The Ameripolitan Music Awards Came Home to Austin

Dale Watson’s annual event had its biggest and most rhinestone-encrusted iteration to date.

On Sunday night at ACL Live, rhinestones, fringe, and cowboy boots reigned as the Ameripolitan Music Awards held its annual event. Started in Austin in 2014 by Texas Music legend Dale Watson, the series left Austin back in 2018 and was subsequently interrupted by the pandemic, but it has finally returned to the Lone Star State.

A reaction to modern, mainstream country music, the awards event aims to spotlight and honor some of the best rising talent in a handful of niche music genres: honky tonk, rockabilly, western swing, and outlaw country. Plus, there’s a focus on honoring the progenitors and hard-working artists that popularized these styles in the first place.

For this year’s event, Watson served as emcee, while musicians like Brennen Leigh, Les Greene, and Reckless Kelly accepted awards. Every performance throughout the evening felt special, from a song by the Wonder Women of Country (a trio comprised of Brennen Leigh, Melissa Carper, and Kelly Willis) to a rousing rendition of “(Hey Baby) Que Paso” delivered by Texas Torados members Flaco Jiménez and Augie Meyers. The latter were also the night’s proud recipients of the Founder of the Sound award.

Photo by Bryan C. Parker.

Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson accepted the Master Award for lifetime achievement in music, and had one of the evening’s most memorable pieces of attire: a white blazer replete with imagery of cacti, bluebonnets, and weed leaves.

But perhaps the most transcendent moment of the event came in Kaitlin Butts’ acceptance speech for honky tonk female of the year. The songwriter shed a few tears while praising the perseverance and determination of women in music who regularly face conscious and subconscious biases.

Photo by Bryan C. Parker.

From the top of a blinged-out cowboy hat to the tip of boot, this year’s Ameripolitan Awards were easily the most successful thus far. It seems returning to a city that he once left in the rear-view mirror might have been the best move for lauded musical troubadour Watson. And we’ll look forward to welcoming him back again should the event return to Austin again.