Noch Einmal (Once More)Dixie Chicks--Best Country Album--a political statement? The belles of the dance received the most accolades for an album shunned by country radio, the genre they supposedly represent, and the Country Music Awards. Best country album? Johno will no doubt interject that country music eats its own, fossilizing new talents into legends as quickly as possible and pushing them into the closet, making way for another generation of singers with clean-pressed blue jeans and posturing with capoed guitars.
Well, there's nothing new under the sun, and this year was no exception. For the third year in a row, the Grammy best country album went to artists who did not even receive nominations in the respective categories at the CMA: Loretta Lynn's Van Lear Rose and Alison Kraus' Lonely Runs Both Ways preceded Taking the Long Way. It's easy to focus on the political statement that the Dixie Chicks' album presents, but other trends may be at work. I won't argue the merits of the album (I preferred Chis Thile's How to Grow a Woman From the Ground and Carrie Rodriguez's sassy "Never Gonna Be Your Bride"). But it seems that the larger music industry (which includes country musicians) disagree about what should be considered good country music. Indeed, Taking the Long Way is the most accessibly crossover of the three I've highlighted, perhaps much more in line with country music trends (especially in marketing) than Lynn's alt.country and Kraus' bluegrass.