OK So this year's Grammy Nominations are out. I'm not going to comment on the General Field awards (Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist) and who got snubbed or the takeover of rap or whatever. *insert eye roll here.* As far as I can tell, no one is accusing anyone of breaking the rules of the voting process. So if that's who the Recording Academy wants to nominate, so be it. I want to talk Americana.
In the Grammys hierarchy of awards, "Americana" falls under the umbrella category called "American Root Music," which includes "Americana, bluegrass, blues, folk or regional roots." It's interesting to me that the Grammys don't consider "Country" music to fall under "American Roots." Maybe that says something about the state of Country music these days.
In any case, I pulled out the nominations that are relevant to our world and have listed them below, with my comments and picks.
Best American Roots Performance
For new vocal or instrumental American Roots recordings. This is for performances in the style of any of the subgenres encompassed in the American Roots Music field including Americana, bluegrass, blues, folk or regional roots. Award to the artist(s).)
- "Killer Diller Blues" - Alabama Shakes
- "Let My Mother Live" - Blind Boys Of Alabama
- "Arkansas Farmboy" - Glen Campbell
- "Steer Your Way" - Leonard Cohen
- "I Never Cared For You" - Alison Krauss
Brittany Howard's cover of the Memphis Minnie song "Killer Diller Blues" rings very true to me and it's a great example of how you can bring past songs and artists into current times and make them new and relevant again. So kudos to her. Alison Krauss' "I Never Cared For You" is one of my least favorite songs from that album, but I grant that it does a great job of showing off her voice and vocal abilities. Glen Campbell's song is poignant, but it doesn't stand out from the crowd, in my honest opinion. Leonard Cohen's song seems preachy and pretentious. Sorry but that's how I feel about it. I know he is talented, but I'm not feeling it on this one. I really enjoyed the Blind Boys Of Alabama song and the whole album was a worthy project from Amazon Originals. But like the Glenn Campbell song, I can't see it standing out from the pack.
Calvin's pick: "Killer Diller Blues" by Alabama Shakes.
Best American Roots Song
A Songwriter(s) Award. Includes Americana, bluegrass, traditional blues, contemporary blues, folk or regional roots songs.
- "Cumberland Gap" - David Rawlings
- "I Wish You Well" - The Mavericks
- "If We Were Vampires" - Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit
- "It Ain't Over Yet" - Rodney Crowell Featuring Rosanne Cash & John Paul White
- "My Only True Friend" - Gregg Allman
The Mavericks' song is great for showing off Raul Malo's old school crooning style. I much preferred "Damned (If You Do)" from that album, but it's a worthy nomination. I'm glad to see there are still people who appreciate that style of singing. "If We Were Vampires" is a poignant biographical song, which I can admire for the songwriting. But I didn't quite connect with it. I can't figure out why Gregg Allman's song got nominated. I'm a huge fan of the David Rawlings album and I really like the mood of this story song. Makes me happy that people still write songs like this. Rodney Crowell's song achieves that great balance between telling a personal story, which in this case spans about 4 decades, while at the same time creating something that everyone can relate to
Calvin's Pick: "It Ain't Over Yet" by Rodney Crowell
Best Americana Album
For albums containing at least 51% playing time of new vocal or instrumental Americana recordings.
- Southern Blood - Gregg Allman
- Shine On Rainy Day - Brent Cobb
- Beast Epic - Iron & Wine
- The Nashville Sound - Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit
- Brand New Day - The Mavericks
Again, I can't figure out why Gregg Allman's album got nominated. Brent Cobb is an awesome songwriter and it's a crying shame his "Solving Problems" didn't get a Best Song nomination. The album as a whole does a great job of tapping into that "blue collar sound" so many people strive for. I think of him as a more authentic Tyler Childers (whom I'm also a fan of). No one ever sent me the Iron & Wine album so I can't really comment on it. But as a rule, my opinion of Iron & Wine is that he's kinda in a category by himself and he doesn't often feel like Americana to me, except in a weird alt-folk way. It's a worthy effort, but just not my thing. The Mavericks' Brand New Day is so old school and so refreshing at the same time. You listen to that album and you'll think to yourself, "It's a shame they don't make albums like that anymore." But, but, but The Maevericks DO make albums like that, if people would only listen to them. Jason Isbell's album is a haymaker of a collection. I can't really think of a weak track on it. Considering how much variety there is on this album, it's surprising how cohesive the whole thing is. But what stands out for me is that he nails BOTH the songwriting and the performance on every track on this album.
Calvin's pick: The Nashville Sound by Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit
Feel free to leave your comments below. Or, if you'd like to write a few words about your comments or picks, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org