by Whitney Phaneuf

Folk Alliance International kicked off the 29th edition of its annual conference — which runs February 15-19, in Kansas City, Missouri — with an awards show honoring veterans such as Bruce Cockburn (watch his AG Session above) alongside “Best of 2016” artists Sarah Jarosz and Parker Millsap. Check out all the award recipients below.

Cockburn received the inaugural People’s Voice Award, honoring artists committed to social and political commentary in their creative work and folk music career. A second new award, the Clearwater Award, which honors festivals that prioritizes sustainable event production, went to its namesake organization, the Clearwater Festival.

Emceed by Grammy-winner Paula Cole, the awards ceremony featured guest appearances by Eliza Gilkyson and Kris Kristofferson — who presented Cockburn with his award — and performances by Andres Ramirez, Amado Espinoza, Arelis Flores, Jean Rhoe, Kristofferson, and Gilkyson.

Billy Bragg will keynote the conference, centered this year around the theme of Forbidden Folk — a celebration of activism in art that aims to explore the past and present role of folk music in civil, labor, pacifist, and environmental movements. Folk Alliance International chose Bragg for his dedication to protest traditions and his sound that bridges folk music and punk rock. In a statement, Bragg says, “People tell me that they are inspired by my songs, and for that I’m thankful, but I take my inspiration from the only people in this equation who can actually make a difference—the audience.”

Be on the lookout for more coverage from AG and visit folk.org for more info.

International Folk Music Award 2017 Winners:
Album of the Year: Undercurrent, Sarah Jarosz
Song of the Year: “Black Man in a White World,” Michael Kiwanuka & Inflo
Artist of the Year: Parker Millsap
Spirit of Folk Awards: Barbara Dane, Chloe Goodyear, Michelle Conceison, Ramy Essam, Si Kahn, and SONiA disappear fear
Lifetime Achievement Awards: Iconic composer David Amram (Living), activist songwriter Malvin Reynolds (Legacy), and prolific Canadian folklorist Helen Creighton (Business/Academic)

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