2019 Grammy Awards Nominees : Brandi Carlile, Chris Stapleton, Lee Ann Womack

Ah the holidays. Family, friends, bourbon-barrel stouts, gluttony and Black Friday door-buster riots.
Making memories…

It’s also the time of year when nominations for the Grammy Awards were announced. In case you weren’t aware of this fact you’re not alone. I did a completely unscientific study of Grammy awareness and of the 23 people I asked zero had any idea that the nominees had been announced.

Not a surprise. Though “music’s biggest night” viewership has held steady for the last four years, the 2016 telecast technically ranked as a seven-year low for the annual event.

Though the Grammys tend to be less directly political as other award shows, in the current toxic political environment more people (aka customers) are skipping the mono-political red-carpet posturing from celebrities that is de rigueur. So people that want to unplug and listen and watch live performances of tunes.

Amazing the people looking for some creative distraction balk at the idea of being lectured to.

Political posturing aside, The Grammys for years have had a hard time getting a foothold on what they’re brand means to fans and people outside the industry. No one outside the industry and insane obsessive fans (like us!) cares about who wins. You have to be delusional to believe that casual fans under 30 tune into the Grammys to discover new artists and the 30+ crowd falls outside the sweet demographic to keep up ad revenues to keep up the rental payments on the Staples Center.

For the new and established artists the live performances, especially the ones live-streamed from the pre-telecast ceremony, can be extraordinary. Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite, Hugh Masekela, John Fullbright, Elle Varner and Trombone Shorty stand out as memorable favorites from my time covering the event.

Now the numbers: Brandi Carlile tops the Americana list with six nominations including Album Of The Year (By The Way, I Forgive You), Record Of The Year (“The Joke”), Song Of The Year (“The Joke”), Best Americana Album, Best American Roots Song and Best American Roots Performance.

Chris Stapleton is nominated for three GRAMMY Awards: Best Country Album (From A Room: Volume 2) and Best Country Solo Performance (“Millionaire”) as well as Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for his performance on Justin Timberlake’s “Say Something.”

Lee Ann Womack earned two nominations. Her latest album ‘The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone’ (ATO Records) has been nominated for Best Americana Album, and the album’s lead single “All the Trouble” has been nominated for Best Americana Roots Song. The nominations are the eleventh and twelfth of Womack’s storied career, and her first as a songwriter.

The Travelin’ McCourys nabbed a nomination for “Best Bluegrass Album” for their eponymous debut/

Below is my list of categories reflecting the roots and Americana field.
Tune into the 61st Grammy Awards on Feb. 10 on CBS, broadcast live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Record Of The Year
(Award to the Artist and to the Producer(s), Recording Engineer(s) and/or Mixer(s) and mastering engineer(s), if other than the artist.)

• “I Like It” – Cardi B, Bad Bunny & J Balvin
Invincible, JWhiteDidIt, Craig Kallman & Tainy, producers; Leslie Brathwaite & Evan LaRay, engineers/mixers; Colin Leonard, mastering engineer

• “The Joke” – Brandi Carlile
Dave Cobb & Shooter Jennings, producers; Tom Elmhirst & Eddie Spear, engineers/mixers; Pete Lyman, mastering engineer

• “This Is America” – Childish Gambino
Donald Glover & Ludwig Goransson, producers; Derek “MixedByAli” Ali & Riley Mackin, engineers/mixers; Mike Bozzi, mastering engineer Boi-1Da, Cardo & Young Exclusive, producers; Noel Cadastre, Noel “Gadget” Campbell & Noah Shebib, engineers/mixers; Chris Athens, mastering engineer

• “Shallow” – Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper
Lady Gaga & Benjamin Rice, producers; Tom Elmhirst, engineer/mixer; Randy Merrill, mastering engineer

• “All The Stars” – Kendrick Lamar & SZA
Al Shux & Sounwave, producers; Sam Ricci & Matt Schaeffer, engineers/mixers; Mike Bozzi, mastering engineer

