Country/Roots Artists The Grammy Awards Should Not Overlook
The Grammy Awards officially open the initial round of voting for nominees today (10-13), and due to the propensity for the Grammys to often overlook key contributors in the country music and roots space—and since it is the only awards organization that will actually award and nominate artists that don’t happen to be on major labels unlike the CMAs and ACMs—here are some simple suggestions of what Grammy voters should make sure they don’t ignore for the 2023 awards.
This isn’t a complete list or guide to the 2023 Grammys, but so often in the past we’ve seen the bellwether artists or landmark releases slide under the radar while other less deserving stuff gets nominated, often due primarily to name recognition, or puff pieces posted over the week of voting in the LA Times. In an increasingly crowded field, these are some selections that the Grammy voters should at least make sure they’re not missing in their decisions.
Best Country Album – American Heartbreak
Best Country Song/Solo Performance – “Something in the Orange”
Best New Artist
Plain and simple, Zach Bryan is the biggest phenomenon in all of country and roots music in 2022, and also one of the biggest phenomenons in all of music, period. With the Oklahoma native continuing to dominate albums charts with American Heartbreak, drawing massive crowds across the country, and ushering in an entire new wave of non-radio-listening younger audiences, it’s going to be up to the Grammy Awards to recognize this phenomenon if anyone does.
And Zach’s recognition should not just be resigned to the country and roots specific awards. He definitely deserves consideration for the all-genre Best New Artist. And if there was ever an album or artist who could slip into the all-genre Album of the Year consideration like Sturgill Simpson did some years back, it would be Zach. If he receives enough nominations, Zach Bryan could even be booked as a performer during the presentation.
Best Country Album – Ashley McBryde Presents: Lindeville
I’m afraid that Ashley McBryde and Lindeville may be at a disadvantage because it was released right on the last day of eligibility for the Grammy Awards, September 30th. But this title should not be overlooked by Grammy voters like it was by much of the media and public since it was released on the same day as the new Tyler Childers album Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven?, which dominated the sales and conversation. Lindeville is the critical favorite, and the kind of conceptualized record the Grammy Awards were built to recognize.
Best Country/Americana Album – The Man From Waco
Best American Roots Song/Americana Performance – “I’m Just a Clown”
When it comes to Charley Crockett, any Grammy Award will feel more like an accolade for the cumulative effort he’s expended for years now as one of the hardest working people in country music as opposed to his specific output in the last year, though his new album and the song “I’m Just a Clown” are now slouches. In fact, they’ve both been stuck at the very top of the Americana Radio Chart for many weeks now leading up to Grammy voting. This guy deserves national recognition, and we know the CMAs and ACMs sure as hell aren’t going to step up to do it. Charley Crockett fulfills all the requisites Grammy voters are looking for, and hopefully this will be his year.
Charles Wesley Godwin
Best Country/Americana Album – How The Mighty Fall
This is the kind of album that would be classically overlooked by the Grammy Awards when it should be a top contender. Since it was released early on in the eligibility period (November 5th, 2021), and is not from one of the “hot” names in media circles in country or Americana, it could slip through the cracks. Nonetheless, How The Mighty Fall was a critical favorite, being names the best album of 2021 by both Saving Country Music and Whiskey Riff, along with other major periodicals giving it praise, while it also has become a strong fan favorite. In a just world, it would be a top contender. At the least, Grammy voters should have it on their radar, and give it fair consideration.
Best American Roots Song / Americana or American Roots Performance – “Ships in the Harbor”
I know what many will say: of course John Prine’s son shows up in music, releases one song, and receives a Grammy nomination. Nepotism is alive and well! But these people will be dead wrong. “Ships in the Harbor” is one of the best songs released in all of music in 2022, no matter who released it, and it definitely deserves to be considered for the same distinction Tommy’s father received for many of his greatest compositions throughout the years.
Best Bluegrass Album – Crooked Tree
This shouldn’t need to be highlighted. My guess is it’s a shoo-in not just for a nomination, but it’s the front runner in the field. But with the way the Grammy Awards can get strange on us upon occasion, let’s just double emphasize that what Molly Tuttle and her band Golden Highway has done in 2022 is landmark quality, and there might be a bluegrass insurrection if this thing isn’t nominated. So don’t duff this, Grammys.
