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Snubbed by the country club, 'Van Lear Rose' blossoms

December 08, 2004|Richard Cromelin | Times Staff Writer

The country music establishment may have turned its back on Loretta Lynn's daring new album with rock star Jack White, but Grammy voters embraced it Tuesday with five nominations, including one for best country album.

The recognition comes a month after a resounding snub from the Nashville-based Country Music Assn., which didn't give the album "Van Lear Rose" one nomination, despite critical acclaim and wide media attention for its unlikely partnering of the Coal Miner's Daughter with the Detroit-based leader of the White Stripes.

White produced, arranged and mixed the record, played a variety of instruments and sang one duet with Lynn.

That song, "Portland Oregon," was nominated Tuesday for best country vocal collaboration. Lynn was named twice in the best country song category, as well as for female country vocal performance.

"It's a measure of Nashville's shortsightedness that it was overlooked at the Country Music Assn. Awards," says Robert K. Oermann, a columnist for the Nashville-based trade magazine Music Row. "It's because it wasn't a radio favorite, and country music is so tied to its radio partners.... If you don't have radio success, you don't get recognized."

One reason for the difference is that the Grammys draw from a much larger musical community.

"The nominations and the winners have always been extremely skewed by New York and L.A. voting," says Lon Helton, Nashville bureau chief for Radio & Records, a trade weekly.

"I think within [Nashville] it's very highly thought of as an excellent album. But when it comes to awards, those people have other fish to fry....

"There's all kinds of things at play there that have nothing to do with the quality of the album."

Oermann sees a similarity to Johnny Cash, whose series of albums with rock and hip-hop producer Rick Rubin starting in the late 1990s weren't acknowledged by the Country Music Assn. until after Cash's death in 2003.

"I think it's a very parallel situation. You have a national icon being embraced by youth culture and being ignored by what should be their constituency," Oermann says. "The fans liked those records. It's just radio. They're too old for country radio."

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