• “Rockstar” – Post Malone Featuring 21 Savage
Louis Bell & Tank God, producers; Louis Bell & Manny Marroquin, engineers/mixers; Mike Bozzi, mastering engineer

• “The Middle” – Zedd, Maren Morris & GreyGrey, Monsters & Strangerz & Zedd, producers; Grey, Tom Morris, Ryan Shanahan & Zedd, engineers/mixers; Mike Marsh, mastering engineer

Album Of The Year
(Award to Artist(s) and to Featured Artist(s), Songwriter(s) of new material, Producer(s), Recording Engineer(s), Mixer(s) and Mastering Engineer(s) credited with at least 33% playing time of the album, if other than Artist.)

• Invasion Of Privacy – Cardi B
Leslie Brathwaite & Evan LaRay, engineers/mixers; Belcalis Almanzar & Jorden Thorpe, songwriters; Colin Leonard, mastering engineer

• By The Way, I Forgive You – Brandi Carlile
Dave Cobb & Shooter Jennings, producers; Dave Cobb & Eddie Spear, engineers/mixers; Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth & Tim Hanseroth, songwriters; Pete Lyman, mastering engineer

• Scorpion – Drake
Noel Cadastre, Noel “Gadget” Campbell & Noah Shebib, engineers/mixers; Aubrey Graham & Noah Shebib, songwriters; Chris Athens, mastering engineer

• H.E.R. – H.E.R.
Darhyl “Hey DJ” Camper Jr, H.E.R. & Jeff Robinson, producers; Miki Tsutsumi, engineer/mixer; Darhyl Camper Jr & H.E.R., songwriters; Dave Kutch, mastering engineer

• Beerbongs & Bentleys – Post Malone
Louis Bell & Post Malone, producers; Louis Bell & Manny Marroquin, engineers/mixers; Louis Bell & Austin Post, songwriters; Mike Bozzi, mastering engineer

• Dirty Computer – Janelle Monáe
Chuck Lightning & Janelle Monáe Robinson & Nate “Rocket” Wonder, producers; Mick Guzauski, Janelle Monáe Robinson & Nate “Rocket” Wonder, engineers/mixers; Nathaniel Irvin III, Charles Joseph II, Taylor Parks & Janelle Monáe Robinson, songwriters; Dave Kutch, mastering engineer

• Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves
Ian Fitchuk, Kacey Musgraves & Daniel Tashian, producers; Craig Alvin & Shawn Everett, engineers/mixers; Ian Fitchuk, Kacey Musgraves & Daniel Tashian, songwriters; Greg Calbi & Steve Fallone, mastering engineers

• Black Panther: The Album, Music From And Inspired By (Various Artists)
Kendrick Lamar, featured artist; Kendrick Duckworth & Sounwave, producers; Matt Schaeffer, engineer/mixer; Kendrick Duckworth & Mark Spears, songwriters; Mike Bozzi, mastering engineer

Song Of The Year

(A Songwriter(s) Award. A song is eligible if it was first released or if it first achieved prominence during the Eligibility Year. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.)

• “All The Stars”
Kendrick Duckworth, Solána Rowe, Al Shuckburgh, Mark Spears & Anthony Tiffith, songwriters (Kendrick Lamar & SZA)
Track from: Black Panther The Album Music From And Inspired By

• “Boo’d Up”
Larrance Dopson, Joelle James, Ella Mai & Dijon McFarlane, songwriters (Ella Mai)
Track from: Ready

• “God’s Plan”
Aubrey Graham, Daveon Jackson, Brock Korsan, Ron LaTour, Matthew Samuels & Noah Shebib, songwriters (Drake)

• “In My Blood”
Teddy Geiger, Scott Harris, Shawn Mendes & Geoffrey Warburton, songwriters (Shawn Mendes)
Track from: Shawn Mendes

• “The Joke”
Brandi Carlile, Dave Cobb, Phil Hanseroth & Tim Hanseroth, songwriters (Brandi Carlile)
Track from: By The Way, I Forgive You

