'O Brother,' Bluegrass Sweep Grammys
R&B newcomer Alicia Keys and Irish rock veterans U2 snagged their fair share of honors, but as many as six Grammy Awards, including the prestigious album of the year statuette, originated from theR&B newcomer Alicia Keys and Irish rock veterans U2 snagged their fair share of honors, but as many as six Grammy Awards, including the prestigious album of the year statuette, originated from the Lost Highway/Mercury Nashville soundtrack to the Coen Brothers film "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" -- a set that has logged 63 weeks on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart, 26 of those at No. 1. The album itself was recognized in four categories, while producer T-Bone Burnett won the best producer honor and its live offshoot "Down From the Mountain" was named best traditional folk album.
While "O Brother" undoubtedly led the charge at the 44th annual Grammy Awards -- handed out last night (Feb. 27) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and broadcast on CBS -- bluegrass and roots music from that and several other releases swept the country categories that have been more or less dominated by contemporary artists in recent years. Alison Krauss & Union Station, who were major contributors to the "O Brother" album, picked up awards for best bluegrass album for the Rounder set "New Favorite," as well as best country performance by a duo or group with vocals for "The Lucky One." The latter also won the best country song honor for songwriter Robert Lee Castleman.
As the Soggy Bottom Boys, Union Station members Dan Tyminski and Pat Enright (along with Harley Allen) won the best country collaboration with vocals award for "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow" from the "O Brother" collection, while the male country performance honor went to Ralph Stanley's soundtrack version of the traditional "O Death."
Country vet Dolly Parton nabbed the female country performance award for her version of rock act Collective Soul's "Shine" (which appears on her Sugar Hill album "Little Sparrow"), while the best country instrumental performance trophy was given to Earl Scruggs, Glen Duncan, Randy Scruggs, Steve Martin, Vince Gill, Marty Stuart, Gary Scruggs, Albert Lee, Paul Shaffer, Jerry Douglas, and Leon Russell for the track "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" from the MCA Nashville album "Earl Scruggs and Friends."
Keys, meanwhile, won five total awards, including the best new artist Grammy, along with best R&B album for the acclaimed J Records set "Songs in A Minor." Her single "Fallin'," a former Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 track that she performed during the ceremony, won the best song, best R&B song, and best female R&B vocal performance awards. "I dedicate this to just thinking out the box... to just bein' yourself," Keys said from the podium as she accepted the best R&B album trophy.
Four-time winner U2 opened the show with a performance of "Walk On," which later won record of the year. The Interscope set from which it was drawn, "All That You Can't Leave Behind," nabbed the best rock album honor, while album track "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of" won best pop performance by a duo/group with vocal, while "Elevation" won the same award in the rock category. Frontman Bono had his acceptance speeches cut short by producers on two separate occasions.
Aside from U2, standout performances were turned out by Alejandro Sanz with Destiny's Child on the former's "Quisiera Ser," an orchestral salute to the music of Leonard Bernstein conducted by Joshua Bell, and the multi-artist "O Brother" set that featured Stanley, Krauss, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, Tyminski, and Enright. On the opposite ends of the musical spectrum was a lavish, vampish run through "Lady Marmalade" that found Patti LaBelle singing so hard that the train fell off her hot pink evening gown; and the show closing inspirational segment that showcased lifetime achievement honoree Al Green, Brian McKnight, Hezekiah Walker, and CeCe Winans, backed by two gospel choirs.
The show -- amiably hosted for the second straight year by comedian Jon Stewart -- featured more performances (17) than broadcast award presentations (12). Among those who performed were rap album of the year winner Outkast, Nelly Furtado joined by guitarist Steve Vai, Train, Billy Joel and Tony Bennett, India.Arie, 'N Sync with Nelly, Alan Jackson, the Dave Matthews Band, Bob Dylan, and an impassioned Mary J. Blige, who earned a standing ovation for her soulfully possessed rendition of "No More Drama."
This year's Grammys were held a day after the new Recording Artists Coalition (RAC) staged four high-profile L.A. fund raising concerts, in an effort to affect controversial changes in artists' contracts. When presenting the award for best rock song with Coalition co-founder Don Henley, Trisha Yearwood said it was great to be on stage "with someone who's written some of the best songs ever." Henley uncomfortably replied, "Still, somehow I don't feel like the most popular guy in the room."
During his yearly remarks, Recording Academy president Michael Greene made it a point to emphasize the illegality of file sharing, which the industry has blamed for decreased overall sales in the past year. Later, presenter Stevie Wonder knowingly encouraged viewers to "go out and buy" music from "each and every" nominee in the record of the year category.
For a full list of winners, visit Grammy.com.