Roots & Americana in the Grammys? You betcha.
Were you aware that there are 83 categories in the annual Grammy awards? Of which, by our count, at least eight are directly focused on roots music genres (and that’s not counting the four “country” categories, which for all practical purposes should be considered “pop”, or the five jazz categories, which is simply beyond the scope of this blog but includes great artists). Given the current state of commercial radio and changing music consumption habits, perhaps 10% of the categories is actually not too bad, considering that roots artists even sometimes receive nods in non-roots categories.
Amid the many worthy artists who dominated the rock categories (among them Ryan Adams, The Black Keys, Beck, Jack White, Tom Petty, U2 and the Arctic Monkeys), here’s our quick take on some of the roots artists represented in this year’s announcement:
It was great to see Chris Thile & Edgar Meyer’s second album Bass & Mandolin garner three nominations, for Contemporary Instrumental Album (where they are up against some great jazz artists), Instrumental Composition (for the song “Tarnation”), and Engineered Album (non-classical). Thile is also celebrating the two Nickel Creek nominations – A Dotted Line is up for Americana Album while the track “Destination” is under consideration for American Roots Performance.
Other artists who received three nominations each include Rosanne Cash (The River & The Thread for Americana Album and “A Feather’s Not a Bird” for American Roots Performance and American Roots Song), bluesman Keb’ Mo (Bluesamericana for Americana Album and Engineered Album, along with a nod for “The Old Me Better” feat. The California Feet Warmers for American Roots Performance), and dobro virtuoso Jerry Douglas, who placed three different projects in the field (The Earls of Leicester for Bluegrass Album, Three Bells with Mike Auldrige and Rob Ickes for Folk Album, and a guest appearance with Alison Krauss on the Billy Childs track “And When I Die”, which is taken from Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro, up for American Roots Performance). Incidentally, the Billy Childs project received a total of three nominations, with the other two coming in jazz and arrangement categories.
Close behind at two nominations each we have John Hiatt for the song (American Roots Song) and album (Americana Album) of the same name, Terms of My Surrender, and Jesse Winchester, whom the Academy chose to honor posthumously for his album A Reasonable Amount of Trouble (Folk Album) and its song “Just So Much” (American Roots Song).
Rounding out the roots music nominations, the Academy recognized the “Statesboro Blues” collaboration between Gregg Allman and Taj Mahal for American Roots Performance (perhaps due to the Allman Brothers decision to stop touring this year), and nominated two bluegrass songs for American Roots Song (“The New York Trains” by the Del McCoury Band, and “Pretty Little One” by Steve Martin, Edie Brickell & the Steep Canyon Rangers, although neither album made it into the Bluegrass Album field). The remaining records up for Bluegrass Album came from Punch Brother Noam Pikelny (Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe), Rhonda Vincent (Only Me), guitarist Bryan Sutton (Into My Own), and former chef Frank Solivan and his band Dirty Kitchen (Cold Spell), a group that wowed the crowd at the Mountain of the Sun festival in Woodland Park a few years back.
It was also nice to see the late, great Johnny Winter receive a nod for Step Back (Blues Album), which will compete against releases from Ruthie Foster (Promise of a Brand New Day), Charlie Musselwhite (Juke Joint Chapel), Dave and Phil Alvin (Common Ground) and Bobby Rush/Blinddog Smokin’ (Decisions). And, finally, in addition to the Earls of Leicester and Jesse Winchester, other entrants for Folk Album of the year include Follow the Music (Alice Gerrard), The Nocturne Diaries (Eliza Gilkyson), and Remedy (Old Crow Medicine Show).
All in all, a pretty good representation of the breadth and quality of roots music being produced today, although it’s always somewhat disappointing to see many of the same names dominate the system year after year when there are so many great new artists out there.
You’ll notice that there are no links in this edition of the Eblast – following a trip to Austin to attend the International Music Festival Conference there is simply not enough time to insert them and get the following suggestions for live music this week to you in a timely manner:
1. Shakey Graves with Sean Rowe and Esme Patterson, The Ivywild School, Sun Dec 14 (8 pm). Quite a coup for the folks behind Ivywild Music, and a show that sold out many moons ago!
2. A White Bluegrass Christmas featuring Wirewood Station, Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (Palmer Lake), Fri Dec 12 (7 pm). The subject speaks for itself – not to be missed.
3. The Left Ready with Medic, Runaway Stars and Tyler Hill’s Poem Noise, The Black Sheep, Sat Dec 12 (8 pm). Our friends at RXP 103.9 inform us that The Left Ready is the next big local band.
4. Chad Price with Arlis Nancy and Men of Letters, Triple Nickel Tavern, Sat Dec 12 (9 pm). A solo appearance by one of the leaders of Drag the River.
5. Hank Cramer with Paul Enockson, Four Mile Community Club (Canon City), Sat Dec 12 (7 pm). The final gathering of the Canon Rose Acoustic Society this year.
6. Sweet Ascent, Jives Coffee Lounge 2 (University Village), Thurs Dec 11 (7 pm, free). Do not confuse with the original Jives Coffee Lounge in Old Colorado City, which is still thriving too.
7. A Chuck Pyle Christmas Concert, Black Forest Community Center, Fri Dec 12 (6 pm). Join the Black Rose Acoustic Society for this special show!
8. The Mitguards, Rico’s Cafe & Wine Bar, Fri Dec 12 (7:30 pm, free). Celebrating another wonderful year providing us with great Americana music.
9. Reecy Pontiff & Adrian Alexander, 503W, Fri Dec 12 (9 pm, free). Enjoy the craft beer and creative food and then be sure to stay for two of our favorite local performers.
10. Joe Johnson & His Band, Songbird Cellars (Beulah), Sat Dec 13 (8 pm). Joe’s performance follows the Beulah Valley Parade of Lights.
As the holiday season gets into full swing, everyone at Rocky Mountain Highway would like to wish each one of you – our more than 1,300 subscribers – a peaceful, relaxing and fun December filled with lots and lots of live music.
Steve Harris, Executive Director