New American Roots Category Being Added to Grammys

grammy-awardsOn Thursday, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences or Grammy Awards announced a litany of new changes to the rules and categories that govern its annal awards held every February. “The Academy’s Board of Trustees continues to demonstrate its passionate commitment to keeping The Recording Academy a relevant and responsive organization in our dynamic music community,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. “This year’s changes to our Awards process are thoughtful, inclusive, and reflective of the current musical landscape, and we look forward to implementing them for the upcoming 57th Annual Grammy Awards.”

The Grammy Awards include a total of 83 categories, and go much deeper than what viewers might see on the televised portion of the presentation, including acknowledging many often-overlooked accomplishments by independent artists in the Americana, blues, bluegrass, and folk fields, as well as instrumentalists and other non-commercial musicians.

Within the new rules is the establishment of only one new category for the 2015 awards, but it is one that will benefit many of America’s roots musicians. An award for “Best American Roots Performance in the American Roots Music Field” will be handed out for the first time in 2015, and both the nominees and winner will enjoy the distinction of being recognized by the most distinguished body governing recorded music. The establishment of a new roots category also acknowledges the growing demand and importance for American roots music, of which country, folk, and blues are an integral part of, but don’t always do the best at defining.

According to the Grammy Awards, the new category will “encompass all of the subgenres of the Field (Americana, bluegrass, blues, folk, regional roots music), and recognizes singles/tracks only as well as solo artists/duos/groups/collaborations. This puts the Field in line with the Pop, Rock, Rap, R&B, Country, and Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Fields, all of which have performance categories.”

The news from the National Academy of Recording Arts about the new American Roots category was overshadowed somewhat by arguably the biggest rule change made this year, which is the decision to allow songs with samples of other songs to be considered for top Grammy awards, including Song of the Year. “Changes approved by Academy trustees include allowing samples or interpolations of previously-written songs in all songwriting categories,” the Academy said. This is a rule change was long challenged by purists not wanting to see songs with samples be judged beside completely original works.

Multiple other categories of the 83 awards had changes in the wording implemented, but stayed mostly static.

Though the instituting of a roots category is a win for many roots music fans and musicians, it also should be remembered that a few years ago, the Grammy Awards eliminated categories for country instrumentals and others that had seen artists like Asleep At The Wheel and Marty Stuart walk away with awards in the past.