(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/CMT.com Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)
The more I think about
the Grammy Awards show, the more I'm convinced that, overall, it was a very positive thing in one major regard. Grammy's view
of country music and of Nashville itself bodes well for both. Overall.
Grammy's view is, of course, not the only view,
and there's great disagreement as to the extent that it matters in comparison with the scrutiny coming from the CMA Awards,
the ACM Awards, the CMT Music Awards (and to an increasing extent the Americana Music Awards and the International Bluegrass
Music Association Awards). Not to mention the view from radio, TV and print media.
But Grammy remains the main window
through which much of the non-country music world sees country music. And here's what I think they saw:
received vindication as a cherished and still vital older artist with the guts to do what she believes in. It's hard to believe
that she had won only one Grammy in 33 years -- and that was for a duet with Conway Twitty rather than her long and solid
body of solo work. In getting her second and third awards for her daring collaboration with rock artist and producer Jack
White, I think she transcended being completely overlooked by the CMA Awards. CMA voters will probably catch up with her three
or four years after the fact, just as they did with Johnny Cash.
On the Nashville front, music and musicians got a
deserved spotlight. Steve Earle, an old-time Nashville scrapper, became a first-time Grammy winner after 19 years of making
recorded music, and he got it for one of his most political albums ever.
Two historically important and significant
albums produced in Nashville were recognized. Night Train to Nashville: Music City Rhythm & Blues, 1945-1970 and
Beautiful Dreamer -- The Songs of Stephen Foster are both major contributions to music history and scholarship in addition
to being very listenable contemporary recordings. As major labels consolidate their staffs and cut back on non-superstar efforts,
they are eliminating any such marginally-selling projects that preserve music's heritage. Good for Nashville's institutions
that they are willing to take up the effort and to expend considerable time and resources to turn out such stellar work.
Skaggs and Earl Scruggs were awarded for their continuing excellence in bluegrass. The Dixie Chicks' getting the best country
performance by a duo or group for the older live track "Top of the World" was a not-unexpected slap in country radio's face
for dropping the Chicks after their anti-Bush remark.
Randy Travis continues the well-deserved second chapter of his
career as his Worship & Faith was named best Southern, country or bluegrass gospel album.
With Tim McGraw,
the commercial and mainstream side of country music is being rewarded for being far better than it has to be -- and better
than it was in many of its eras. People tend to cloak country's past in glowing golden eras, when in fact, much of the music
of the past was commercial dreck. He deserved his male country vocal performance honor, and McGraw's hit, "Live Like You Were
Dying" (written by Craig Wiseman and Tim Nichols), was the clear winner as country song of year and came close to being the
overall song of the year.
Gretchen Wilson -- a newcomer with more brass than a hardware store -- gets her just props
for the best female country vocal performance award. She and the other favorite for overall best new artist, Kanye West, lost
because their close votes canceled each other out, allowing the decidedly lesser Maroon 5 to eke through.
live music exposure on the awards show was arguably mixed. Alison Krauss' talents were unfortunately wasted on the all-star
performance of "Across the Universe." Reducing her to fiddle accompaniment while far less-talented singers around her were
demonstrating their vocal limitations tells me that the Grammy producers still don't know their country artists.
thing is for sure. Keith Urban's stock went up through the stratosphere after his very convincing performance with the likes
of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Dickey Betts and Elvin Bishop in the Southern rock tribute. Betts is a grizzled old journeyman who's still
got the chops that made him a rock legend, but he was quick in his backstage interviews to praise Urban's musicianship. As
did rock veteran Bishop.
And Earl Scruggs asked to meet with Urban after the latter's performance and the two spent
a good amount of time together talking. Scruggs, the 81-year-old banjo master who helped usher in the new music form of bluegrass
when he was the pivotal musician in Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys in the late 1940s, is still interested in teaching. And
in learning. That's something to which all country fans and Grammy voters should give some serious thought.