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American 'Roots' Music Represented Well in Grammy Nominations

The votes are in and soon we’ll know who’ll take home the big honors at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards. Due to time limitations, only a few of the trophies are presented during the televised program. A few of the nominees you won’t be seeing on TV: the Best Americana, Bluegrass, & Contemporary Folk Albums.

Mary Chapin Carpenter has sold more than 13 million records, while winning five Grammy awards to date. If she’s lucky, “The Age of Miracles” will bring a sixth, as it is one of the five nominees for the Best Contemporary Folk. A theme for the album is how relationships work in the real world.

“The Age of Miracles” is Mary Chapin Carpenter’s 12th solo CD. It was written soon after she suffered a pulmonary embolism, a life threatening illness that forced her to cancel not just a tour, but all work for a year.

The other nominees for the “Best Contemporary Folk Album” Grammy are the duo of Jackson Browne & David Lindley, Guy Clark, Richard Thompson, and Ray LaMontagne. Ray’s song “Beg, Steal or Borrow,” is also one of the five nominees for the “Song of the Year” Grammy. It’s rather incredible to see Ray in that category, as the other nominees are hits from much more commercially successful acts: Miranda Lambert, Cee Lo Green, Lady Antebellum, and Eminem, with Rhianna.

Rosanne Cash’s “The List”, Los Lobos’ “Tin Can Trust”, “Country Music” by Willie Nelson, and Mavis Staples’ “You Are Not Alone” are all vying for the “Best Americana Album” award this year. Robert Plant’s “Band of Joy” is the fifth nominee in that tough category. Plant’s latest album also earned the 62-year-old singer a “Best Rock Vocal” nomination for “Silver Rider.”

Robert Plant’s “Band of Joy” is up for two Grammys this year, thanks to great songs, great singing, and great playing by musicians including co-producer Buddy Miller, Patty Griffin, and Darrell Scott, himself a nominee in the “Best Country Instrumental” category.

The list of nominees for that award this year reads like a “Who’s Who” of Bluegrass. In addition to Darrell Scott, they are modern bluegrass bands The Infamous Stringdusters and the Punch Brothers, the more traditional Cherryholmes, and Marty Stuart, who already has four Grammys at home. He’s up for two this year, the other being “Best Country Collaboration with Vocals” for “I Run To You,” recorded with Connie Smith.

The “Best Bluegrass Album” nominees this year include both contemporary and traditional bands and one artist more often associated with country music. Patty Loveless is nominated for “Mountain Soul II,” her 16th solo CD. This bluegrass-tinged collection of old time country and Appalachian music is the follow- up to Patty’s 2001 Grammy Award-nominated album “Mountain Soul.” The Steeldrivers’ second CD “Reckless” is also in the running, as is “Family Circle” by The Del McCoury Band, who won the category in 2005.

Also nominated in this category is multi-instrumentalist Sam Bush for “Circles Around Me.” Sam Bush has taking his music beyond the boundaries of traditional bluegrass for more than 35 years. As a founding member of the New Grass Revival, Sam pioneered a whole new direction for bluegrass and since setting off on a solo career, he’s dug even deeper, incorporating elements of jazz, folk, country, and rock into his songs.

The final nominee in this category is Peter Rowan for “Legacy,” his first solely bluegrass record in years. Rowan, who as a young man did a stint as one of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys, has spent recent years exploring rock, reggae, and other types of music. He has never really left bluegrass behind, however, as evidenced by this collection. We’ll find out if he takes home the trophy when the Grammy Awards are handed out in Los Angeles on February 13.