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2009 American Roots Music Grammy Nominations Show Up in Variety of Categories

  • Katherine Cole

The 52nd annual Grammy Awards will be handed out in Los Angeles on January 31. Once again, Roots performers are showing up in many different categories.

Bob Dylan's performance of "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'" could earn the folk legend his second Grammy for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance. It's a tough category this year. The other nominees are John Fogerty, Prince, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young.

That's not the only honor Dylan's up for this year, however. His CD, "Together Through Life", is one of the five albums vying for the very first Best Americana Album Grammy. The other nominees for the first-ever Americana Album Grammy are: "Electric Dirt" by Levon Helm; "Wilco The Album," from Wilco; "Willie and the Wheel," Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel; and Lucinda William's "Little Honey."

This is the first time there has been a separate category for Americana music. Previously, it was included in Folk music. There are still two Folk categories: Best Traditional Folk album; and Best Contemporary Folk Album, which is where you'll find Neko Case nominated, along with Tracy Chapman, Shawn Colvin, Elvis Costello and Steve Earle. Earle's nominated CD is "Townes," his tribute to singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt.

But as Bob Dylan's nomination shows, Roots musicians aren't just consigned to the Folk music or Americana categories this year. Several Bluegrass and Americana performers are in the race for Best Country Instrumental Performance beside the Steve Wariner song "Producer's Medley." They are: The Greencards for "The Crystal Merchant"; "Mansineedof" from Sarah Jarosz; and Alison Brown's "Under The (Five) Wire" off her CD "The Company You Keep."

Alison Brown's banjo picking has been nominated in the Best Country Instrumental category, while Steve Martin's first-ever CD of banjo music could earn the comedian and film star his fourth Grammy.

"Daddy Played The Banjo" is sung by Tim O'Brien, and can be found on Steve Martin's CD "The Crow," which has been nominated for Best Bluegrass Album. Also up for that award is: Jim Lauderdale's "Could We Get Any Closer"; Michael Martin Murphy's "Buckaroo Blue Grass"; "Almost Live" from Bryan Sutton and Friends; and Rhonda Vincent's "Destination Life."

This year's Best Traditional Folk Grammy nominees aren't just five singer songwriter strumming their guitars. With the demise of the Polka Grammy, longtime favorite Jimmy Sturr is now found in that category, alongside Maura O'Connell, the duo of David Holt and Josh Goforth, a Utah Phillips tribute CD, and Loudon Wainwright III. He is also nominated for a tribute recording called "High Wide And Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project." Poole was a North Carolina banjo picker and singer who led a band called The North Carolina Ramblers.

In 1925, they recorded "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down," and went on to sell more than 100,000 copies of the song at a time when there were only about 600,000 record players in the U.S. That song is regarded as the first-ever country music hit, and Loudon Wainwright performs it under the title "The Deal" on his Grammy-nominated CD. You'll find out if it takes home the trophy when the Grammys are handed out in Los Angeles on January 31.