(Editor’s note: CMT.com editorial director Chet Flippo was backstage at Staples Center in Los Angeles to provide information on the winners at the 47th annual Grammy Awards.)
Loretta Lynn had a big time Sunday night (Feb. 13) in Los Angeles, picking up the second and third Grammy awards of her 45-year career.
During presentations prior to the CBS telecast of the 47th annual Grammy Awards show from Staples Center, Lynn and record producer Jack White accepted the award for best country collaboration with vocals for their duet, “Portland, Oregon.” The track appears on Lynn’s album, Van Lear Rose, a collaboration with White, best known for his rock work in the White Stripes.
Later in the evening, Van Lear Rose beat out some mainstream contenders to be named country album of the year. Unbelievably, Lynn’s only other Grammy came in 1971 for her collaboration with Conway Twitty on “After the Fire Is Gone.”
Arriving at the podium and cradling her country album of the year trophy, Lynn said, “Hey, this is what this business is all about, ain’t it?” She continued, “The main thing about country music is, I love to sing it. And there’s a lot of people who love to hear country music.”
White, who produced Van Lear Rose, said “yes, ma’am” several times as Lynn directed him to come to the microphone and thank the audience.
“We were sitting on the front porch together when we were making the record,” White said. “In between songs, she told me, ’You know, Jack, 14 of my songs got banned by country radio. And every time they wouldn’t play it, it went No. 1.’ Well, country radio wouldn’t play this record, either, and look who’s No. 1 now. You’re an American treasure, Loretta.”
Gretchen Wilson and Tim McGraw were winners, too, even before the awards show telecast. Both received ample camera time during performance segments.
Wilson’s “Redneck Woman” won for best female country vocal performance while McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” won the male country vocal prize. In her first year as a nominee, Wilson was recognized in a category that also included Alison Krauss, Lynn, Martina McBride and Shania Twain. Additionally, “Live Like You Were Dying” resulted in a best country song prize for songwriters Craig Wiseman and Tim Nichols. “Redneck Woman” had been nominated for best country song.
Actor Matthew McConaughey introduced a Southern rock tribute featuring Wilson, McGraw and Keith Urban. With Lynyrd Skynyrd backing all of the performances, Wilson appeared onstage wearing a black T-shirt with the message “In Memory of Kilgore,” a subtle tribute to Nashville music executive Merle Kilgore, who died Feb. 6. Kilgore is best known for managing Hank Williams Jr. and writing (with June Carter Cash) the Johnny Cash classic, “Ring of Fire.”
Wilson and Skynyrd’s Johnny Van Zant traded vocal lines on the band’s “Free Bird.” Urban offered the vocal as guitarist Elvin Bishop kicked off “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” a ’70s pop hit for the Elvin Bishop Group. Urban more than held his own in sharing the guitar solo with Bishop. McGraw appeared with former Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dickey Betts on “Ramblin’ Man.”
The Southern rock tribute was impressive, but the musical highlight of the evening came during an all-star performance to call attention to the plight of tsunami victims. Krauss played fiddle as the rock band Velvet Revolver provided the musical backdrop for the Beatles’ “Across the Universe.” McGraw, who also sang “Live Like You Were Dying” during the awards show, performed in a vocal group that included U2’s Bono, Stevie Wonder, Norah Jones, Alicia Keys, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Velvet Revolver’s Scott Weiland.
The video of “Across the Universe” is now available at CBS.com, and audio downloads of the performance are available from iTunes for 99 cents. All download fees will go for tsunami relief.
Although the Dixie Chicks have been shunned at the CMA and ACM award shows in recent years, the trio’s “Top of the World” won a Grammy for best country performance by a duo or group with vocal. Asleep at the Wheel, Big & Rich, Brooks & Dunn and the Notorious Cherry Bombs were also nominated in the category. It’s the Chicks’ eighth career win.
The best bluegrass album honor went to Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder’s Brand New Strings, but the best country instrumental performance was a bluegrass song, too. The nod went to “Earl’s Breakdown,” a track from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Vol. III. The recording also featured the song’s composer, banjo pioneer Earl Scruggs, his son Randy and fiddler Vassar Clements and Dobro master Jerry Douglas.
While it wasn’t a country album, Night Train to Nashville: Music City Rhythm & Blues, 1945-1970, a project released by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Nashville-based Lost Highway Records, was named best historical album in a category that included Johnny Cash’s Unearthed and other compilations featuring jazz bandleader Woody Herman and comedian Lenny Bruce. The win resulted in awards for Hall of Fame staff member Michael Gray and former staff member Daniel Cooper, who compiled the collection, and Hall of Fame staff member Alan Stoker, who digitally restored the rare recordings. Gray is a former CMT.com writer and online producer.
A project with a strong Nashville connection — Beautiful Dreamer — The Songs of Stephen Foster — was named best traditional folk album. Produced by David Macias and Steve Fishell, the album features performances by Rodney Crowell, BR549, John Prine, David Ball, Raul Malo, Michelle Shocked & Pete Anderson, Roger McGuinn, Suzy Bogguss and others.
The late Ray Charles’ final album, Genius Loves Company, won in several categories, including record of the year and best pop vocal collaboration for “Here We Go Again,” a duet with Norah Jones. Written by Nashville songwriter Don “Dirt” Lanier, Charles first recorded the song during the ’60s. Demonstrating the wide range of Charles’ artistry, his album track with Gladys Knight, “Heaven Help Us All,” won in the gospel performance category. Genius Loves Company also won for pop vocal album and overall album of the year.
Kris Kristofferson introduced a segment honoring Janis Joplin, his late friend who was one of several artists acknowledged as recipients of the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Other Lifetime Achievement honorees included the original Carter Family, Jerry Lee Lewis, jazz artists Art Blakey and Jelly Roll Morton, conductor and composer Morton Gould, Led Zeppelin, blues pianist Pinetop Perkins and the gospel-soul band, the Staple Singers.
In addition to Wilson, two other acts — a new band and a veteran singer-songwriter — picked up their first Grammys at Sunday’s awards show. Los Lonely Boys won best pop duo or group with vocals for the single, “Heaven.” Steve Earle’s The Revolution Starts … Now was named best contemporary folk album.
Randy Travis picked up the fifth Grammy of his career when Worship & Faith was named best southern, country or bluegrass gospel album.