The list of nominees for the 2018 Americana Awards has been released by Rolling Stone, and even though there is a front-runner, the growing genre is more reflective and accepting of society as a whole than any other niche in music. What was once seen as an outgrowth of folk music some 20 years ago has become its own force in appeal and message over the past decade. The availability of more than a dozen satellite radio channels dedicated to Americana hasn’t hurt, either. The list of nominees embraces young, old, in between, and revered across thresholds of country, rock, folk, and alternative.

The categories and the nominees truly make Americana live up to its name.

Potent notables

It comes as no surprise that Jason Isbell leads the pack of nominees. The former Drive-by Truckers founder has found his true lyrical and sonic home with the 400 Unit, and their album, “The Nashville Sound,” has garnered critical acclaim and filled concert halls. No artist has been more brutally honest about himself or his wrong turns in life than Isbell on “Southeastern” and the uplifting “Something More Than Free.” A song like “Speed Trap Town” tells any listener, anywhere why John Mayer refers to Isbell as “the greatest lyric writer of my generation,” one who “lives at a level where even great writers can only visit .” Jason Isbell, Margo Price, and Brandi Carlile all have nods for Album of the Year, Artist of the Year, and Song of the Year, and Isbell is also nominated for Duo/Group of the Year with the 400 Unit.

Veteran Americana icons John Prine and Mary Gauthier lend seniority and wisdom to the list of nominees. Prine is touring in support of his latest album, “Tree of Forgiveness,” and is up for Artist of the Year. Gauthier’s album, “ Rifles & Rosary Beads,” was created in collaboration with war veterans, and some have joined Mary Gauthier in concert for a truly cathartic experience.

Margo Price was stirring raves for her “All-American Made” album even before its release, and her frank explorations of “working girl feminism” really hit home for more than just one gender. Brandi Carlile herself confesses that “I've been through all sorts of vocal phases, from pop to R&B to blues,” still, she admits that “I can’t get the country and Western out of my voice.” The artist has found her place of comfort with Americana, and her album, “By the Way-- I Forgive You” places her in contention for Album of the Year and Artist of the Year.

A big welcome back

Lee Ann Womack, Lukas Nelson, and Nathaniel Ratcliff & the Night Sweats all know what it is to literally live and breathe the musician's life, from the stage to the studio, and dives to ballrooms of decorum. Lee Ann Womack had a comeback year and a perfect East Texas blues hit with “All the Trouble.” Lukas Nelson has shared the stage all his life with his father and famous siblings, aunt, and extended family, but he made a lasting musical impression of his own with his infectious and emotional self-titled album, “Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real,” and the ensemble is nominated as Group of the Year. The high-energy, soulful voice and driving horns from Nathaniel Ratcliff & the Night Sweats are hard to forget, and they have their own nod as Group of the Year.

Not to be missed Lilly Hiatt, Anderson East, Courtney Marie Andrews, and Tyler Childers are included in the Emerging Artists category.

The awards are the jewel of the Americana Fest in Nashville from September 11-16 in Nashville.

From the heart-stopping exuberance of youth to the heart-wrenching reflection of life in later years, Americana music embraces the spectrum of emotions and speaks to every generation.