Faith Hill Makes Ready for Grammy Awards

Country Singer Set to Shine Tonight

LOS ANGELES — The folks who planned tonight’s
(Feb. 21) Grammy telecast (8 p.m. ET on CBS)
have given Faith Hill a big job.

Because the country singer has great crossover
appeal, she has a prime spot in the big show’s
running order. Hill’s performance of “Breathe” –
nominated for Song of the Year and Country Song
of the Year — comes right at the end of the first hour
and carries over slightly into the second hour.

The theory is that Hill, with her broad-based
popularity, can dissuade viewers from reaching for
the remote to tune to West Wing or Who Wants to
Be a Millionaire
, airing on competing networks.

U2′s performance of “Beautiful Day” follows
immediately after Hill; if the Grammy TV committee
has guessed right, many in the audience will be
hooked for a second hour by the tasty lure of the two acts.

Tuesday morning, during rehearsals at the Staples Center, Hill appeared ready
for her role. Her slender shoulders draped in an orange shawl, she sported jeans,
and her hair was pulled back in a single, chopped-off ponytail. Her request for
Tylenol sent stage crew and handlers scurrying to find some, but whatever ailed
her did not affect her ability to deliver a stirring performance of “Breathe.”

On Monday, Macy Gray ran through “I Try” so many times that she went 40
minutes over her allotted practice slot. Hill, in contrast, had her demanding paces
down in just three tries, clocking in at 45 minutes.

Her appearance on tonight’s show will go something like this: A lighted platform,
concealing Hill, will fold down to create a walkway to her microphone. A 14-piece
string section will play on her right; Hill’s 10-piece band and backing vocalists will
be stationed to her left. On a large screen behind her, an ever-changing tableau
of abstract art will provide a colorful backdrop, sort of like a highbrow light show.

“It looks great up here!” Hill exclaimed at one point during rehearsal.

Before and after her performance, Hill will join husband Tim McGraw in the
audience. Seating charts tend to change, but Tuesday the couple’s designated
seats were next to CBS sitcom stars Kevin James (King of Queens) and Ray
Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond) and across the aisle from Trisha
Yearwood.

In other curious juxtapositions, Emmylou Harris sits next to Beach Boy Brian
Wilson; Vince Gill is adjacent to Paul Simon; songwriters Mark D. Sanders and
Tia Sillers are on the same row as the Blue Man Group; songwriters Stephanie
Bentley and Holly Lamar are between Kid Rock and MTV personality Carson
Daly.

Harris started collecting Grammy Week awards Tuesday. She was named Best
Acoustic Guitarist Female at the 2001 Orville H. Gibson Guitar Awards during
afternoon ceremonies at the Petersen Automotive Museum. Alabama’s Jeff Cook
was named Best Country Guitarist Male; Shelby Lynne, who once was a country
artist, took Best Country Guitarist Female.

“The guitar has meant so much to me,” Harris said as she accepted her award.
“The mystery of music and the beauty of music was never really unlocked for me
until I came into contact with the guitar.”

The “romantic image of women with guitars” appealed to her, Harris went on to
say, but eventually she had to learn to play. She got a book and learned three
chords. “I’m really grateful for this award, because I still don’t know more than
three chords.”

Cook showed great emotion accepting his award. “I can remember searching
pawn shops all over Chattanooga, Birmingham, looking for a guitar I could afford,”
he said. “I’ve won a lot of things with Alabama, but this is the first thing, recently,
that I’ve gotten on my own.”

He dedicated his award to the late NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt. After the
ceremony, he named James Burton, the Ventures, Danny Gatton and Jerry Reed
among his major influences.

Lynne did not attend the Gibson awards luncheon, but she will be on hand
tonight for the Grammys. The former country singer is nominated for Best New
Artist. She will perform “The Difficult Kind” with Sheryl Crow.

Dolly Parton and Brad Paisley will appear together in the final half hour of the
show. Parton will perform “Travelin’ Prayer,” Paisley will do “We Danced” before
the duo pairs up to hand out the Best Country Album honor.

Lee Ann Womack will join Jimmy Jam to present 20 awards in pop and R&B
categories during the pre-telecast ceremony. Womack, Gill and Gloria Estefan
will hand out the Grammy for Latin Pop Album at the beginning of tonight’s third
hour.

Among the many nominees attending a reception in their honor Tuesday night at
the California Science Center were first-time nominees Riders in the Sky, Ray
Benson of Asleep at the Wheel, Steve Wariner and his son, Ryan Wariner, and
banjo ace Alison Brown.

By the time Elton John and Eminem give the final performance of the night
tonight, they all will know their fate.