Held Friday night in Nashville, the Americana Music Association's (AMA) inaugural Americana Awards honored the likes of Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, and producer/artist T Bone Burnett, while Cash and

Held Friday night in Nashville, the Americana Music Association's (AMA) inaugural Americana Awards honored the likes of Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, and producer/artist T Bone Burnett, while Cash and his wife June Carter Cash graced the show with a surprise performance. Cash, who was not expected to attend the event, received the Spirit of Americana Free Speech Award.

Freedom Forum First Amendment Center founder John Siegenthaler presented the award to Cash, describing the recipient as "the advocate of the poor and the powerless." He also saluted Cash's "talent, courage, candor, and passion, which are an essential part of his character and an integral part of his music."

In lieu of an acceptance speech, Cash read his patriotic poem "Ragged Old Flag." Later he also sang background vocals on a performance of the Carter Family's "Sinking in the Lonesome Sea," and performed a duet with his wife on the 1947 Jo Stafford hit "Temptation." As previously reported,the Man In Black's fourth collaboration with producer Rick Rubin, the 15-track "American IV: The Man Comes Around," will be released Nov. 5 via American Recordings/Island Def Jam.

Harris was given the lifetime achievement award for performance. "We really are a community, a family," Harris in her acceptance speech. "There were times I think a lot of us felt we were the only people who liked this kind of music. I do want to share this award with all of you in the trenches who color outside the lines and make music because you believe in it and love it. There might not be millions of people out there who understand it, but there are people out there who hunger for something honest. They do know the difference, and they are listening."

The lifetime achievement award for executives went to T Bone Burnett, who produced last year's runaway smash "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack. The lifetime achievement award for songwriting was presented to Billy Joe Shaver, whose songs have been covered by Elvis Presley, George Jones, Waylon Jennings, and John Anderson, among others. The lifetime achievement awards were chosen by a subcommittee of the AMA board of directors and are bestowed upon artists and executives who are still actively working.

The late Doug Sahm was remembered with the AMA's first President's Award. That honor will be presented yearly as a posthumous tribute, and was selected this year by AMA president Grand Alden.

Awards for current music, voted on by the 800 members of the AMA, were presented to Jim Lauderdale (artist of the year) and Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys for their cut "She's Looking At Me," a honor shared with Lauderdale. Buddy and Julie Miller won the album of the year award for their self-titled Hightone Records debut, while dobro master Jerry Douglas picked up the instrumentalist of the year honor.

Held amidst the AMA's third annual convention, the event was hosted by Jason & the Scorchers leader Jason Ringenberg. Buddy and Julie Miller, Gillian Welch, and David Rawlings performed during the event. Ringberg also organized an impromptu rendition of the gospel standard "I Saw the Light" that featured Harris, the Millers, Welch, Rawlings, and Lauderdale.

To view a full list of Americana Music Awards winners, click here.