Country/Roots Artists The Grammy Awards Should Not Overlook

Ashley McBryde / Zach Bryan / Charley Crockett / Molly Tuttle

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.

Zach Bryan

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.

Ashley McBryde

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.

Charley Crockett

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.

Tommy Prine

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.

Molly Tuttle

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.

Jon Pardi

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.

Brennen Leigh

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.

Brent Cobb

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”

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