Best Country Album – Mr. Saturday Night
Jon Pardi actually has received some recognition from the CMAs and ACMs over the years, winning Best New Artist awards from both, and had his last album Heartache Medication nominated for Album of the Year. He’s not as much a critical darling as he is a true country artist in the mainstream who it’s important to recognize and encourage. Mr. Saturday Night will be one of the most country records released in the mainstream all year, and it deserves recognition in the Grammy’s country categories.
Best Americana Album – Obsessed with the West
Back in the day, Western Swing had its own Grammy category. Now it’s catalogued under “Americana,” which puts it in competition with so many of the well-recognized names in the field like Brandi Carlile and Steve Earle. But this title should not be overlooked as an important and critically-acclaimed roots release that helps keep Western Swing alive. This feels like a career effort from an artist whose career deserves to be recognized as Grammy caliber.
Best Gospel Album – And Now Let’s Turn to Page…
Brent Cobb is not completely unfamiliar to the Grammy Awards. He received a nomination in 2018 for his album Shine On Rainy Day. But since this is a Gospel album, it might get overlooked in the Gospel category, where it deserves to receive strong consideration.
Additional albums to be considered:
Arlo McKinley – This Mess We’re In
Kaitlin Butts – What Else Can She Do?
Willi Carlisle – Peculiar, Missouri
American Aquarium – Chicamacomico
Ian Noe – River Fools & Mountain Saints
49 Winchester – Fortune Favors the Bold
Willie Nelson – A Beautiful Time
Additional songs to be considered:
Lyle Lovett – “12th of June”
Caroline Spence – “Scale These Walls”
Wade Bowen with Vince Gill – “A Guitar, a Singer, and a Song”
October 13, 2022 @ 8:22 am
I like Charlie Crockett, in general, though his lyrics and song structure are pedestrian and he tries to sing well below his vocal range, I like his style and act, which I think is what most people like about him. That being said, what he has accomplished and built independently is incredible and has had multiple labels trying to sign him after the fact (he doesn’t need them now, obviously). For that reason, he will probably never get nominated for any type of award of this caliber. Sturgill was much more talented and commercial: vocally, guitar, sync presence in shows/movies than a Crockett, who has been so openly anti-industry, even though the Grammy’s are less label-centric than CMAs or ACMs, I think he will have much harder time than, say, Zach Bryan, getting a Grammy.
October 13, 2022 @ 11:19 am
I hear normies getting excited for Zach Bryan and I’ve heard people in traffic playing his music. He should get several wins (despite how I personally feel about this music)
October 13, 2022 @ 12:19 pm
I’m sure anyone in Norman (or Oklahoma) would be excited about his success. What do you personally feel about his music, if you don’t mind me asking?
October 13, 2022 @ 12:42 pm
What Charley Crockett has going for him is right now he has the #1 album on the Americana radio chart, and the #1 song, and it’s been that way for going on three months. He’s absolutely dominating the format in a way we haven’t seen from any artist in quite a while, and I definitely think that could translate into Grammy consideration. And when you consider he’s now pulled off this same feat with his last few records, he’s starting that challenge Jason Isbell’s reign as the king of the Americana genre.
October 13, 2022 @ 8:43 am
Zach will definitely get into BNA. I’d think he has a good chance at winning too, especially since he has an alphabetical advantage as well. The song and solo perf noms are always a weird crapshoot. I remember when they put Thomas Rhett and Lady A into country album and shafted the weight of these wings because it was too long or too americana maybe. ZB should def get a few noms, my only thing is that with the entire album I don’t believe it was the best complete body of work out there, it was long and a lot of the songs weren’t all necessary, just my opinion! But I’m sure he’ll get the nominations he deserves.
They also like Ashley I believe, as they should. I’m sure they’ll save a space for Maren somewhere 🙂 Crowded year. Pardi might have a tougher go of it. I also heard somewhere that like only 5% of the voting body vote in the first round??? I guess it’s intimidating to shift thru the countless submissions and artist names on the first ballot, which is why a lot of deserving smaller names don’t get the recognition we think they should.
