One thing is for certain, all of the nominees are most deserving. In the past 10 months that I have been following the Americana genre, I have been exposed to some of the most unique, creative and moving material that is being recorded today. There are many other albums out there that could have been nominated for the award and no one would have questioned the Academy's decision. So truly, these five albums are the best of an already stellar group of material.
However, as the old cliche goes, there can only be one winner. And while I can attest to the strength of the Roseanne Cash album "The List" (Manhattan) and Robert Plant offering of "Band of Joy" (Rounder), and have no doubt of the strength on the aforementioned recordings of Mavis Staples and Los Lobos, I believe the winner will be Willie Nelson's "Country Music" (Rounder) that will take home the prize.
I say this for a variety of reasons, some that can be explained and some that can't. None of these reasons take anything away from the performances of the other artists on their respective albums, this is one man's opinion. As a long time fan of Willie, I can't recall a time where I sensed such strength and passion in his voice. Willie isn't just honoring the history of country music on this record, he's doing his part to preserve the history of country music. While it can be rightly argued that Roseanne Cash is doing the same thing on "The List", Willie's offering captures a very different part of the history of country music and no less important. Willie's album captures country music, and indeed modern North American music in general, at it's earliest form -- from the days of its formation as a mountain music played amongst the locals in the coal-mining country of the eastern United States. Roseanne's album captures material that is slightly more modern than Willie's as she tends to go back to material from the 1950's and 1960's, a time where country music had progressed to a point where it was beginning to spawn such offspring as rockabilly and, of course, rock n' roll. Stellar production from T Bone Burnett makes the "Country Music" album a record for the ages.
As I mentioned, this is one man's opinion. All of the albums deserve to be in this category and are very deserving of the honors and accolades they have received and will continue to receive. At the end of the day though, there can only be one winner, which is a sad reality on some days. And that winner will be Willie Nelson and "Country Music."
Before I go, I'd like to draw attention to a couple of other artists whom I believe have a good chance at picking up a Grammy tonight. Longtime Grand Ole Opry member Patty Loveless is up for Best Bluegrass Album for "Mountain Soul II" (Sagauro Road) and the Carolina Chocolate Drops are up for Best Traditional Folk Album for their "Genuine Negro Jig" offering on Nonesuch Records.
You can watch the Grammy Awards on CBS at 8:00pm Eastern time, 5:00 Pacific time.