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THE GRAMMY NOMINATIONS | Country

Tradition Returns to the Fore

January 05, 2002|Randy Lewis

The pendulum swings back. After years of Grammy domination by multimillion-selling pop-country acts, staunchly traditional country music burst through this year thanks to two high-profile multi-artist projects.

"Timeless: Hank Williams Tribute" and the hit soundtrack from "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" combined for eight nominations in country fields, snagging nearly half of all those in the male, female and country collaboration vocal categories.

The result is some of the strongest nomination fields in ages, and a couple of nods to artists who operate outside the mainstream: Americana rock maverick Ryan Adams and critically lauded singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams. Johnny Cash, Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch figured in nods from the two projects.

The absence of new albums from Shania Twain, Faith Hill or Garth Brooks during the Grammy eligibility period opened the door for this year's wider-ranging group of nominees.

The weakest field of nominees this year is the country song category, none of which measures up to the depth of emotion that suffuses the Williams tribute and the "O Brother" album. Newcomer Jamie O'Neal, with two songwriting nominations, co-wrote the strongest nominee, "There Is No Arizona," her hit single about the disintegration of romantic illusions.

Brooks got a single nomination for his duet with George Jones, "Beer Run (B Double E Double Are You In?)."

The nomination of "Timeless" and Trisha Yearwood's "Inside Out" for country album awards put two critically admired works up against more routine efforts by Tim McGraw, Willie Nelson and Diamond Rio.

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Randy Lewis

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