October 13, 2022 @ 8:51 am
We still don’t know what will be on Ashley McBryde’s next album, which should be out the first quarter of 2023 and contain songs more likely to get radio’s attention and resonate more with all the fans and critics who loved “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” and “One Night Standards.” Unless that album is a real disappointment — and Ashley has yet to disappoint — she’s got a far better chance to impact the 2024 Grammys than the 2023. No disrespect intended for the superb “Lindeville,” just a little amateur analysis based on past performances of Grammy voters.
October 13, 2022 @ 8:55 am
Brennen Leigh for sure
October 13, 2022 @ 9:43 am
If Ian Noe can be categorized in Folk, it would be absolutely criminal for that album not to get a nod.
October 13, 2022 @ 10:57 am
Despite the amateurish of Zach Bryan’s lyrics, he is still much more authentic than Charley Crockett. Charley comes off like he’s trying to role-play as a 1970’s country artist but he lacks the vocal talent to do so. I don’t know what Charley really is. Despite what I think of the lyrics of Zach Bryan he certainty doesn’t come across like he’s pandering.
ex: listen to Oklahoma Smokeshow – the lyrics are dumb but the overall dumbness of his lyrics is consistent and it doesnt seem like he’s trying to appear smarter than he really is
October 13, 2022 @ 2:22 pm
I believe it’s something akin to method acting. In that he has a genuine love for the music and musicians of country’s past and he consciously tries to emulate them in the belief that looking the part, talking the talk and walking the walk will improve his art. Now that may be inauthentic to some but I suppose that’s a matter of opinion. Mine is that not everyone is born in a certain place or to a certain culture but that anyone who honestly loves the music can play it and be as authentic as anyone else. Now if he was trying to use the look and style to work his way onto radio and then changed up his sound to conform to what a pop country audience wants to hear, that’s what I would call pandering. Clearly his vocals leave something to be desired and his writing needs work so I can understand someone not being a fan but I don’t think it’s fair to say he’s a phony. I see it as more in the tradition of having a larger than life stage persona.
Agreed about Zach Bryan but I hope he’ll mature as an artist and a songwriter. I think the heart on your sleeve stuff just appeals to young people in a deep way, especially now when they’ve been wading through fakeness on social media their whole lives. To me, in middle age his lyrics come off as cliched and a bit trite, teenage angst in a sad country mode rather than angry punk or disaffected grunge. But I wonder if I was still filled with the hormones of youth and yet to experience the ups and downs of life then his music might be more appealing to me.
October 14, 2022 @ 3:52 am
Hey Ryan you perfectly expressed my same feelings about Zach Bryan’s music the same way i would have done if english was my first language.
October 14, 2022 @ 8:03 am
Ahh the Crockett authenticity debate. He can’t play, he can’t sing, he can’t write! I saw Zach and Charley at outlaw. It was no contest. Crockett was explosive. Zach seemed like an open mic artist. And here lies the rub. Many folks nowadays equate amateurism with authenticity. I couldn’t disagree more. Authenticity comes from somebody who steps into their own over a period of time and develops a truly original voice which usually is attached to hard living. George Jones imitated Hank Williams. Loretta imitated Kitty Wells. Charlie Rich was a soul/R&B artist long before he complained about John Denver ruining his beloved country music. You call Bryan authentic but that’s just another way of saying you want talent show artists that remind you of the boy next door. There will always be another Zach Bryan or Tyler Childers. it only requires the machine promoting them. Even if it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s myth about Charley Crockett, he’s one of a kind in a field of basic ass voices and I’m routing for him.
October 14, 2022 @ 11:34 am
I’ve given Crockett a chance and watched some of his videos….”explosive” is probably the most generous adjective I’ve heard yet for him.
October 14, 2022 @ 10:30 pm
Bingo. Charley is great live. I just don’t see what anyone sees in Zach Bryan. I’ve yet to hear a song that moves me and his music is just plain boring. Someone above called him “amateurish”. That describes him perfectly. Some of his songs are total cliches, lyrically and musically. Putting him the same sentence as Tyler Childers is just plain wrong and laughable. “There will always be another Zach Bryan or Tyler Childers”? Tyler has come into his own these last few years and is unlike anyone else out there today. I’m a Crockett fan but he is nowhere in the same league as Tyler is.
October 13, 2022 @ 11:16 am
I’ve never heard of anyone getting a Grammy simply for their “cumulative effort” rather than the quality of their actual output. It sounds like Joe Rogan patting himself on the back about being a comedian and having done it for 30+ years…despite him not being that funny.
