The Gospel according to Grammy

Well, at least they got nominated, right? No, the Crabbs didn’t win the Grammy for best Southern, Country, or Bluegrass Gospel Album. That honor went to Randy Travis for Worship and Faith. I think I’ve commented before on how generically schizophrenic this category is, pitting artists as various as the Crabbs, Travis, and Buddy Miller against a documentary - 20th Century Gospel: From Hymns to Blackwood Brothers Tribute to Christian Country - and an also-ran third installment of a music-appreciation compilation, Amazing Grace 3: A Country Salute to Gospel. It’s a wonder the category doesn’t dissolve under the weight of all that taxonomic incomprehensibility. Would that it did collapse, or better yet, that someone like Travis respectfully decline one year to be put in “competition” with “Various Artists” of a comp project and ever-so-politely suggest that the downlist religious categories reflect … you know, reality and stuff. Shocking news tonight: bumpkins and evangelicals don’t think all music about God is the same. Quelle scandal!… The problem is that the Grammy system is ubiquitous enough to know an outfit like the Crabbs deserves national recognition but not artistically attentive enough to recognize the stupidity of its gospel categories or the foolish pointlessness of trifling away an award on the likes of Travis in a meaningless category of apples and oranges and okra. It’s not that Travis isn’t talented. It’s that only people who don’t bother to familiarize themselves with gospel music would think that Travis’s album represents the top-tier work in gospel music right now (or for that matter, that Ray Charles and Gladys Knight’s “Heaven Help Us” is the best gospel performance of the year). I know, I know … politics, money, established celebrity, yak yak yak. Still, the Grammys are an aesthetically maladaptive fiasco when it comes to awarding work in non-urban traditions and genres. And this maladaptivity is only compounded by the Grammy propensity to find a favorite - this year it was the Ray Charles Genius Loves Company project and John Adams’s Adams: On the Transmigration of Souls - and flog flog flog it all the way to a thousand ” [insert name of flogged project or artist] cleans up at Grammys” headlines the next morning. But, like they say … it’s an honor just to be nominated. So there you have it.

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