Chris Stapleton and Little Big Town dominated the country categories at Monday night’s (Feb. 15) Grammy Awards in Los Angeles with Stapleton winning best country album honors for Traveller and best country solo performance for the title track from the breakthrough project.
Stapleton was also nominated for all-genre album of the year — a trophy Taylor Swift accepted for 1989. “Girl Crush” was also nominated for all-genre song of the year, but the honor went to songwriters Ed Sheeran and Amy Wadge for Sheeran’s hit, “Thinking Out Loud.”
Americana favorite Jason Isbell’s “24 Frames” was named best American roots song, and the singer-songwriter’s Something More Than Free won for best Americana album.
In accepting his best country album award he shares with producer Dave Cobb, Stapleton joked, “I’d like to thank Taylor Swift for glitter-bombing me before I got up here for this.” Referring to his Grammys, he added, “This is something that you never ever, ever dream of, so I’m super grateful for it.”
In addition to his two trophies, Stapleton and also swapped vocals and guitar riffs with Gary Clark Jr. and Bonnie Raitt in a moving tribute to the late B.B. King. With Stapleton and Clark kicking off one of King’s signature songs, “The Thrill Is Gone,” with stinging single-note guitar work, Raitt’s slide guitar provided an added depth to the performance.
While the collaboration was a prime example of what mainstream country music sounds like in 2016, Stapleton being relegated to the B.B. King tribute and Isbell not getting a performance slot at all meant that the Grammy telecast lacked any real representation of traditional country.
On the other hand, the tribute to the late Glenn Frey came about as close as anything to capturing the spirit of traditional country as Eagles members Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit and Joe Walsh, former member Bernie Leadon and longtime friend Jackson Browne performed the band’s classic “Take It Easy.” It wasn’t the Eagles’ strongest performance of the song, but it’s worth mentioning that Frey died less than a month ago. Aside from missing his lead vocal, the musicians seemed to be feeling the bigger loss of their friend. It had to have been one of the most emotionally-challenging performance of their lives.
Luke Bryan performed “Penny Lover” during a tribute to 2016 MusiCares Person of the Year Lionel Richie. Others participating in the tribute were John Legend (“Easy”), Demi Lovato (“Hello”), Meghan Trainor (“You Are”) and Tyrese (“Brick House”). Richie was brought to the stage to join the group for “All Night Long (All Night).”
Best Country Duo/Group Performance: “Girl Crush,” Little Big Town
Best Country Song: “Girl Crush,” Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose (songwriters)
Best Country Album: Traveller, Chris Stapleton
Best Country Solo Performance: “Traveller,” Chris Stapleton (track from Traveller)
Best Americana Album: Something More Than Free, Jason Isbell
Best American Roots Song: “24 Frames,” Jason Isbell (songwriter)
Best Bluegrass Album: The Muscle Shoals Recordings, the SteelDrivers
Best American Roots Performance, “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” Mavis Staples
Best Blues Album: Born to Play Guitar, Buddy Guy
Best Folk Album: Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn
Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media: Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me (various artists)
Best Recording Package: Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills And His Texas Playboys, Asleep at the Wheel (musical artists), Sarah Dodds, Shauna Dodds and Dick Reeves (art directors)
Best Roots Gospel Album: Still Rockin’ My Soul, the Fairfield Four