October 13, 2022 @ 12:48 pm
Oh, when it comes to the Roots categories especially, that’s what we see happen over and over.
Sturgill Simpson’s magum opus: “Metamodern Sounds in country Music.” Only received an “Americana” album nomination. His next album “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.” It wins the Country Grammy, and gets nominated for all genre Album of the Year.
Jason Isbell’s magun opus: “Southeastern.” Gets completely ignored. His next two albums “Something More Than Free” and “The Nashville Sound” both with Americana Album of the Year.
Tyler Childers magum opus: “Purgatory.” Gets completely ignored. The he picks up nominations for “All Your’n” and “Long Violent History.”
The Grammy Awards are always a year or two behind on this stuff. That is why I decided to post this article this year. It may make no difference, but it would be just like the Grammys to ignore Zach Bryan completely this year, and then give him Album of the Year next year for a 7-song EP of outtakes.
October 13, 2022 @ 1:19 pm
I think Ashley McBryde could win this year, but for “Never Wanted to Be That Girl” with Carly Pearce…
October 13, 2022 @ 5:24 pm
I fear Molly will get squeezed out by Billy Strings on one side and Bela Fleck on the other, but the Grammys would have to be asleep at the wheel to not at least nominate Crooked Tree.
October 14, 2022 @ 7:24 pm
Didn’t Bela Fleck win last year, 2022, for My Bluegrass Heart?
October 14, 2022 @ 9:36 pm
Yes, Bela won last year, in a extremely crowded field that also included Billy Strings and Sturgill Simpson. I think this year the field is wide open for Molly to hopefully dominate. Some other good records out there as well.
David: The Duke of Everything
October 13, 2022 @ 7:14 pm
I agree, ships in the harbor by Tommy prine is excellent. Maybe the best song of the year. I was having a hard time figuring out what you label it as. You put it in roots. I was thinking modern folk. I guess it doesn’t matter. I’ve been listening to his dad a lot lately. I’m sure he’s proud just seeing him from above. Hopefully he puts more songs out soon.
October 13, 2022 @ 7:25 pm
For the Grammy Awards, there is no folk song category. There is a Best Folk Album, but all songs in the roots category compete in the “American Roots Song” category, which covers Americana, folk, bluegrass, and blues. There are also “American Roots Performance” and “Americana Performance” categories that are less about the song itself, and more about the performance of the song.
October 13, 2022 @ 7:51 pm
Tommy Prine should absolutely take it for “Ships In The Harbor.”
October 14, 2022 @ 5:37 am
Ashley has sooo much talent & vision! Yes she’ll win a Grammy……but not, unfortunately, for LINDEVILLE!!! Never Wanted To Be That Girl will get it for her!
October 14, 2022 @ 6:53 am
There is no reason this has to be an either or. Ashley McBryde could be nominated for Album of the Year, and Vocal/Group Performance of the Year in country.
Then again, just checking the dates here, and “Never Wanted to Be That Girl” was released on September 15th. I believe that takes it out of the eligibility period.
October 14, 2022 @ 8:15 am
September 15th, 2021? Then why wasn’t it nominated for the 2022 Grammys?
October 14, 2022 @ 8:25 am
Well, that’s a good question, and one I asked at the time. Meanwhile, Walker Hayes got a nomination, and Jason Isbell did to for a cover of a country trucker song from an obscure soundtrack. That’s the reason I wanted to put this list together. Similar to “Lindeville,” “Never Wanted To Be That Girl” was released right at the tail end of eligibility, which means it may have not had time to marinate before voting.
Country Charley Crockett's Butter
October 14, 2022 @ 5:27 pm
I really hope Luke Combs doesn’t get nominated for Country Album because it was incredibly underwhelming and forgettable. Most of his fans seem to think so too.
For mainstream artists – i hope Ashley McBryde, Jon Pardi, and Miranda get recognized.
October 15, 2022 @ 7:51 am
Totally agree on Luke. Two songs he posted on YouTube between albums — “Five Leaf Clover” and “See Me Now” — were equal or superior to anything on “Growin’ Up,” yet neither made the final cut. Bad call, whoever it was who made it.