The big news about the Grammies in folk music this year is that they remain irrelevant. The categories are hopelessly gerrymandered and the music is, in general, hopelessly insipid. A genius like Tom Waits can win only by stacking him against indies like Utah Phillips and Ani DiFranco in the "contemporary folk" category instead of forcing everyone with ears to admit that his songs make everything else in the pop/rock category sound like jingle bells. And revolutionary musicians like Carlos Santana might walk away with a heap of awards, but it's never for their best, groundbreaking work. For a full listing of the schlockfest, see http://www.grammys.com/nominees/list.html
If you're really interested in rating the year's folk/acoustic releases, a better bet is to visit the website of AFIM (Association for Independent Musicians), which hosts the "Indies" awards. The awards will be held at AFIM's annual convention in Cleveland, May 3-7, hosted by Amy Ray.
In any case, here's who won Grammies in "folk":
"traditional folk" - Press On - June Carter Cash
"contemporary folk" - Mule Variations - Tom Waits
"bluegrass" - Ancient Tones - Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder
To see full information about the nominees, go to (http://grammys.com/nominee/awards/folk.html), but here's the rundown:
"Traditional Folk Album"
- Press On - June Carter Cash
- The Long Ride - Ramblin' Jack Elliott
- Retrograss - Dave Grisman, John Hartford & Mike Seeger
- Songs of Mississippi John Hurt - Bill Morrissey
- Third Generation Blues - Doc & Richard Watson
Best Contemporary Folk Album:
- Cajunization - Beausoleil
- Fellow Workers - Ani DiFranco & Utah Phillips
- In Spite Of Ourselves - John Prine
- Western Wall - The Tucson Sessions - Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris
- Mule Variations - Tom Waits
"Best Bluegrass Album"
Ancient Tones - (Ceili)
Bluegrass Mandolin Extravaganza (Acoustic Disc)
The Mountain (E-Squared)
The Bluegrass Sessions (Warner Bros.)
I Feel Like Singing Today (Rebel)
A big hit on the broadcast - and one of the few nods to real music - was Sam Bush and Edgar Meyer performing with fiddlers Mike Marshall and Joshua Bell. The piece they played was called "Death by Triple Fiddle" from the CD Short Trip Home. Rosie O'Donnell was widely criticized for having no idea who these giants were:
The biggest controversy by far concerns Tom Waits' inclusion in "Contemporary Folk," and opinions range from disgust to open arms. Some notable excerpts from the list's postings:
"Rosie was about as funny and even less entertaining than a nuclear waste dump... I think I'll just read the paper next year." - Iceman
"Well, at least there was one real, honest-to-gosh, traditional folksong that won a grammy. "Whiskey In The Jar" - As performed by Metallica."
"Other countries seem to do MUCH better with this than the U.S. with their major music awards ... but NARAS is so drunk on the $$ and power of their awards that they've become almost meaningless for the categories outside the pop mainstream."
Hugh Blumenfeld, Editor