The 2018 Americana Honors & Awards ceremony brought plenty of memorable moments to the Ryman Auditorium stage on Wednesday evening (Sept. 12). Humor, tear-jerking speeches and bold critiques of both the music industry and our cultural landscape came from some of the most vocal artists in the field.

The Milk Carton Kids inherited their hosting gig from Americana heavyweight Jim Lauderdale, and in advance of the show, the duo -- comprised of Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale -- admitted that they were more than a little nervous about stepping into Lauderdale's formidable shoes. However, a winning combination of humor and a touch of awkwardness seemed to go a long way with the crowd, as the duo's banter provided what was, at many points in the ceremony, a much-needed dash of levity.

Not often known for demurring from tough topics, the artists in attendance at the ceremony offered political and cultural commentary, discussed the Music Modernization Act and even took on the term "Americana" itself during their speeches. Mary Gauthier explained the story behind her latest album, Rifles & Rosary Beads, which she and other songwriters -- including Beth Nielsen Chapman, who performed with Gauthier during the ceremony -- co-wrote with military veterans and their spouses. During his acceptance speech for Emerging Artist of the Year, Tyler Childers questioned whether "Americana" as a term was merely a distraction from the issues facing country artists today, while Wheeler Walker Jr. deadpanned the format as "country that nobody listens to." Meanwhile, the founding members of Olivia Records delivered a poignant speech addressing the importance of making a place for women and the LGBTQ+ community in all aspects of the industry.

Of course, the overarching spirit of the ceremony was one of celebration, including a spirited Creedence Clearwater Revival homage from Fantastic Negrito, Lukas Nelson and Nathaniel Rateliff at the top of the show, a masterful performance from I'm With Her and a searing rendition of Song of the Year-nominated single, "The Joke," from Brandi Carlile.

For more of The Boot's picks for the top moments of the ceremony, read on.

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