New American Roots Category Being Added to Grammys
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.
June 12, 2014 @ 2:42 pm
Hmmm, well this is good and bad I suppose. Does this also include new versions of old songs or all original works…That one thing I didn’t understand.
June 12, 2014 @ 7:48 pm
I think the new sample rule exclusively has to do with artists using snippets of previously-published material in their songs. I don’t believe it is meant to deal with cover songs.
June 17, 2014 @ 8:51 am
I agree completely.
I don’t like the notion of Big Music types trying to publicly define the parameters of roots music.
What I see is plenty of pretty girls with guitars ( e.g. Kasey)and no JTE, Dale Watson, etc.
June 12, 2014 @ 3:15 pm
Watch the Grammys drop the ball and award the first Americana award to Luke Bryan ala Jethro Tull winning best Heavy Metal group.
June 12, 2014 @ 3:24 pm
So you think this might be a place for Western Swing instead of lumping it with Country?
June 12, 2014 @ 3:57 pm
Don’t really see that. I see it more as a place for music that is rootsy, but too ambiguous form the other category. The first set of nominees will be very interesting.
The reason I think they eliminated the Western Swing category is because it just became a ringer for Asleep at the Wheel. They now have more Grammys than anyone in music. 🙂
June 14, 2014 @ 10:14 am
Well I don’t dislike those stats at all. But is is understandable and does get predictable.
June 12, 2014 @ 4:27 pm
I leaned my comment towards Western Swing because you tagged Asleep At the Wheel. I don’t think Western Swing ever had it’s own catagory and that the Asleep At the Wheel had influence from strong ties to the academy.
June 12, 2014 @ 8:31 pm
I am trying to run down the info on exactly what Asleep At The Wheel’s 9 Grammy Awards are for, and if there was ever a Western Swing category or not. For whatever reason, this info is curiously difficult to find. I know some of the Grammys are for Best Country Instrumental performance, which was the same award that Marty Stuart won in 2011 for “Hummingbyrd”, and then was eliminated in 2012 as a category, along with many other categories. From what I remember, there was a category that was eliminated because the awards just kept going to Asleep At The Wheel. It could have been the instrumental one. I think it’s great that Asleep At The Wheel got so many Grammy Awards, but I can understand if you have one act that wins virtually every year, at some point it takes the spirit of an award away if there’s no competition.
June 12, 2014 @ 9:23 pm
Offhand I know Asleep At the Wheel won the country instrumental in 1995 Red Wing and 1997 Hightower. They lost in 1998 for Fat Boy Rag.
June 12, 2014 @ 5:44 pm
Wow, I know people have been pushing for this at least since the mid 2000’s when I worked in the CD distribution business. Can’t believe it’s finally happened. Who knows, it if it’s a hit then all those roots artists will finally get to play their music in front of a huge audience (unplugged and playing to tracks of course and probably some sort of medley lol).
June 12, 2014 @ 5:48 pm
I will be curious to see how the heck the Academy distinguishes between “Americana” and “American Roots.”
Also, it seems like this change increases the opportunity for Sturgill Simpson to be nominated.
June 15, 2014 @ 5:47 am
I’ve been pondering that one as well and the closest example I can think of in another category is the difference between the Grammy for Best Rock Album and Best Alternative Rock Album. In that category. mostly, in practice Best Rock Album means ‘Best Rock Performance by a band whose members are over the age of 35″ and Best Alternative Rock is “Best Rock Performance by a band whose members are under the age of 35”. So my best guess is that one of the categories will mostly focus more on older established artists like, say, Lucinda Wiliams, Buddy Miller, Emmylou Harris while the other will focus on more up and coming artists like say Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson and Devil Makes Three. i’m sure this will be the subject of a lot of debate but from my view double the number of artists will get recognition so it is a good thing.
June 12, 2014 @ 6:44 pm
I can picture it now at next year’s Grammys: “And the 2015 Grammy for Best American Roots Performance in the American Roots Music Field goes to…Sturgill Simpson and Metamodern Sounds in Country Music.” That would be something right there.
June 13, 2014 @ 4:43 am
I half expected you to write . . . .
‘I can picture it now at next year”™s Grammys: “And the 2015 Grammy for Best American Roots Performance in the American Roots Music Field goes to”¦”Eric Church and The Outsiders.” That would be something right there.
But then I remembered we weren’t talking about the CMAs here.
June 13, 2014 @ 9:34 am
Speaking of which…
I had the EXTREME pleasure of seeing Jason Isbell live last night in Bloomington IL.
What a great performance, 2 hours of joy that incorporated rock, country, folk, all with magnificent musicianship. And what an emotive voice!
Thanks again to this site for leading me to him.
December 7, 2015 @ 7:53 am
Don’t forget to check out the Mavericks and Raul Malo in this category. Their live show will be enough to convince you they deserve this award.