American Roots Nominees Span Newcomers And Legends
(For a complete list of 54th GRAMMY Awards nominees, click here.)
It's always interesting to see how Recording Academy voters perceive and weigh the rich bounty of creative wares resulting from the excellent Americana and roots music community, and how it jibes with the views of loyal and passionate fans, citizen media and small labels who obsess over this particularly rich vein year after year. Will they see what we see?
Worthy of note, the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards will go down as the event that brought an Americana-inspired (if not American) band to the mainstream as Mumford & Sons received a nod for two of the more prestigious GRAMMY nominations — Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year, along with Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance for "The Cave." In 2010 Mumford & Sons were nominated for two GRAMMY Awards — Best Rock Song for "Little Lion Man" and the coveted Best New Artist award.
Also, the Civil Wars continue to defy easy categorization with nominations for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for "Barton Hollow" and Best Folk Album for their debut full-length release of the same name.
The Best Americana Album nominations are represented by some legends of the genre. Six-time GRAMMY winner Ry Cooder earned a nod for his latest folk-activist effort, Pull Up Some Dust And Sit Down. Twelve-time GRAMMY winner Emmylou Harris is up for Hard Bargain. Three-time GRAMMY winner Lucinda Williams is nominated for Blessed. Songwriter/multi-instrumentalist and recipient of the very first GRAMMY for Best Americana Album in 2009, Levon Helm, has a chance to gather another for his Ramble At The Ryman, a live recording of his Midnight Ramble sessions performed in Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium. The dark horse of the list is indie artist Linda Chorney, who through the efforts of family and friends led a do-it-yourself bootstrapped effort to nab a first GRAMMY nomination of her career for Emotional Jukebox.
The Best Folk Album nominees extend the Americana tent to include three-time GRAMMY winner Steve Earle (I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive) and Gillian Welch (The Harrow & The Harvest), who are up against newcomers the Civil Wars and Fleet Foxes, both up for their first GRAMMY for Barton Hollow and Helplessness Blues, respectively. The high-profile dark horse is Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, who is up for Ukulele Songs.
Two-time GRAMMY winner Jim Lauderdale is nominated for Best Bluegrass Album for his collaboration with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, Reason And Rhyme: Bluegrass Songs By Robert Hunter & Jim Lauderdale. Lauderdale shares the list with Steve Martin And The Steep Canyon Rangers (Rare Bird Alert), the Del McCoury Band (Old Memories: The Songs Of Bill Monroe), Ralph Stanley (A Mother's Prayer), Chris Thile & Michael Daves (Sleep With One Eye Open), and 26-time GRAMMY winner Alison Krauss & Union Station, who are up for their latest effort, Paper Airplane.
Overall, Americana and roots music are well represented this year. Many of these artists practice their craft and create their art with little or no reflection on the formal recognition of awards ceremonies, current tastes or even the fickleness of fans. This mental tightrope is the only sure path to great work that withstands the passing of time and to transcend trends and hype. The GRAMMYs as an institution has shown leadership and insight into rewarding musicians who are some of the best representatives of the genre.