Grammy nominations are a few months away but the topic of performers that might be up for an Americana Album of the year nomination – meaning releases between Oct. 1, 2013 and September 30, 2014 to be awarded on Feb. 8, 201 – has been a topic on my twitter feed lately. So I’ve decided to bring the speculation here.
First thing is not to get too nuts. Yes Sturgill Simpson and The Drive-By Truckers came out with excellent releases within the qualifying dates, but they are not known names in the mainstream, therefore not on a typical GRAMMY voters radar.Sure there have been some new artists that have broken through the national media consciousness, most notably The Civil Wars and Mumford and Sons, but these are the exceptions.
Granted there have been Americana AOTY nominees that have been welcome surprises. But nods towards promising new blood like John Fullbright (2013) or out-of-nowhere nominee like Linda Chorney are rare and , so far, have yet to snag the big prize.
No, the Recording Academy Voting Members like their Americana artists like their nominees they like they like their pre-awards restaurant, known and well-respected . Risk is a four-letter word in business and the GRAMMYS are about the business of music. Sure the organization does great work in the periphery to ensure music grows and is protected as a national treasure and heritage. The GRAMMYs telecast is a cultural trade show. Only the best are on display. And in the subjective world of music “best” means “sales.”
Of course sales in the Americana world is a rain drop compared to something like a Taylor Swift deluge, but there are charts for sales and airplay available if you dig a little. And for those not willing to dig the “best” defaults to “well known.” this is not a dig, it’s the artist’s responsibility to break through the din of music sameness to gain the attention of the voter if a GRAMMY is something they desire. And really, in the world of unit sales doesn’t “known” almost always results in ‘best?”
But sometimes the “best” in our little world doesn’t make it up to the big boys. Consider the lack of a nomination for Jason Isbell’s “Southeastern.” An album that made all the Americana, and many mainstream country, year-end lists last year. I was still hearing about that major oversight at Americanafest last month.
Luckily the known entities of Americana are still a cut above most genres and therefore often have some of the best music of the year.
Below are my picks for the 5 potential nominees with my pick for winner. There are a few dark horses I believe deserve to be in the running. Again, I do not vote for the GRAMMYS, just cover the event. I have no insider knowledge and will know the nominees and winners as you do.
Rodney Crowell – ‘Tarpaper Sky’ – This is the easiest pick of the bunch, As a 2013 Americana AOTY co-winner, along with Emmylou, Harris, Crowell already has the hearts and, more importantly, the attention of the Recording Academy Voting Members.
Carlene Carter – ‘Carter Girl’ – Nominated once in 1991 for the Best Female Country Vocal Performance GRAMMY for her throwback rendition of “I Fell in Love.” Carter has recently been working hard in support of her latest including a well-received stop at a GRAMMY Museum showcase.
Willie Nelson – ‘Band Of Brothers’ – It’s hard to ignore one of Willie’s best, and best selling, releases in years. With 11 GRAMMYs under his belt and a 2010 nomination for this category, alongside Asleep at the Wheel for ‘Willie and the Wheel,’ Willie has the gravitas and the goods to snag a nomination.
Jim Lauderdale – ‘I’m A Song’ – Lauderdale personifies Americana it it’s popular form as a representative of the Americana Music Association and as the acclaimed MC of their awards ceremony. He along with his musical and SiriusXM Outlaw Country co-host Buddy Miller, were nominated for this category last year for their collective release ‘ Buddy and Jim.’ He’s won 2 GRAMMYs first in 2002 with Dr. Ralph Stanley for “Lost in the Lonesome Pines” and his second for his “The Bluegrass Diaries” –
Rosanne Cash – ‘The River & The Thread’ – Cash released, what I consider, is the finest record of her career and was instantly heralded as a genre favorite. Critics from USA Today to this blog loved it. Radio loved it and, more importantly, fans loved it. Twelve GRAMMY nomination and one win for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for “I Don’t Know Why You Don’t Want Me” (1985) She’s well-known and respected in the hearts of the voters. Look for this one to win.
DARK HORSE PICK
Sturgill Simpson – ‘Metamodern Sounds in Country Music’ – If there were a Nobel Prize for talent and genuineness in music Sturgill Simpson would get it for his latest. It’s a favorite across the Americana community and has perked up the ears of mainstream country music fans and blogs as well. Ideally ‘Metamodern Sounds in Country Music’ should win the GRAMMY for Country Album OTY. Hell, if Kacey Musgraves can do it why not?
Parker Millsap – ‘Parker Millsap’ – There’s no denying the buzz around this young Oklahoman. His performance at Americanafest resulted in a waiting line to squeeze in to a packed room and screaming on a Beatlemania level. And the hype lives up to the talent. Let;s hear it for the young bloods with old souls!
Nickel Creek – ‘A Dotted Line’ – Okay, Nickel Creek isn’t much of a dark horse. But after a seven-year hiatus (as a band, not as individual performers) will voters still recall their obvious greatness as they did when tehy received 4 GRAMMY nominations and won for Best Contemporary Folk Album for 2003’s ‘This Side?’