How to think about Texas and the Grammys.
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THE GRAMMYS ARE one national awards show where Texans really are major players, and this year more than thirty full-time and former home staters have been nominated. So to best appreciate the February 24 event from a Texascentric point of view, consider the following:
For this occasion everyone’s a Texan. The big-tent policy is officially in play. That means we can claim Lucinda Williams, who abandoned Austin for Nashville; San Antonio native Steve Earle, who once swore he wouldn’t come back until the death penalty is done away with (don’t hold your breath); Mexican mariachi Vicente Fernandez, who moved to San Antonio only last year; and even indie queen Ani DiFranco, who hails from Buffalo, New York, but records her self-distributed albums in Austin.
Our country is better than their country. Nashville, schmashville: Clint Black, the Houston native with the permanent smile, is up for two awards, and Jacksonville’s Lee Ann Womack is nominated for Best Female Country Vocal. Look for Dallas’ Dixie Chicks to win: They’re up for three awards, including Best New Artist. Still, you gotta wonder if we’re slipping. What happened to Willie, George Strait, or even Asleep at the Wheel?
But Texans don’t fit the stereotype. Forget the various country categories, though; the real comers work other genres, such as gospel. Fort Worth’s Kirk Franklin is up for Song of the Year, Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal, and Best R&B Song. Franklin’s Nu Nation Project is duking it out in the Soul Gospel category with Houston’s Yolanda Adams, and Mesquite’s Light Crust Doughboys are nominated in the Southern Country or Bluegrass Gospel category.
Anyway, when all is said and done, tejano rules. This is the first year tejano is a stand-alone category, and I’m betting on Leyendas y Raices, the supergroup on Corpus Christi’s Freddie label. But don’t rule out Jaime y los Chamacos, newcomers Fiebre, or veterans Little Joe Hernandez and Flaco Jimenez. Similarly, all five nominees in the Mexican American category have Texas ties, including soon-to-be-defunct La Mafia of Houston, sentimental favorite Vicente Fernandez, progressive conjunto’s Los Terribles del Norte, and ranchero singer Ramon Ayala. I can’t get too worked up about Los Super Seven, but the presence of Flaco Jimenez gives them an edge; no Texan has been nominated as consistently, and no one squeezes a better accordion, period.
We dance as good as we walk. Dallas’ Erykah Badu has a shot at either Best Female R&B Vocal Performance or Best R&B Album. Fastball’s nomination for their catchy pop hit “The Way” for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group was expected. And then there’s polka, where Denton’s Brave Combo could edge out New York’s Jimmy Sturr.
And we’re sensitive. Lucinda Williams, Lyle Lovett, and Steve Earle are all nominated for Best Contemporary Folk Album.
Best thing to watch for? Whatever the boys of Fastball are wearing. Texas music stars by and large are terrible dressers, once you get past the big hats and pressed Wranglers. Fastball continues the tradition, demonstrating how success does not translate into taste. But please, Miles, leave the dog-fur jacket at home.