• “The Middle”
Sarah Aarons, Jordan K. Johnson, Stefan Johnson, Marcus Lomax, Kyle Trewartha, Michael Trewartha & Anton Zaslavski, songwriters (Zedd, Maren Morris & Grey)

• “Shallow”
Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando & Andrew Wyatt, songwriters (Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper)

• “This Is America”
Donald Glover & Ludwig Goransson, songwriters (Childish Gambino)

Best New Artist
(An artist will be considered for Best New Artist if their eligibility year release/s achieved a breakthrough into the public consciousness and notably impacted the musical landscape.)
• Chloe x Halle
• Luke Combs
• Greta Van Fleet
• H.E.R.
• Dua Lipa
• Margo Price
• Bebe Rexha
• Jorja Smith

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album
(For albums containing at least 51% playing time of new traditional pop recordings.)
• Love Is Here To Stay – Tony Bennett & Diana Krall
• My Way – Willie Nelson
• Nat “King” Cole & Me – Gregory Porter
• Standards (Deluxe) – Seal
• The Music…The Mem’ries…The Magic! – Barbra Streisand

Best Country Solo Performance
(For new vocal or instrumental solo country recordings.)

• “Wouldn’t It Be Great?”
Loretta Lynn
Track from: Wouldn’t It Be Great
• “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters”
Maren Morris
Track from: Restoration: Reimagining The Songs Of Elton John And Bernie Taupin
• “Butterflies”
Kacey Musgraves
Track from: Golden Hour
• “Millionaire”
Chris Stapleton
Track from: From A Room: Volume 2
• “Parallel Line”
Keith Urban
Track from: Graffiti U

Category 27 – Best Country Duo/Group Performance
(For new vocal or instrumental duo/group or collaborative country recordings.)
• “Shoot Me Straight”
Brothers Osborne
Track from: Port Saint Joe
• “Tequila”
Dan + Shay
• “When Someone Stops Loving You”
Little Big Town
Track from: The Breaker
• “Dear Hate”
Maren Morris Featuring Vince Gill
• “Meant To Be”
Bebe Rexha & Florida Georgia Line
Track from: All Your Fault: Pt. 2
Field 8 – Country
Category 28 – Best Country Song
(A Songwriter(s) Award. A song is eligible if it was first released or if it first achieved prominence during the Eligibility Year. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.)
• “Break Up In The End”
Jessie Jo Dillon, Chase McGill & Jon Nite, songwriters (Cole Swindell)
• “Dear Hate”
Tom Douglas, David Hodges & Maren Morris, songwriters (Maren Morris Featuring Vince Gill)
• “I Lived It”
Rhett Akins, Ross Copperman, Ashley Gorley & Ben Hayslip, songwriters (Blake Shelton)
• “Space Cowboy”
Luke Laird, Shane McAnally & Kacey Musgraves, songwriters (Kacey Musgraves)
Track from: Golden Hour
• “Tequila”
Nicolle Galyon, Jordan Reynolds & Dan Smyers, songwriters (Dan + Shay)
• “When Someone Stops Loving You”
Hillary Lindsey, Chase McGill & Lori McKenna, songwriters (Little Big Town)
Track from: The Breaker
Field 8 – Country
Category 29 – Best Country Album
(For albums containing at least 51% playing time of new country recordings.)
• Unapologetically
Kelsea Ballerini
• Port Saint Joe
Brothers Osborne
• Girl Going Nowhere
Ashley McBryde
• Golden Hour
Kacey Musgraves
• From A Room: Volume 2
Chris Stapleton

American Roots Music
Category 45 – 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).)

• “Kick Rocks”
Sean Ardoin
Track from: Kreole Rock And Soul
• “Saint James Infirmary Blues”
Jon Batiste
Track from: Hollywood Africans
• “The Joke”
Brandi Carlile
Track from: By The Way, I Forgive You
• “All On My Mind”
Anderson East
Track from: Encore
• “Last Man Standing”
Willie Nelson
Track from: Last Man Standing

American Roots Music
Category 46 – Best American Roots Song
(A Songwriter(s) Award. Includes Americana, bluegrass, traditional blues, contemporary blues, folk or regional roots songs. A song is eligible if it was first released or if it first achieved prominence during the Eligibility Year. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.)

