2015 Grammy Nominees – American Roots

Rummaging through the 2015 Grammy nominees, the American Roots category stands out as a catch all for great tracks and albums by artists from many genres.  Across its Best Performance, Best Song and Best Album sub-categories, Roseanne Cash is nominated in all three (see our earlier post), and John Hiatt in two (see our earlier post)

The most dramatic song on the Best Performance list comes from the album “Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro”.  It’s a cover of “And When I Die” performed by pianist Billy Childs (who’s responsible for the album project), with vocals by Alison Krauss and guitar by Jerry Douglas. You have to love when artists take a song in a unique new direction. Listen to the new version alongside Laura’s original. You may also want to remember the Blood, Sweat & Tears hit version.

Another nominee from the Best Performance list is “Statesboro Blues” from the concert “All My Friends – Celebrating The Songs and Voice of Gregg Allman” that took place back in January. The track features Taj Mahal and Gregg Allman sharing the vocals, and that is a significant pairing. Taj Mahal performed the song on his eponymous 1968 debut album, featuring slide guitar by Jesse Ed Davis. The story goes that Gregg Allman gave the Taj Mahal record to his brother Duane along with a glass pill bottle one day, and that was the beginning of Duane’s slide guitar playing. Give a listen to the nominated performance and Taj’s earlier version.

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RIP Mack Emmerman, Founder of Criteria Recording Studios

Fascinating obits ran recently, noting the passing on May 17th of Mack Emmerman, founder of Criteria Recording Studios in North Miami, Florida. The story of Criteria is not too different from the story of Sound City in Los Angeles, which was richly chronicled by Dave Grohl in his recent documentary (see our earlier post Dave Grohl’s “Sound City”), though Criteria was arguably even more successful.

Opened in 1959, Criteria’s history of landmark recordings includes The Allman Brothers’ “Eat A Peach” as well as Eric Clapton’s “Layla”, which featured the iconic slide guitar work of none other than Duane Allman.

Savor these tracks from Criteria’s catalog.

Criteria was purchased by New York’s Hit Factory in 1999 and continued to put out big albums including Michael Jackson’s last studio recording “Invincible”.  While the Hit Factory’s original New York location closed in 2005, the Miami facility lives on to this day, apparently a favorite of many rap and hip-hop acts.

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