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THE LAST OF A 10-PART SERIES
By Grammy Whisperer Paul Grein

Today, in the final installment of our series previewing key Grammy races, our Grammy seer looks at four categories in the American Roots Music Field.

Best Americana Album
Eric Clapton
& Friends’ The Breeze: An Appreciation of JJ Cale is a front-runner in this highly competitive category. Clapton and Cale shared a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album seven years ago for The Road to Escondido. It was the only Grammy for Cale, who died in 2013.

Billie Joe & Norah’s Foreverly didn’t do as well as expected, but Grammy voters admire both artists (14 Grammys between them). And everybody loves the Everly Brothers.

Rodney Crowell won in this category last year for Old Yellow Moon, a collabo with Emmylou Harris. He’s eligible on his own this time with Tarpaper Sky.



Lucinda Williams
has been nominated in this category twice in the five years it has been awarded. She’s eligible this year with Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone. Ray Benson was nominated here five years ago with his band, Asleep at the Wheel. He’s back with A Little Piece. Other eligible albums by past nominees in this category are The Avett BrothersMagpie and the Dandelion, Rosanne Cash’s The River & the Thread, Jim Lauderdale’s I’m a Song, John Fullbright’s Songs and Los LobosDisconnected in New York.

The Civil Wars won Best Folk Album for 2011’s Barton Hollow. The duo’s EP, Bare Bones, is in the running here. Nickel Creek won the 2002 award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. The group is eligible here for A Dotted Line. Keb’ Mo’ won three times for Best Contemporary Blues Album. Bluesamericana is competing in this category instead of Best Blues Album.

John Mellencamp hasn’t won a Grammy since 1982’s chart-busting “Hurts So Good.” He’s eligible here for Plain Spoken. Other eligible albums include Leon Russell’s Life Journey, Shelby Lynne’s Thanks, Amos Lee’s Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song, Marty Stuart and His Fabulous SuperlativesSaturday Night/Sunday Morning, John Hiatt’s Terms of My Surrender, Carlene Carter’s Carter Girl, The Head and the Heart’s Let’s Be Still, Lake Street Dive’s Bad Self Portraits and Chuck E. WeissRed Beans and Weiss.

An album of music “from and inspired by” the Oscar-winning movie 12 Years a Slave also has a shot, as do a pair of tribute albums: Looking into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne and All My Friends: Celebrating the Voice and Songs of Gregg Allman.

Best Folk Album
Leonard Cohen
’s Popular Problems and Neil Young’s A Letter Home are both strong bets. Cohen received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy in 2010. Young is overdue for one.

Loudon Wainwright III won for Best Traditional Folk Album five years ago for High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project. He’s eligible this year with Haven’t Got the Blues (Yet).

Live
by Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers featuring Edie Brickell is eligible here. Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers have separately won for Best Bluegrass Album.

Ben Harper won for Best Blues Album last year for a collabo with Charlie Musselwhite. He’s in the running here with Childhood Home, a collabo with his mother, Ellen Harper.



Eligible albums by past folk nominees include Luther Dickinson’s Rock ‘N Roll Blues and Eliza Gilkyson’s The Nocturne Diaries.

Conor Oberst’s sixth solo studio album, Upside Down Mountain, is eligible here, along with such albums as Passenger’s Whisper, Mark O’Connor’s MOC4, Old Crow Medicine Show’s Remedy, Linda Thompson’s Won’t Be Long Now and Jesse Winchester’s A Reasonable Amount of Trouble.

Johnny Cash won for Best Contemporary Folk Album 20 years ago with his first American Recordings release. A tribute album to the country legend, Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited, is eligible.

And you’d be foolish to rule out Christine Albert’s Everything’s Beautiful Now. Albert is the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Recording Academy.

Best Blues Album
Charlie Musselwhite
, who won here last year for an aforementioned collabo with Ben Harper, is back with Juke Joint Chapel.

The Robert Cray Band, which won three times for Best Contemporary Blues Album, is in the running with In My Soul.

Johnny Winter, who died in July, could be nominated posthumously with Step Back. He was nominated for Best Contemporary Blues Album 10 years ago for I’m a Bluesman.

Dave Alvin, who won Best Traditional Folk Album of 2000, is eligible here along with his brother Phil Alvin for Common Ground—Dave & Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy. It’s the first studio collaboration by the brothers since the mid-1980s.



Joe Bonamassa
, who was nominated in this category last year for a collabo with Beth Hart, is eligible for Different Shades of Blue. Other eligible albums by past blues nominees include the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band’s Goin’ Home, Elvin Bishop’s Can’t Even Do Wrong Right, Robben Ford’s A Day in Nashville, Marcia Ball’s The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man, Ruthie Foster’s Promise of a Brand New Day, John Hammond’s Timeless, The Duke Robillard Band’s Calling All Blues, Bobby Rush with Blinddog Smokin’s Decisions and Billy Branch and the Sons Of BluesBlues Shock.

Roger Daltrey has yet to win a Grammy in competition, either on his own or with The Who (though The Who received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001). But Daltrey could be nominated here for Going Back Home, a collabo with Wilko Johnson.

Also eligible: Gary Clark Jr.’s Gary Clark Jr. Live, John Mayall’s A Special Life and Bill LaBounty’s Into Something Blue.

Best Bluegrass Album
Bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley is a lock for a nomination for Side by Side, a collabo with his son, Ralph Stanley II. The elder Stanley shared this award for a 2002 collabo with Jim Lauderdale and the Clinch Mountain Boys.

The Grascals and Rhonda Vincent, who have each been nominated three times in this category in the past 10 years, may return with When I Get My Pay and Only Me, respectively.

Special Consensus, which was nominated in this category two years ago, may be back with Country Boy: A Bluegrass Tribute to John Denver.

Other eligible albums include The Seldom Scene’s Long Time…Seldom Scene, Blue Highway’s The Game, Tony Trischka’s Great Big World and Larry SparksLonesome and Then Some: A Classic 50th Celebration.

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