• “All The Trouble”
Waylon Payne, Lee Ann Womack & Adam Wright, songwriters (Lee Ann Womack)
Track from: The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone
• “Build A Bridge”
Jeff Tweedy, songwriter (Mavis Staples)
• “The Joke”
Brandi Carlile, Dave Cobb, Phil Hanseroth & Tim Hanseroth, songwriters (Brandi Carlile)
Track from: By The Way, I Forgive You
• “Knockin’ On Your Screen Door”
Pat McLaughlin & John Prine, songwriters (John Prine)
Track from: The Tree Of Forgiveness
• “Summer’s End”
Pat McLaughlin & John Prine, songwriters (John Prine)
Track from: The Tree Of Forgiveness

American Roots Music
Category 47 – Best Americana Album
(For albums containing at least 51% playing time of new vocal or instrumental Americana recordings.)
• By The Way, I Forgive You – Brandi Carlile
• Things Have Changed – Bettye LaVette
• The Tree Of Forgiveness – John Prine
• The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone – Lee Ann Womack
• One Drop Of Truth – The Wood Brothers
Field 13 – American Roots Music

Best Bluegrass Album
(For albums containing at least 51% playing time of new vocal or instrumental bluegrass recordings.)
• Portraits In Fiddles
Mike Barnett
• Sister Sadie II
Sister Sadie
• Rivers And Roads
Special Consensus
• The Travelin’ McCourys
The Travelin’ McCourys
• North Of Despair
Wood & Wire

Best Folk Album
(For albums containing at least 51% playing time of new vocal or instrumental folk recordings.)
• Whistle Down The Wind – Joan Baez
• Black Cowboys – Dom Flemons
• Rifles & Rosary Beads – Mary Gauthier
• Weed Garden – Iron & Wine
• All Ashore – Punch Brothers

Category 68 – Best Historical Album
• Any Other Way
Rob Bowman, Douglas Mcgowan, Rob Sevier & Ken Shipley, compilation producers; Jeff Lipton, mastering engineer (Jackie Shane)
• At The Louisiana Hayride Tonight…
Martin Hawkins, compilation producer; Christian Zwarg, mastering engineer (Various Artists)
• Battleground Korea: Songs And Sounds Of America’s Forgotten War
Hugo Keesing, compilation producer; Christian Zwarg, mastering engineer (Various Artists)
• A Rhapsody In Blue – The Extraordinary Life Of Oscar Levant
Robert Russ, compilation producer; Andreas K. Meyer & Rebekah Wineman, mastering engineers (Oscar Levant)
• Voices Of Mississippi: Artists And Musicians Documented By William Ferris
William Ferris, April Ledbetter & Steven Lance Ledbetter, compilation producers; Michael Graves, mastering engineer (Various Artists)

Book Review: “Who The F$%# is Linda Chorney?”

Who The F is Linda Chorney

Once there was a woman of musical talent, persistence and ingenuity who performed original songs and favorite covers to audiences worldwide. She was a road warrior for over 30 years before catching a career changing break. Belief in herself, and her craft, took her to heights she’d never imagined. It helped drive her that she possessed the confidence that she certainly deserved to succeed. She believed.

Fellow musicians and industry professionals, caught in a music business grasping for identity, relevance and diminishing revenue, applauded her drive. Though her music – a pop-folk, adult contemporary mix not unlike Sheryl Crow – might not be their shot of hooch, they all treated her with respect and heralded her as a harbinger of the DIY work ethic. One where an artist can circumvent gatekeepers and industrial trip-wires and engage the double edge levers of technology to snag a professional success. Even a Grammy nomination.

