Traditional music prevailed Sunday night (Feb. 8) in the country categories at the 46th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Alison Krauss claimed three awards, bringing her career total to 17, and giving her more Grammys than any other Nashville artist. Other traditionalist winners included Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill, Randy Travis and the all-star Livin’, Lovin’, Losin’: Songs of the Louvin Brothers.
The late June Carter Cash’s final recorded project, Wildwood Flower, was named best traditional folk album, but she also won best female country vocal performance for the album track, “Keep on the Sunny Side.” She died May 15, 2003, of complications from heart surgery.
Son John Carter Cash, who produced the album, accepted the awards on her behalf. “It’s a blessing to be here tonight,” he said. “My mother’s heart … it may have [given] up in body, but it never did in spirit. She kept on going.” He added, “My mother’s music … to be respected here tonight and to continue on in the heart of everybody … she’s laughing and dancing somewhere.”
In winning best country performance by a duo or group with vocal, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder edged out mainstream country acts, including Brooks & Dunn, Diamond Rio and Lonestar. Skaggs and his band won for “A Simple Life.”
The recorded tribute to Charlie and the late Ira Louvin was one of the most critically acclaimed albums of 2003. The album includes performances by Joe Nichols, Rhonda Vincent, Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Terri Clark, Merle Haggard, Ronnie Dunn, Glen Campbell, Linda Ronstadt, Patty Loveless, Dierks Bentley, Dolly Parton and the late Johnny Cash, among others. According to a publicist at Universal South Records, only the producer, Carl Jackson, gets the Grammy.
One of the album tracks — Krauss and James Taylor’s remake of the Louvins’ “How’s the World Treating You” — was named best country collaboration with vocals. Krauss and her band, Union Station, won best bluegrass album honors for Live and the best country instrumental performance award for “Cluck Old Hen.”
With all but the female country vocal performance winner announced before the Grammy telecast began, Krauss got face time later in the show when she provided violin and background vocals to Sarah McLachlan, who performed her current single, “Fallen.”
Gill earned his 16th Grammy after winning the best male country vocal performance award for the title track of his latest album, Next Big Thing. He joined Sting and Dave Matthews for a musical tribute to the 40th anniversary of the Beatles’ first live performances in the U.S. Roaring through the Fab Four’s “I Saw Her Standing There,” Gill traded vocals and provided a guitar solo. Proving his sense of history and eye for detail, Gill was playing a sunburst Epiphone Casino electric guitar — the identical model George Harrison and the late John Lennon acquired in 1965.
Dwight Yoakam and Harris participated in a tribute to singer-songwriter Warren Zevon, who died Sept. 7, 2003, following a lengthy battle with cancer. Although not classified as a country songwriter, Zevon’s compositions include “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me,” a hit for Terri Clark in 1996. One of Zevon’s last recordings, “Keep Me in Your Heart,” played at the end of a segment honoring several music greats who passed away during the past year. With images of Zevon running on giant video screens, Yoakam and Harris joined Jackson Browne, Timothy B. Schmit and Billy Bob Thornton in singing one last song with their friend.
Martina McBride got the attention of artists from other musical genres with a powerful and moving performance of her hit, “Concrete Angel.”
Faith Hill and Carlos Santana acknowledged jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins as winner of a Lifetime Achievement award before presenting the night’s biggest award — album of the year — to OutKast for Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Keith Urban and violinist Joshua Bell presented Lifetime Achievement awards to classical pianist Van Cliburn and bluegrass guitarist Doc Watson.
This year’s country-related Grammy winners include:
Best Male Country Vocal Performance
“Next Big Thing,” Vince Gill
Track from: Next Big Thing
Best Female Country Vocal Performance
“Keep on the Sunny Side,” June Carter Cash
Track from: Wildwood Flower
Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal
“A Simple Life,” Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder
Track from: Live at the Charleston Music Hall
Best Country Collaboration With Vocals
“How’s the World Treating You,” James Taylor and Alison Krauss
Track from: Livin’, Lovin’, Losin’: Songs of the Louvin Brothers
Best Country Instrumental Performance
“Cluck Old Hen,” Alison Krauss & Union Station
Track from: Live
Best Country Song
“It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere”
Jim “Moose” Brown and Don Rollins (songwriters)
Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett (artists)
Track from: Jackson’s Greatest Hits Volume II
Best Country Album
Livin’, Lovin’, Losin’: Songs of the Louvin Brothers, Various Artists
Producer, Carl Jackson
Best Bluegrass Album
Live, Alison Krauss & Union Station
Best Traditional Folk Album
Wildwood Flower, June Carter Cash
Best Contemporary Folk Album
The Wind, Warren Zevon
Best Short Form Music Video
Hurt, Johnny Cash
Mark Romanek (video director), Aris McGarry (video producer)
Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album
Rise and Shine, Randy Travis