top notch band!

Texas native, Morris Mills returns home to headline our Atomic Music Group’s first night for showcases. Join us Thursday, 3/17 at 1am at Lambert’s, in the heart of Austin’s touring concert district. Mills & band will bring their nostalgic Funk/Rock appeal to the Lone Star festival. With remnants of legends past, Mills set will embody a dynamic, energetic performance that will wow the masses. Those present with receive a freshly minted NFT compliments of Morris and SXSW super sponsor Blockchain Creative Labs. I bet it feels good to be King! This year will be special and I am very happy to be back in the throne in my old stomping grounds!

Speaking of me (lol), I am Mentoring again and would love to answer your booking questions. I am game to go deep with the things no one else will about life on the road. After three decades, I have some stories and some answers and tricks!

Rsvp is required, Mar 18, 2022 4:00pm – 5:15pm CT Hilton Austin Downtown Room 406