Award shows are rapidly fading and the way the are structured, rightly so. One could say the Grammy’s are no longer even relevant. 2019’s show was down 6 million viewers from 2018 and this year’s show is definitely on pace to be a cluster. The show definitely doesn’t resonate with viewers and the very artists that the show is set up to recognize seem to despise it.
I’d be fine with walking away and ignoring this year’s show all together. But I care about music deeply and several artists that I love are nominees. I have both fingers crossed from them and I’m very interested to see what happens.
Unfortunately, most are in the American Roots category which are awarded during the day, off camera. This category was TOTALLY overlooked until 2014 when the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences or Grammy Awards announced new categories. The Academy’s Board of Trustees said they had a “passionate commitment to keeping the Recording Academy a relevant and responsive organization in our dynamic music community.” ……………………..Whatever.
It seems that if the academy’s trustees cared to acknowledge the often-over-looked accomplishments by independent artists in Americana, blues, bluegrass, folk, as well as instrumentalists and other non-commercial musicians they wouldn’t relegate the recognition to noon off-camera. And let’s not forget, this is where ALL the big money making genres were born. I don’t like the show.
(I’m not even getting into the rampant sexism, racism, genre phobia, etc. That’s a whole different blog.)
But I love music, especially live music, so there’s that.
Here’s what I’m excited about:
Good Luck Yola and J.S. Ondara
BEST AMERICANA ALBUM
Years to Burn – Calexico + Iron & Wine
Who Are You Now – Madison Cunningham
Oklahoma – Keb’Mo’
Tales of America – J.S. Ondara
Walk Through Fire – Yola
I adore Yola. Check her out if you are unfamiliar. There’s recent video in my Instagram @bethnaultwarner. A few years ago Yola caught fire. She has opened for Kacey Musgraves and performed with the Highwomen and Dolly Parton. Her cover of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, which has received praise from the Sir himself, and has poured lighter fluid on her career. She’s taking off. She made her debut album Walk Through Fire with the Black Key’s Dan Auerbach. There’s so many reasons to love this woman. She has an infectious laugh, such a brilliant spirit, a calm that comes from a tough street spirit, and her work is just absolutely fabulous. Go Yola. I’m rooting for you. (Yola is nominated for 4 categories, one of which– New Artist.)
J. S. Ondara. This singer-songwriter from Kenya moved to Minnesota three years ago. I missed his debut at First Avenue and it’s one of my biggest regrets of the past few years. He follows folk music’s tradition of social commentary but has thrown in a few great love songs and one or two about his mom. Ask my daughter, this is kind of my recipe for fan-girling. He’s heading out on tour and is taking a string quartet with him. (The cellist even teaches at MacPhail Center for Music where I am marketing manager, insert smile.)
This is tough. I’ll be rooting for both J.S and Yola.
Can There Please Be A Tie: “Black Myself” and “Faraway Look”
BEST AMERICAN ROOTS SONG
“Black Myself” – Amythyst Kiah, songwriter (Our Native Daughters)
“Call My Name” – Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan & Sara Watkins, songwriters (I’m With Her)
“Crossing to Jerusalem” – Rosanne Cash & John Leventhal, songwriters (Rosanne Cash)
“Faraway Look” – Dan Auerbach, Yola Carter & Pat McLaughlin, songwriters (Yola)
“I Don’t Wanna Ride the Rails No More” – Vince Gill, songwriter (Vince Gill)
Amythyst Kiah just played the Fine Line in Minneapolis with…….wait for it……Yola. Yup, they are friends and are both nominated in this songwriting category. I’ve read Amythyst’s genre described as Southern gothic alt-country blues. So much for trying to label her. She has a commanding stage presence, only matched by her raw and powerful vocals- if you’re my age, think Tracy Chapman.
I’m ok if Yola takes this grammy, but it’d be great if she won her other three nominated categories and Amythyst takes this one. Share ladies.
BEST AMERICAN ROOTS PERFORMANCE
“Saint Honesty” – Sara Bareilles
“Father Mountain” – Calexico + Iron & Wine
“I’m on My Way” – Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi
“Call My Name” – I’m With Her
“Faraway Look” – Yola
Yup, duh, I’ll be rooting for Yola. But it’s nice to see the amazing talent in this category. We can’t go wrong here.
BEST CONTEMPORARY BLUES ALBUM
This Land – Gary Clark Jr.
Venom & Faith – Larkin Poe
Brighter Days – Robert Randolph & The Family Band
Somebody Save Me – Sugaray Rayford
Keep On – Southern Avenue
I’ll be holding my breath for Best Blues nominees Larkin Poe. The sister’s Rebecca and Megan Lovell started out as a trio with their sister Jessica who stepped away from the band to go to college and get married. The family is in fact related to Edgar Allen Poe. If you like twangy blues, gospel harmonies and a sinewy slide, you’ll adore Larkin Poe. They are fabulous. The two are classically trained since childhood in violin and piano– taking lessons, performing in string quartets and with the youth symphony orchestra, and singing in the church choir. They’ve been backing musicians for Keith Urban, Sugarland’s Kristian Bush, Elvis Costello, and folk-rocker Conor Oberst. So much talent. They’ve been working hard as musicians all their lives and as singer-songwriters for a decade. They deserve this statue.
Also of interest (to me), from other categories:
Lizzo and Yola are nominated for Best New Artist along with Minnesota’s own Black Pumas, Tank and the Bangas from New Orleans, Lil Nas X, and Billie Eilish. Billie will probably take this, but my fingers are crossed for Lizzo and Yola.
Record of the Year. With Lizzo, Ariana Grande (who sounds freaking amazing on this album), Bon Iver (not a big fan), Billie Eilish and H.E.R all up for it–it’ll be interesting. (Oh ya, Post Malone is in this category as well.)
*Difference between album and record of the year- record is awarded for ONE track on the album, album is for the WHOLE thing.
Yay Tanya Tucker. What a comeback. Thank you Brandi Carlile for promoting and spotlighting women so furiously in the last two years. Tanya is nominated for Best Country Solo Performance and is also nominated for Best Country Album with the Pistol Annies. I’d love for Tanya to take Solo Performance and the Pistols to take Country Album. From my typing fingers to God’s ears.
Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) is nominated for Producer of the Year, with credits including albums by Yola, The Gibson Brothers, The Black Keys, and Leo Bud Welch. What a career. Go Dan.