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Veteran Artists Compete for Grammys in Less Known Folk/Americana Category

The votes are in. Soon we'll know who'll be taking home the big honors that will be handed out at the 50th annual Grammy Awards. Due to time limitations, only a few of Grammy Awards will presented during the televised program. VOA's Katherine Cole reports on this year's nominees for one of the ones you won't be seeing on TV: Best Contemporary Folk-Americana Album.

Over the past 20 years, Mary Chapin Carpenter has sold more than 13 million records, and taken home five Grammy awards. If she's lucky, The Calling will bring her a sixth, as it is one of the five nominees for the Best Contemporary Folk/Americana honor. This CD, her 10th, is filled with what we've come to expect from the esteemed writer; deeply personal and sometimes political songs. Mary Chapin's not afraid to ruffle a few feathers, as evidenced by "On With the Show," a tune dedicated to the Dixie Chicks and the freedom of speech that we're allowed in the United States.

The Calling is another in a long string of great albums from Mary Chapin Carpenter. Unfortunately, it didn't receive all the attention it deserves, as just weeks after its release the singer was forced to cancel her tour after suffering a pulmonary embolism. She has recovered fully, and will be back before her fans in 2008.

The other nominees are Ry Cooder, Tom Waits, Patty Griffin and Steve Earle, who is nominated for Washington Square Serenade, an album that has been called a "love letter" to his new hometown of New York City. The opening track, "Tennessee Blues," does a great job of setting the scene for the rest of the album. It finds Earle saying goodbye to his longtime Nashville home, and heading for New York with his sixth wife, singer Alison Moorer.

Ry Cooder's nominated CD is My Name is Buddy, and it's not your usual singer-songwriter release. A few years ago, Cooder received wonderful reviews for his concept album Chavez Ravine, a song cycle about the residents of the Mexican-American community near downtown Los Angeles that was bulldozed to make way for a baseball stadium. His new CD, My Name Is Buddy, is another musical tale. The hero is a farm cat who becomes friends with a labor-organizing mouse and a blind preacher toad. The result is an album full of adventures that could have come out of the 1939 novel The Grapes Of Wrath. The songs tell of some of the hardships faced by the people who migrated to California around the time of the Great Depression in search of a better life.

Also nominated this year is Tom Waits' Orphans, a monumental three-disc set of 56 songs, accompanied by a 95-page booklet of lyrics and photos. Thirty of the songs are new recordings. The remainder are "orphans," songs that never found a home. Some are outtakes of songs that have appeared in another form on a movie or television soundtrack, or tribute album.

2007 was a great year for Patty Griffin. Not only did she sell out concert halls around the world, a musical based on her songs opened off-Broadway, and her sixth CD, Children Running Through won the Americana Music Association's "Album of the Year" award. On Sunday, we'll find out if the Grammy voters thought along the same line, or if they give the honor to Tom Waits, Ry Cooder, Steve Earle or Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Every album Patty Griffin has released has been excellent. "I Don't Ever Give Up" is just one reason why many critics are saying Children Running Through has bettered her best.