2010 Americana/roots/whatever Grammy winners
Last night was the first time in Grammy history that an award was handed out for the year’s Best Americana Album. The nominees for this category’s inaugural year represented an interesting array of styles, all of which adequately define Americana music: Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams, Wilco, Levon Helm, and Willie Nelson & Asleep at the Wheel. By night’s end, Levon Helm had been handed the award for his outstanding ’09 release Electric Dirt.
Steve Martin also scored a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album for his debut banjo record The Crow. Guess it pays to team up with some of the finest bluegrass pickers in the world.
Steve Earle’s Townes Van Zandt tribute record Townes took the Best Contemporary Folk Album award, while Loudon Wainwright III’s tribute to Charlie Poole won the trophy for Best Traditional Folk Album. Something should be said about both folk category winners being tribute albums this year, though I’m not totally sure what. NARAS has a thing for tributes (note both Michael Jackson and Les Paul received musical tributes during the exhaustive and exhuasting CBS telecast). However, there were formidable competitors in both categories, and it’s notable that Neko Case’s Middle Cyclone, which was probably the most buzzed-about Americana/folk/whatever album of last year, and Elvis Costello’s country album were passed over for Earle’s adept tribute to his friend and mentor.
Neil Young, fresh from being honored by a wide array of artists for being the MusiCares Person of the Year, also took home a trophy for the packaging of his long-awaited Archives box set, and Bruce Springsteen won Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance for “Working on a Dream.”
As usual, the Grammy telecast included almost zero Americana music, though they did take about five seconds to announce that Loretta Lynn and Leonard Cohen received Lifetime Achievement Awards.
Personally, I konked out on the whole thing after the Jamie Foxx/T-Pain/Slash/other random people whose names I don’t know performance. It didn’t feel like a show targeted at my demographic, whatever that is, though I and, apparently, the rest of the world, was wowed by Pink’s twirling-and-singing sprinkler/circus act. I can’t put my finger on what was so great about that moment, but it felt like an actual performance which took talent and…something…to pull off. Everyone else gave us weird mash-ups (Lady Gaga and Elton John, while awesome in theory – and I was impressed to discover she actually plays an instrument quite well, and sings quite well – was kind of a stretch), and even Beyonce – from whom I’ve come to expect memorable performances – left me bored and confused with her “If I Was a Boy”/”You Oughta Know” mashup. Why not perform her Song of the Year? What was with that Alanis cover?
Dare I even touch the Greenday Broadway musical thing?
Yet again, I realized the Grammy’s cater to someone else’s music industry. Call me jaded and niche-centric. Whatever. At least an album of Charlie Poole classics won something.