Chorney – Ukrainian and Jewish (Ashkenazic): nickname for someone with dark skin or dark hair, from Ukrainian chorny ‘black’.
Linda Chorney is aptly named. As the lone question mark on a Grammy Americana Album of the Year nominee list. A list dominated by Americana music stalwarts Ry Cooder, Emmylou Harris. Levon Helm and Lucinda Williams. Chroney is in name as well as in actuality, the dark horse.
As the GRAMMY blogger for the Americana/folk categories I was anticipating the nominees for these are other categorizes like Blugrass, country and wherever else the music I love was being represented Spotting an unknown name on the Grammy Americana Album of the Year list was surprising and, truth be told, bruised my ego a bit. I pride myself on knowing a thing or two about not just the mainstream but the fringes of the Americana/Roots music territory. Seeing an unknown name, like happened to me with the Civil Wars and Mumford and Sons in early 2010 when they broke, kind of shakes my taste-maker mojo.
After interviewing Chorney about a week after her nomination I left unconvinced that her style of music fell into my definition of Americana.But after listening to songs over her catalog and watching live performances I could hear hints of artist I’ve seen perform at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and the Americana Music Association showcases. So Okay.
One thing I had no doubt about was that this woman, over her 51 years, had paid her dues. Also that by engaging the GRAMMY365 site, a social site for members of the Grammy organization, to get her music in from of people that influence that nominations, was ingenious.
Some level of naiveté did not prepare me for the considerable scrutiny, contempt and outright venom headed Chorney’s way in the wake of her Grammy nom. Hateful comments on Facebook were posted that attacked her on her very existence within the genre and not her music. As though lake of awareness on the writer was cause enough to dismiss her.
The Americana Music Association, who had a hand in the creation of Americana as a distinct Grammy category, has even withheld their boiler plate congratulations that is released soon after the nominees are announced. I wonder if their heads will explode if she actually wins.
In balance there were some people of considerable merit (most notably by Kim Ruehl and Paul Schatzkin) that took a more thoughtful approach to the Chroney nomination. They argue that though her music wasn’t their shot of hooch they were able to see Chorneys’s nomination as a testament to indy ethos, DIY perseverance and a performer’s adept ability to adapt in a music business that is undergoing a significant industrial upheaval.
Generally, the arguments against Chorney’s nomination run into two camps; She hasn’t done time in the Americana community and she somehow cheated her way into the nomination.
The first argument is ridiculous and smacks of the same Nativist logic used by some to argue for building a wall on the Mexican border. “You’re an outsider, you don’t belong and have nothing to contribute. You miust be kept out”Americana, like America herself, is made up of refuges and misfits. Diversity and acceptance are qualities that make up the genres strength. Newcomers are not always appealing to all members (yours truly included.)
The second argument – “she cheated” – Is equally ridiculous. It’s the same augment made by Luddites whenever a new way of doing things disrupts the norm. Automobiles were a “cheat” in a horse culture. Computer were a “cheat” in an analog world. Chorney paid her dues as a singer/songwriter, had n opportunity to create the album of her dreams, and then used a social network to get that album in front of people involved with the Grammys. The album still had to go though the evaluation of members of NARAS and, as is my understand in the case of Americana, a separate genre “expert” panel. There were many checks and balances beyond Chornys personal efforts to lobby for her work.
Chorney is a great example of the new breed of artist-entrepreneur, artists and craftsmen that see technology and a connected world has laid the world at their career doorstep and use every means at their disposal to walk through it.
I think a lot of the bile hurled at Chorney is a result of Americana communities inability to better define what Americana is. As I mentioned I believe this to be a founding strength but it makes others uncomfortable in practice. Some of the ill will, and I know tis because I know the professional background of some of those posting sneering bon-mots online, results from Chroney’s efforts shining a bright light on the PR industry and showing that many of it’s traditional value now lies in the hands of a diligent artist. Instead of reevaluating their place in the entertainment industry they choose to attack rather than adapt.
True until her bid for a nomination on GRAMMY365 Chorney appears to have never heard the term Americana applied as a musical formal genre. Most people haven’t. I bet when many young and established musicians start emulating the influences that enrich the genre, The Band, Parsons, Cash, their first instinct is not to look for labels but to indulge in the only thing that matters, the music. Do you think that the Avett Brothers or Robert Plant specifically sought out the Americana handbook before creating a work?
The real irony here is that many people that are up in arms about Chorneys nomination are people that over the years have dismissed the Grammys as being out of touch with current music and not representative of the best of music. Her nomination should just further justify their point of view.
Love her or hate her, Chorney is a excellent example when gatekeepers are removed from the music industry.
Below is a video I uncovered showing Chorney playing a show in 2009. I defy anyone to watch it and tell me that there nothing, absolutely NOTHING, that might be considered Americana in her sound (and wardrobe!)