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THE 38TH ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS | Country

Relevance Shows That It Has a Place

February 29, 1996|RANDY LEWIS

The concerted effort to make top Grammy categories more relevant seemed to trickle down to the country competition, with Vince Gill, Alison Krauss and the Mavericks deservedly winning in several key categories.

Voters recognized the class of the field in male vocal performance and the crucial song of the year category. Both Grammys went to Gill's "Go Rest High on That Mountain," his moving gospel-flavored benediction for his late brother. The awards bring Gill's Grammy total to eight.

Likewise, bluegrass sensation turned best-selling country artist Krauss won her second and third Grammys. For the first time in five years, the award for female vocal performance didn't go to Mary-Chapin Carpenter, but to Krauss for her tender version of "Baby, Now That I've Found You," a 1967 hit for the R&B group the Foundations. Her other win was for her teaming with Shenandoah on "Somewhere in the Vicinity of the Heart," in the category of country collaboration with vocals.

The Mavericks, one of the freshest country arrivals of the '90s, was recognized with the group's first Grammy for "Here Comes the Rain" in the often-drab category for duos or groups with vocals.

Still, it wasn't a perfect night. Sales won out over artistry in album of the year voting, with Shania Twain's 3.4-million-selling "The Woman in Me" besting far more rewarding efforts by the Mavericks, Junior Brown and Trisha Yearwood. Twain missed a more significant showing in failing to upset Hootie & the Blowfish in the overall best new artist competition.

Finally, longtime country queen Emmylou Harris picked up her sixth career Grammy, but not in a country category. Her "Wrecking Ball" album, a Nashville-based collaboration with rock producer-songwriter Daniel Lanois, pushed the boundaries of country so far that her album wound up in the contemporary folk category, where she topped a very strong field that included Bob Dylan, the Chieftains, John Prine and Steve Earle.

Country-wise, to paraphrase the old George Jones song, it was a good year for the Grammys.

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