The Recording Academy toasted its Nashville Grammy nominees Monday night (Jan. 22) with a ritzy reception at Loews Vanderbilt Plaza. Instead of strutting in on a red carpet, however, the attending artists -- many with publicists at their elbows -- inched along a long row of TV cameras leading into the party, stopping at each one to grant a sound bite.
Carrie Underwood, an early arrival, was waylaid by an enterprising TV crew just before she reached the check-in desk and dutifully went through the drill. Looking slim and fabulous in black, Gretchen Wilson completed her media walk and then meandered through the crowd clutching a Miller Lite by the neck.
Rhonda Vincent, whose work ethic would shame John Henry, chatted with well-wishers before retiring to a comparatively quiet corner to conduct some business by phone. Boyish Josh Turner ambled in without a retinue but was soon surrounded by admiring guests and music industry folk.
Underwood is up for two Grammys -- best new artist and best female country vocal performance. Wilson is also vying for the best female performance prize. Vincent is up for best country collaboration with vocals (with Bobby Osborne) and best bluegrass album. Turner is competing for best male country vocal performance and best country album.
Grammy winners will be announced Feb. 11 in Los Angeles. CBS will broadcast the ceremonies live from Staples Center.
Most of Vincent's competitors for best bluegrass album were on hand, including the Grascals, Ricky Skaggs and Harry Stinson (representing Marty Stuart's Fabulous Superlatives). Also spotted in the throng was Robbie McCoury of the Del McCoury Band, which is contending for the best Southern, country or bluegrass gospel album.
Other nominees making appearances were Matraca Berg, co-writer of best country song nominee "I Don't Feel Like Loving You Today," and fiddler Casey Driessen, who's up for best country instrumental performance.
As is usual for this annual event, there was a surfeit of fancy foods and potent drinks. The excellent Birdsong jazz quartet furnished the mood music, spinning out elegantly understated renditions of such beloveds as "Satin Doll," "You're the Top" and "Days of Wine and Roses."
Unlike the actual Grammy ceremonies, this was not a dress-up affair. Many of the guests had come straight from work on nearby Music Row and were clad accordingly. By 7:30 -- an hour and a-half into the event -- the artists had begun slipping away, the TV crews were packing up and more than a few celebrants were checking their watches to calculate if they could still rush home in time to catch 24.