LOS ANGELES — Multi-instrumentalist and New Grass Revival founder Sam Bush has appeared on the Grammy Awards only once before. That time, he admits, he was a little stiff.
Actually, Bush was dead still, in a photograph with Jon Randall, accepting a Grammy as a member of Emmylou Harris’ Nash Ramblers. The award, for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, was presented during the pre-telecast portion of the festivities.
In the CBS telecast at 8 p.m. ET tonight (Wed., Feb. 23), from the Staples Center here, Bush will play fiddle with fellow fiddlers Joshua Bell and Mike Marshall and double bassist Edgar Meyer. They will perform a piece titled “Death By Triple Fiddle,” from Short Trip Home, Meyer’s Grammy-nominated album. The quartet of string musicians will play through a few portions of the selection, based on traditional fiddle melodies, then a 30-piece orchestra will join them in a stirring finale.
Bush sees a small irony in the fact that his shot at performing on the Grammy telecast comes because of his contribution to an album nominated in the classical field, for best classical crossover album. His work has been more closely associated with country music, but it also has been musically adventurous.
“I’ve always been in one kind of crossover or another,” he said backstage following a rehearsal Sunday evening. “This is just the latest adventure, and it’s thanks to Edgar including all of us in some tunes he wrote. The way he arranged these tunes, the piece allows each of us to be ourselves. It’s a challenge, because the music is more challenging than some we might play. On the other hand, Edgar allows us to put our best foot forward.”
Several country artists will get the chance to put a best foot forward during tonight’s telecast. Early in the show, the Dixie Chicks, nominated for album of the year, will perform “Goodbye Earl” with their band, including producer Paul Worley on guitar. While the group plays, their video for the song, making its debut, will be visible on a circle screen.
Immediately following their performance, Martina McBride, Ray Romano and Kevin James will present the award for best country album, another category in which the Chicks have a nomination.
Later in the telecast, producer of the year, non-classical, for which country producer Dann Huff is in the running, will be presented.
Faith Hill is tentatively slated to perform the Grammy-nominated “Let Me Let Go,” from her previous album, Faith, though things are still in flux for her segment. Vince Gill originally had been scheduled to join her on the song, but those plans have been scrapped.
Following Hill’s performance, long, tall Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel and Clint and Lisa Hartman Black will present the best female country vocal performance, where Hill is a nominee.
Willie Nelson will get an on-camera nod for his lifetime achievement award, and Bob Dylan and Lauryn Hill will hand out the album of the year honor at the end of the night. Both are past winners in the category.
A Latin segment will feature members of the Buena Vista Social Club, Marc Anthony and Ricky Martin. Elton John will perform “Philadelphia Freedom” with the Backstreet Boys. Viewers also will see Santana, Sting, Kid Rock and Whitney Houston, among others. Will Smith will open the show.
“Will you let me know exactly when to cue the pyro on your number, Edgar?” show director Walter Miller joked Sunday during Meyer’s rehearsal with Bush and the others. “And we’ll have four dancers, too.”
Expect Meyer, Bush, Marshall and Bell to provide plenty of fireworks on their own. No enhancements needed.