Sarah Jarosz is a fresh-faced young lady from the Texas hill country. At just 19, she's already had the opportunity to not only meet, but create a record with some of her contemporary heroes (although most nearly a generation ahead of her). Because her instrumental reputation precedes her (Sarah plays mandolin, banjo, guitar, and even a toy piano on her album), she was able to employ Tim O'Brien, Chris Thile, and Abigail Washburn as additional musicians/vocalists on her first record. Each of these bluegrass legends offered up a glowing foreword about Sarah, praising not only her playing, but also vocals and songwriting.
I first learned of Sarah when I saw that she had a slot opening for the Dave Rawlings Machine on their recent tour. I was able to catch this show when they made a stop in Austin, and even ran into Sarah patiently waiting in line to catch Dave/Gillian/OCMS as they performed in-store the evening before the show.
Sarah's debut, Song Up In Her Head, will go down as a well-crafted new-age bluegrass record. Despite where Sarah may take her career in the future, the guestlist it features will help it to remain a bluegrass favorite for some time and is currently helping garner extra attention for the young musician. This attention reached its pinnacle when Sarah learned that she would have a chance to take home a Grammy Award Sunday night.
Grammy nods don't often drift into our realm of the music world, but when they do, they usually show favor to the bluegrass end. Gillian Welch's debut was nominated for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1997 (when Sarah was 6) and her work on the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack helped it win the Grammy for Album Of The Year in 2001 (10, when she started playing the mandolin). As Sarah made obvious in her set in Austin, she was thrilled/honored/maybe a little nervous to open for a true heroine in the business. Fittingly following Gillian's lead, Sarah's debut finds itself in the running for a Grammy. Her song 'Maninneedof' has a chance to be named the Best Country Instrumental Performance. Sarah will be contending against international outfit The Greencards for the song 'The Crystal Merchant' off their album Fascination. Also nominated in the category are Alison Brown and Steve Wariner.
Sarah Jarosz - Maninneedof
The Greencards - The Crystal Merchant
But bluegrass isn't the only genre that occasionally get Grammy attention. Obvious ThisMornin' favorite Ryan Adams found himself thrice nominated in 2002. Gold: Best Rock Album, 'New York, New York': Best Male Rock Vocal, 'Lovesick Blues': Best Male Country Vocal. In 2004, Wilco's A Ghost Is Born took home the honor for Best Alternative Music Album.
The award for Best Contemporary Folk Album was first awarded in 1987. Previous winner include John Prine, Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, Alison Krauss, Bob Dylan, and Steve Earle - who is again nominated this year for his well-crafted tribute album Townes. Joining him in the category is Neko Case, whose Middle Cyclone is also nominated for its artwork with Best Recording Package.
Steve Earle - To Live Is To Fly
Neko Case - People Got A Lotta Nerve
2010 will mark the first ever award for Best Americana Album, hopefully starting a much-deserved shift in notoriety for the growing genre. Your nominees:
Bob Dylan - Together Through Life
Levon Helm - Electric Dirt
Willie Nelson & Asleep At The Wheel - Willie & The Wheel
Wilco - Wilco (The Album)
Lucinda Williams - Little Honey
Indie mainstay Karen O finds herself nominated in two categories for two different projects. Her band, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' It's Blitz is in the running for Best Alternative Album. Karen's work on the Where the Wild Things Are Soundtrack has been praised all over, and the song All Is Love is nominated for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture.
Karen O & The Kids - All Is Love
Ryan Adams' on-again off-again go-to producer Ethan Johns is nominated for both Best Engineered Album and Producer of the Year for his work on Ray Lamontagne's album Gossip In The Grain.
Ray LaMontagne - You Are The Best Thing
All of this said, I'm still not gonna put myself through the agony of watching this commercialized spectacle - I may try to time it so I can catch some of the above mentioned awards. That is... if they manage to find time to televise them between Taylor Swift and Rihanna performances.