Well, not quite. Linda Chorney, a black horse in the run for the 2012 Grammy Award for Americana Album of the year , was nominated among rock/country/folk/Americana heavy hitters Emmylou Harris, Ry Cooder, Lucinda Williams and Levon Helm (winner.) She used the Grammy social network, Grammy 365, to get her 7th album, Emotional Jukebox, in front of Academy members who nominated her for the short list for a little statue.

Chorney’s success from planning, help from friends and loved ones, dumb luck and shear will was met by some in the Americana community with almost immediate online character assassination, professional chicanery and calls for withdrawal of her nomination. On what grounds were the calls of withdrawal based? Accusations of “cheating” and “gaming the system” abounded though no actual proof was presented.

“Who The F$%# is Linda Chorney” details the her road to the Grammys much in a manner like her blog posts. Unguarded, profane observational bursts of of highs and lows that ring of authenticity. She tells of making the best of a once-in-a-lifetime moment – dress fittings in New York, cover features in Variety, shooting a music video in L.A. with renowned/producer Forrest Murray, walking the red carpet and hob-nobbing with her hero Gregg Allman. All the while enduring vile online and personal attacks and undermining. She does it in a way that never becomes dour and for reason both litigious and polite she changes the “names of the guilty.”

The worst offenders were those most threatened by by her unconventional success. media relations specialists, radio professionals and labels all piled on. Instead of accolades toward someone producing the stuff we all profess to celebrate – music- and a moment of professional self-reflection and reassessment where value is produced in the new music order, there was a circling of wagons and shots ringing into the night. The old guard reacted as you might expect. Attack and attempt retrenchment in a landscape shifting beneath their feet.

Though there was no official condemnation from the Nashville-based trade group Americana Music Association, the choice to not issue it’s standard nominee congratulatory press release that year, for the first time in history of the Americana Album of the year 3 year history, spoke volumes.

Cards on that table – I was the official Americana blogger for the Grammys during this whole sad affair. I have a small part in the book and was surprised to discover in reading it that I was the first person to interview her after her nomination. I was also a witness to much of the online attacks and for a while got caught up in, complete with threats, the ugliness that transpired. Truth be told, i was ashamed of our community of outcasts. I still see it as a dark period.

In the aftermath of the spotlight Chorney has brought her story to the prestigious TED talk series (below) and she sang the Star Spangled Banner for her beloved Boston Red Socks and recently recording a song memory of 8 year old Boston bombing victim Martin Richard

Oh, and she wrote a book which she’s now shopping around to be made into a film.

Whether you see Chorney as a gatecrashing outsider or a industrious rebel, her story is one that any artist toiling on the road can take to heart as proof that if you believe in your craft, and cultivate a gift for gab and a sense of marketing, success can be yours. It’s also a cautionary tale for the music industry and self-appointed gatekeepers that access ain’t what it used to be.


The Recording Academy Adds Grammy Category for Best American Roots Song


The Recording Academy continues what they call a “continuing evolution” of the Grammy Awards with changes in three categories, including our beloved Americana category.

If you remember a couple of years ago the organization caused a backlash when they eliminated categories and folded many into already existing genres. Those changes remain three new changes are being implemented “to ensure the Awards process remains representative of the current musical landscape.”

Two years ago, the organization made major waves in the industry with a long list of changes to existing categories that saw many areas condensed and elicited protests from multiple genres. Those changes have stuck while three new changes are being implemented “to ensure the Awards process remains representative of the current musical landscape.”

In 2009, the Academy split the category for Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album into two separate categories: Best Contemporary Folk Album and Best Americana Album.

The strength of the Americana genre’s grow is being recognized the addition of the Best American Roots Song. “A songwriter’s award, it will encompass all of the subgenres of the Field (Americana, bluegrass, blues, folk, regional roots music), and puts the Field in line with the Rock, Rap, R&B, Country, and Gospel/CCM Fields, all of which have songwriters’ awards.”

This is great news as it allows the Recording Academy to better reward the broad pool of talent that makes up the genre.

Linda Chorney Grammy Nomination – A Response

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!)