2015 Americana Album of the Year Grammys Predictions
Grammy nominations are a few months away, but the topic of performers that might be up for an Americana Album of the year nomination — releases between Oct. 1, 2013 and Sep. 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 voter’s 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 nominees like Linda Chorney are rare and, so far, have yet to snag the big prize.
No, the Recording Academy Voting Members like their Americana nominees the way 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. 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 business, “best” usually means “sales.”
Of course, sales in the Americana world is a raindrop 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”?
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 five 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 in its popular form, as a representative of the Americana Music Association and as the acclaimed emcee 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 collaborative release Buddy and Jim. He’s won two 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. She has 12 GRAMMY nominations 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 PICKS:
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 of the Year. 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 into a packed room, and screaming on a Beatlemania level. 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 four GRAMMY nominations and won for Best Contemporary Folk Album, for 2003’s This Side?
This article originally appeared on TwangNation.com