Ryan Bingham was the big winner during last night’s Ninth Annual Americana Music Association Honors and Awards Show at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. The 29-year old singer-songwriter was named Artist of the Year and won Song of the Year honors for “The Weary Heart,” the theme from the film Crazy Heart. Rosanne Cash’s The List was voted Album of the Year, The Avett Brothers were named Duo/Group of the Year. Buddy Miller was voted Instrumentalist of the Year yet again, and Hayes Carll drew more votes than Bingham and three other nominees in the New & Emerging Artist category.

Ryan Bingham

Bingham beat out musical luminaries Patty Griffin, Levon Helm, Steve Earle and Ray Wylie Hubbard for Artist of the Year. “The Weary Kind,” a co-write with T Bone Burnett that Bingham performed on the movie soundtrack, has been racking up awards this year. These include both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Original Song, as well as a Broadcast Film Critics Association Critics’ Choice Award for Best Song. Bingham, a New Mexico native and former bull rider on the rodeo circuit, also played a small role in Crazy Heart. He has two self-released albums and three on the Lost Highway label to his credit; his latest, Junky Star, was released last week.

In addition to the award winners who were selected by AMA members from among a group of nominees whose eligibility was based on work released between May 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010, Lifetime Achievement Award honorees also were recognized. They include Wanda Jackson, the queen of rockabilly and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member (Performance); John Mellencamp, the gritty, blue-collar honky-tonk heartland rocker (Songwriting); Luke Lewis, chairman of Universal Music Group Nashville, which counts Lost Highway among its imprints (Executive); Greg Leisz, a noted lap and pedal steel guitarist and mandolinist, whose work can be heard on recordings by Lucinda Williams, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and more (Instrumental); and Brian Ahern, who has produced albums by Emmylou Harris, George Jones, Rodney Crowell, Jesse Winchester and Ricky Skaggs, among others (Producer/Engineer).

Jim Lauderdale, himself a two-time Americana Honors & Awards recipient, hosted the awards show that also featured a band led by Buddy Miller, last year’s big winner — with awards for artist, album and song of the year. To cap off the awards show, Robert Plant, the former Led Zeppelin vocalist — who rocked the Americana music world in 2008 when he and contemporary bluegrass star Alison Krauss teamed up on the multi-award-winning album Raising Sand — treated the audience to a performance with his current touring Band of Joy (featuring Miller, Patty Griffin and Darrel Scott).

The Honors and Awards ceremony was a highlight of the 11th Annual Americana Festival and Conference, a four-day-and-night event that continues through Saturday, Sept. 11. It features plenty of learning and networking opportunities, as well as more than 100 music showcases by new and veteran artists at various venues throughout Nashville.

“Very quietly, Americana has become the fastest rising music community today,” maintains Jed Hilly, the Americana Music Association’s executive director. Established in 1999, the professional trade association (www.americanamusic.org) is dedicated to building and promoting the Americana genre and the individuals who participate in the industry.