Partying With Nashville’s Grammy Nominees

Country, Gospel, Folk, Polka Contenders Mingle

Vince Gill, Rodney Crowell, Randy Scruggs and Steven Curtis Chapman were among the many Grammy nominees who turned out for a party staged Monday evening (Jan. 24) by the Nashville chapter of the Recording Academy, the organization that confers the Grammy awards. The party was held at Loews Vanderbilt Plaza Hotel in Nashville.

Music industry bigwigs were also on hand for the celebration, including the Country Music Association executive director Ed Benson, producer Garth Fundis (Trisha Yearwood, Buddy Jewell, Sugarland), Country Radio Broadcasters executive director Ed Salamon, BMI vice president of writer-publisher relations C. Paul Corbin and Gaylord Entertainment senior vice president of media and entertainment Steve Buchanan.

Television crews lined the walkway to the party room and snatched up celebrities for quick interviews as they strolled by. Overall, it was a low-key, high-calorie affair with plenty of liquor and food and no speeches. Except for the members of the Notorious Cherry Bombs, who posed briefly for a group picture, there was no formal introduction of the nominees.

In addition to his Cherry Bomb nominations — for best country song and best country performance by a duo or group with vocals — Gill is also in the running for best country instrumental performance. Other Cherry Bombers sharing the spotlight were Rodney Crowell, Tony Brown, Hank DeVito, John Hobbs, Richard Bennett and Michael Rhodes.

Songwriters Craig Wiseman and Tim Nichols strode in together. They’re up for song of the year and country song of the year for the Tim McGraw hit, “Live Like You Were Dying.” Chapman, who stood near the buffet table conversing with friends for most of the evening, is vying for best pop-contemporary gospel album.

Steve Fishell, co-producer of Beautiful Dreamer, the Stephen Foster tribute album, circulated through the crowd with his wife, Tracy Gershon, senior director of A&R and artist development at Sony Music and a former judge for the Nashville Star talent series. Beautiful Dreamer is contending for best traditional folk album.

Jeff Hanna of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and his songwriter wife, Matraca Berg, worked the room separately. The Dirt Band, Scruggs and various other pickers are nominated for best country instrumental performance for their version of “Earl’s Breakdown.” Ray Walker of the Jordanaires held court at a table near the bandstand. His group is aspiring to win in the category of best southern, country or bluegrass gospel album.

Walter Ostanek cruised the room, stopping occasionally to chat with friends. Although his face isn’t all that familiar to country fans, he is a frequent nominee in the polka category. This year, he’s on the ballot for best polka album.

Michael Gray, a former writer for CMT.com who now works for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, attended with his wife and some of the principals of the Hall of Fame album, Night Train to Nashville: Music City Rhythm & Blues, 1945-1970. Gray and Daniel Cooper co-produced the package that is nominated for best historical album. Also on hand was fellow nominee Alan Stoker, who is co-mastering engineer for the album.

Singer-songwriter Bill Miller was a late arrival, breezing in just as the first wave of guests was making its exit. Miller is competing for best native American music album.

The Birdsong Trio provided a smooth stream of pop and jazz for the party and more than once earned a spontaneous burst of applause for its instrumental elegance.

Apart from its schmoozing value, the event also served as a warmup for the 47th annual Grammy Awards show. It will be broadcast Feb. 13 on CBS-TV.