The list of nominees does break Kentucky’s streak of album of the year nominees, which Sturgill Simpson’s “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth” was up for in last year’s nominations and Stapleton’s “Traveller” was nominated for in 2015. Album of the year leans heavily hip hop and R&B this year with Childish Gambino’s “Awaken, My Love!,” Jay-Z’s “4:44,” Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN.,” and Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic,” joined by Lorde’s “Melodrama.”
But Stapleton does have a shot at extending the Bluegrass State’s hold on the best country album category — won by Simpson last year and Stapleton the year before — as his “From A Room: Volume 1” is up for the award, facing off against Kenny Chesney’s “Cosmic Hallelujiah,” Lady Antebellum’s “Heart Break,” Little Big Town’s “The Breaker” and Thomas Rhett’s “Life Changes.” Curiously absent from that category is Miranda Lambert’s critically-acclaimed double album “The Weight of These Wings,” which was up for the CMA Award for Album of the Year a few weeks ago, an award Stapleton won in a field that also included “Heart Break,” “The Breaker,” and Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s “Nashville Sound,” which is a nominee in the best Americana album category at the Grammys.
Stapleton, who hails from Johnson County, is the top country nominee with three nods: best country solo performance for “Either Way” and best country song for “Broken Halos” in addition to the album nod. A Kentuckian quietly in contention for country song is Virgie’s Josh Osborne, one of the co-writers of Sam Hunt’s monster hit “Body Like a Back Road.” Osborne already has a Grammy on his shelf from 2013 for co-writing Kacey Musgraves’ “Merry Go ’Round.”
Nashville’s Tennessean has already raised the question of whether country music got snubbed this year, as it is the first year since 2006 that no country artists were included the all-genre categories such as album of the year and song of the year. While that’s the view from Nashville, in other corners, this year’s list of major category nominees is being hailed for its diversity and embrace of hip hop.
It is also a relatively light year for Kentuckians. Last year, for example, there were Bluegrass State nominees and winners scattered around categories, including Bowling Green’s Cage the Elephant, which won best rock album for “Tell Me I’m Pretty.” The Bluegrass categories often contain multiple Kentuckians, but this year’s sole representative is Hyden’s Bobby Osborne whose “Original” is up for best bluegrass album against The Infamous Stringduster’s “Laws of Gravity,” Noam Pikelny’s “Universal Favorite,” Rhonda Vincent and The Rage’s “All the Rage — In Concert, Volume One” and “Fiddler’s Dream” by Indiana’s Michael Cleveland, who sometimes seems like a Kentuckian as he performs in the area often.
By my read, this covers the Kentuckians this time around. If I have missed anyone, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Awards, the 60th time around for the Grammys, are Jan. 28 on CBS.
Rich Copley: @copiousnotes