The Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album this year went to Mark O’Connor and the O’Connor Band for its release Coming Home. The O’Connor band beat out contenders Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Claire Lynch, Blue Highway, and Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands. Mark O’Connor has a stellar musical history, ranging from being a multi-time fiddle champion at Weiser and elsewhere, playing with Stefan Grapelli, participating on the seminal Will the Circle Be Unbroken album, and as a classical composer and performer.
Sarah Jarosz, who has bluegrass roots, took home the Grammy in the Folk category for her release Contender. Vince Gill and the Timejumpers won the Grammy for Best American Roots Song (songwriters) for their hit “Kid Sister.” The Awards were released on Sunday, February 12.
So who votes on the Grammys anyway? According to the Recording Academy, which owns and operates the Grammy Awards, the first step is nominations by record companies and Recording Academy members, who also are generally music industry insiders. Then, the entries are reviewed and placed in appropriate categories, again by Recording Academy insiders, who then determine the finalists in each category. The final step is selection of the winners by, guess who: the Recording Academy insiders.
What does it all mean? That’s up for debate. But, it is worth noting that deciding which category a particular release goes in and who the winners are in each category are not necessarily determined by peers. For example, the winner of the Best Bluegrass Album Award is not selected by the bluegrass community, by IBMA, or by any other organized representation of the bluegrass community, although one hopes that some of the Recording Academy insiders who do make the decisions include those knowledgeable in bluegrass.
The Grammys are great, and it is a true honor to even be nominated, let alone to win. We tip our hat to all this year’s nominees and winners. All can be proud. There are no slouches in that bunch! But, is there consensus in the bluegrass community that the O’Connor Band deserved the award more than Blue Highway or Doyle Lawson or Claire Lynch or Laurie Lewis? I doubt it. If one is looking for that kind of peer recognition it is probably better to look at the annual IBMA Awards where the contenders are nominated and judged by their peers.
Julian Family Fiddle Camp, a chance to learn from great teachers. This year’s Julian Family Fiddle Camp will take place at Camp Cedar Glen in the mountains outside Julian from April 11-15. Instruction is offered by some great teachers on a variety of instruments and styles, including Appalachian old-time fiddle (Henry Barnes) and banjo (Dan Gellert), Texas-style fiddle (Mathew Hart, Luke Price) and backup guitar (Anthony Mature), traditional and progressive bluegrass styles (Avery Merritt, John Mailander, Jennifer Albrent), flat-pick and rhythm guitar (Molly Tuttle, AJ Lee), swing and bluegrass mandolin (Joe Walsh, Nina Weisman), traditional and swing ukulele (Craig Chee, Sarah Maisel), basic bass rhythms and techniques (Max Schwartz), band dynamics, harmony vocals, song writing, and other specialized workshops.
You can check it all out and sign up at: www.familyfiddlecamp.com. There’s lots of informal jamming, evening concerts (open to the public), dancing and other fun activities for the whole family, even those not musically inclined.
Bluegrass Day at the Fair. Bluegrass Day at the Del Mar Fair will take place Sunday, June 4 on the beautiful Paddock Stage as part of the annual Del Mar Fair. The bluegrass crowd will be on the stage from noon until 8pm. Plans are still being formulated for this year’s event, but it is expected to include the traditional band scramble, a childrens’ performance, a demonstration by the Old Time Fiddlers, and concerts by top local bands. Check back for more details as they become available, but mark your calendar for June 4!