Sunday, January 06, 2002

2002 Grammy nominees are the real thing - finally


By Larry Nager
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It may have been a bad year for the music business, but it was a good year for the music, as witnessed by the nominees for the 44th Grammy Awards, announced Friday.

        After 9-11, the conventional wisdom in the industry was that the music would get serious. No more fashion-obsessed, hormonal teen acts. No more senselessly violent rappers.

        Because Grammy eligibility closed at the end of September, that didn't affect the music up for awards. But it apparently did affect the choices made by the members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in picking final nominees.

        This is the best field in years. The 2002 Grammy nominations will be remembered as the year the music awards got real. The Grammys fearlessly crossed genres and generations to honor the best records of the year.

        Check out the unprecedented variety of album-of-the-year nominees: Bob Dylan's rootsy, rocking Love & Theft; India.Arie's stunning debut, Acoustic Soul; OutKast's P-funky rap party, Stankonia; U2's powerful, positive All That You Can't Leave Behind; and the deep Afro-Appalachian roots of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.

Neo-soul movement boosted

        U2 led the field with eight nominations. The refreshing sound of the organic neo-soul movement got a huge boost in two top nominees — India.Arie, up for seven awards, and Alicia Keys, nominated for six.

        Both women are part of an unusually strong new-artist field, which also includes singer/songwriter Nelly Furtado, hard-rock band Linkin Park and singer/songwriter David Gray. This year, no teenybopper acts need apply.

        Another big, new success story is Ryan Adams, former leader of Americana darlings Whiskeytown. The singer-songwriter received wide-ranging nominations — rock album and rock male vocal and, for his part in the Hank Williams Sr. tribute, the country album nominee Timeless, a country male vocal nomination.

        But old favorites are well-represented, albeit often in surprising places. Perennial Grammy rock veteran Sheryl Crow is up for a female country award for her yodeling on “Long Gone Lonesome Blues” on Timeless. Sophisticated soulman Brian McKnight is up for four awards, including a pop male vocal Grammy for “Still.”

        That category represents the sole nomination for Michael Jackson, as his abysmal Invincible proves virtually invisible to the Grammys.

Boosty collaboration noted

        Local nominees did pretty well this year. Bootsy Collins received a couple of nominations for his collaboration with Fatboy Slim. Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars is an alternative album nominee. The clip for “Weapon of Choice,” with that dancing machine Christopher Walken, is a short-form video nominee.

        Rosemary Clooney looks like a good bet for a traditional pop award, because her nomination comes at a time when her longtime nemesis, Tony Bennett, is nowhere to be found.

        It was a big year for the Isley Brothers and their multiplatinum Eternal CD, but they earned only one R&B group nomination for “Contagious.”

        One of Cincinnati's newest success stories, contemporary Christian star Nicole C. Mullen, received a pop/contemporary gospel album nomination for Talk About It.

Tristate pickers picked

        The bluegrass boom also recognized Tristate musicians. Former Cincinnatian Tim Hensley is featured on bluegrass album nominee Mountain Soul, by Eastern Kentucky native Patty Loveless. Guitar picker Clay Hess was part of the Covington bluegrass scene before he joined Ricky Skaggs' Kentucky Thunder, up for a bluegrass album award for History of the Future.

        Dayton singer/guitarist Harley Allen, a multi-platinum mainstream country songwriter (Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks) and son of bluegrass Grammy nominee Red Allen, continues the family tradition. He was a voice on one of the year's biggest bluegrass records, the Soggy Bottom Boys' “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow,” and is up for best country collaboration with Dan Tyminski (the voice of George Clooney) and Pat Enright.

        The O Brother phenomenon is well-represented in the Grammys. “Didn't Leave Nobody But the Baby,” brought Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch a country collaboration nomination.

        The O Brother album is also up for best compilation soundtrack album, while the live recording of the film's musical cast, Down From the Mountain, is up for best traditional folk album.

        Both those records paid tribute to the timeless musical values of songcraft and emotional performance, by young, contemporary performers (e.g., Mr. Tyminski, Ms. Krauss, Ms. Welch) as well as by music veterans.

        For a change, that can also be said of the Grammy nominations.


People to watch in 2002
- 2002 Grammy nominees are the real thing - finally
Clark takes on the Grammys
DEMALINE: The arts
Former ballet star plans summer job
Harry Potter fan also collects cool comments
Jack Rosen, the 'marrying judge'
KENDRICK: Alive and well
Campbell's Scoop
MARTIN: Food stuff
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