Native nominees shine in several Grammy categories

By Sandra Hale Schulman
-News From Indian Country-

The 61st annual Grammy Awards will be held Feb. 10, 2019, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and once again Native musicians, despite not having their own restrictive traditional music category, shine in genres from country to roots music to film.

An interesting matchup in the female country singer category is between the most respected multi-award winning 86 year old singer in the business Loretta Webb Lynn (Cherokee)  for Country Solo Performance and Kacey Musgraves (Cherokee and Montauket), a newcomer with multiple nominations at 30 years old.

Lynn’s nominated song ‘Wouldn’t it Be Great” is not a new one, but a tune she says was the last one she wrote for her husband before he passed away.

Released in 1962 on Decca Records, “Success” was Loretta Lynn’s first song to hit the Top 10 on Billboard’s Country Singles chart. Her first album to be certified gold was 1967’s “Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’”.

Lynn won her first Grammy in 1971 for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo for “After The Fire Is Gone” with Conway Twitty. In 1980 the biopic Coal Miner’s Daughter told the rags to riches story of the country singer/songwriter on the silver screen. Sissy Spacek won an Academy Award for best actress for her portrayal of Lynn. In 2010 Lynn received a Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Lynn was also honored at the second GRAMMYs Salute to Country Music that same year. “Coal Miner’s Daughter” became her first recording inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1998.

Kacey Musgraves

“Undeniably, I’m a country singer; I’m a country songwriter. But I feel like I make country music for people who like country music and for people who don’t,” says Kacey Lee Musgraves who is up for Album of the Year, Country Solo Performance, Best Country Song and Best Country Album.

Texas born Musgraves announced her arrival in 2013 with the release of her major label solo debut album Same Trailer Different Park. The album had the hit singles “Merry Go Round,” “Blowin’ Smoke” and “Follow Your Arrow.” Musgraves won her first Grammy for Best Country Album for Same Trailer Different Park and made her debut on the Grammy stage that same year when she performed “Follow Your Arrow.”

Sassy and stylish, Musgraves may just be the next Loretta, that is when the reigning Loretta slows down – which isn’t happening soon.

 “Three chords and the truth — that’s what a country song is.”

Willie Hugh Nelson (Cherokee) is up for 2 Grammys this year - the title track of “Last Man Standing,” which consists entirely of songs Nelson wrote with producer Buddy Cannon, is up for Best American Roots Performance. Along with “My Way,” Nelson’s album of standards associated with Frank Sinatra, was nominated for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.

During the 1960s, Willie Nelson wrote songs for the likes of Ray Price, Patsy Cline, and Billy Walker. After aligning himself with Waylon Jennings in the early ‘70s, the outlaw country star found commercial success in 1975 with his critically acclaimed album, Red Headed Stranger and the song “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain.”

Nelson won his first Grammy in 1975 for Best Male Country Vocal Performance for “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain.” Nelson supports Native causes such as teaming up with Neil Young and John Mellencamp to launch Farm Aid in 1985 and to help hemp growers, a cause that got a big boost when legislation in several states voted in favor of, and the federal government decriminalized the use of hemp recently.

Lukas Nelson, Willie’s son, helped with the monster hit “Star is Born” soundtrack which was not eligible for nomination as it was released too late after voting closed, but will certainly be a contender in other award shows and perhaps in the Grammys next year.

Best Regional

Roots Music Album

Kalani Pe'a

Up for Best Regional Roots Music Album is Na Hoa from Hawaii. Band members Keoni Souza, Ikaika Blackburn and Halehaku Seabury-Akaka are 3 young men perpetuating what they love, Hawaiian music. It’s a new generation carrying on tradition.

From the funk-laced beats and bass-heavy sousaphone blasts that kick off their album “Spyboy” to the soulful warmth of singer J’Wan Boudreaux’s voice, New Orleans brass band-meets - Mardi Gras Indian outfit Cha Wa radiating the fiery energy of New Orleans Indian street culture. “Spyboy” features special guests Big Chief Monk Boudreaux (The Wild Magnolias, HBO’s Treme), Nigel Hall (Lettuce, Nth Power), and Danica Hart.

“The Foundation of Hawaiian cultural values and practices start from home. We must become the pouhana (pillar) for our families and the communities we serve. We must seek courage and thrive together by becoming the kumu waiwai (primary and profound resources) for our people. That is essential. We can only thrive this way. But first, the Hawaiian language is the foundation to everything thinking and being Hawaiian,” says another nominee Kalani Pe’a, Singer/Songwriter,  Lyrical Tenor, Hawaiian Language Practitioner, Visual Artist and Educator. The former Grammy® Award Winner and Nā Hōkū Hanohano Winner released his sophomore album “No ‘Ane’i” (We Belong Here) in 2018. Pe’a works towards the values of maintaining Hawaiian identity, language and arts and building and retaining a strong foundation of Hawaiian cultural values and practices.

Young Spirit

Also a contender is one of today’s top First Nations/Native American singing groups, Young Spirit, who embody the energy and essence of the Cree Round Dance. Through Round Dance songs that reflect family, community and celebration, Young Spirit reaffirm their status as a powerful voice for Indigenous culture.

Finally up for Best Music Film is The King  which is sort of about Elvis Presley. A meditation on Presley’s place in history that touches on race relations, the film was produced by his daughter Roseanne Cash. Forty years after the death of Elvis Presley, two-time Sundance Grand Jury winner Eugene Jarecki’s new film takes the King’s 1963 Rolls-Royce on a road trip. From Memphis to New York, Las Vegas, and beyond, the journey traces the rise and fall of Elvis as a metaphor for the country he left behind

 Rolling Stone says “It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when this random, scattershot, overreaching movie stops spinning its wheels and starts flying on a cumulative power that floors you. But when it happens – kapow! By the end we’re looking at Elvis, America and ourselves with new eyes.”

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