Gimme My Grammy?

Read all about Grammy politics at Saving Country Music.

Nominations for the 61st Grammy Awards are out for the show to broadcast 10 February 2019.

Brandi Carlile makes a strong showing across the board, with a nomination for Record of the Year for The Joke with Dave Cobb & Shooter Jennings, producers, Album of the Year for By The Way, I Forgive You, and Song of the Year for “The Joke”.  Carlile is a favorite in the Folk Roots/Americana camp, and that’s great, but she never made much of an impression on me.  Meh.

Kacey Musgraves is also nominated for Album of the Year for Golden Hour.  Again, Meh.  She can do better, but the glitterati like it and she is better than most anything else you might here on the radio, country or pop for that matter.  I tend to link Margo Price to Kacey’s wagon, and Ms. Price has a nod for Best New Artist–frankly the only candidate I even recognize.  And that’s OK.

Americana folks crowed when they were written in to the American Roots Music categories.  It serves to remind me that there’s really no good definition of the “Americana” genre aside from Country/Rock Music for People who Read.  Whatever.  Willie Nelson (Roots, not Country, how?) is nominated for Best American Roots Performance for “Last Man Standing”–that he is, and a good effort to my ear.  Carlile of course has a nod in the same category for “The Joke”.  For Best American Roots Song, Lee Ann Womack’s “All The Trouble” off her last year’s album goes up against Carlile’s “The Joke” and John Prine’s “Summer’s End” (listen to that one without a tear in your eye, I dare you).  The difference between Performance and Song is always beyond me, tho I guess you can have an awesome performance of a really crummy song.

I’m OK with any of three nominations winning Best Americana Album–John Prine’s strong performance with The Tree of Forgiveness, Lee Ann Womack’s The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone which grew on me over the course of the last year, and The Wood Brothers’ catchy One Drop of Truth.  Carlile gets a nod (meh) and I didn’t listen to Bettye LaVette’s Things Have Changed.  I’ve only listened to one of the noms for Best Bluegrass Album, Wood & Wire North of Despair is two-thumbs up though I’m not sure I’d call it bluegrass.  Mary Guathier’s Rifles & Rosary Beads came out early in the year and deserves the nod for Best Folk Album.

Ms. Musgrave is also represented in Country categories–Best Country Solo for “Butterflies”, with Chris Stapleton for “Millionaire” and actual Country artist & legend Loretta Lynn for “Wouldn’t it be Great?” which isn’t half bad.  Musgrave’s “Space Cowboy” has a nod for Best Country Song.  And Musgrave’s Golden Hour has a nod for Best Country Album, tho I liked Ashley McBryde’s Girl Going Nowhere better, and Chris Stapleton’s From a Room: Volume 2 was pretty good, but with the theme, I expect better from the best.  I haven’t paid much attention to Maren Morris but that might change–hey, I’m willing to give to popular kids a chance now and then.

If you want to buy me music for Christmas, I would really like real CDs of:
* Lee Ann Womack’s The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone
* Brandon Jenkins’ Tail Lights in a Boomtown (RIP)
* Colter Wall’s Songs of the Plains 

Spotify is great but we gotta support the guys & gals making the music, too.


The 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month

At the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the year of our Lord 1918, an Armistice came into effect ending open hostilities in the War to End all Wars.  The peace took more time, until the Treaty of Versailles signed 28 June 1919, but OUR boys were coming home.

The German Empire imploded as the war came to conclusion.  On 29 October 2018, German sailors went into revolt and mutiny, which combined with widespread civil unrest let to proclamation of a republic on 9 November, and abdication of the throne by Emperor Wilhelm the II as he fled the country.  The new Wiemar Republic was born, and all the world dreamed of a peace doomed not to last.


Russell Lakes National Landmark

US Hwy 285 in the San Luis Valley crosses the Russell Lakes National Natural Landmark.  Established in 1975 in Saguache County, the site protects Colorado’s largest remaining bulrush marsh and provides plant and animal habitat in the increasing developed mountain park.  Looking east from the “visitor’s center”, you might be able to pick out Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve at the base of the Sangre de Cristos.


Americana Music Awards 2018: We Can Do Better

Executive Summary:  Jason Isbell won the Americana awards.  Again.  And he deserves it.

The Americana Honors & Awards honored and awarded the toast of Nashville for 2018, as voted by the members of the Americana Music Association.  I was once one—a member, not an honoree, by gosh.  I still self-identify as an Americana fan… much as I self-identify as a member of a political party.  I am an Americana fan as I understood Americana when I first became an Americana fan.  The current party is interesting, but I getting more and more difficult to decipher.  That as it may be…

Long version—the nominees, with winners emboldened:

Album of the Year:
“All American Made,” Margo Price, Produced by Jeremy Ivey, Alex Munoz, Margo Price and Matt Ross-Spang
“By The Way, I Forgive You,” Brandi Carlile, Produced by Dave Cobb and Shooter Jennings
“The Nashville Sound,” Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Produced by Dave Cobb
“Rifles & Rosary Beads,” Mary Gauthier, Produced by Neilson Hubbard

Artist of the Year:
Brandi Carlile
Jason Isbell
Margo Price
John Prine

Duo/Group of the Year:
I’m With Her
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats

Emerging Act of the Year:
Courtney Marie Andrews
Tyler Childers
Anderson East
Lilly Hiatt

Song of the Year:
“A Little Pain,” Margo Price, Written by Margo Price
“All The Trouble,” Lee Ann Womack, Written by Waylon Payne, Lee Ann Womack and Adam Wright
“If We Were Vampires,” Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Written by Jason Isbell
“The Joke,” Brandi Carlile, Written by Brandi Carlile, Dave Cobb, Phil Hanseroth and Tim Hanseroth

Instrumentalist of the Year:
Daniel Donato
Brittany Haas
Jerry Pentecost
Molly Tuttle

I have no beef with Jason Isbell, or John Prine for that matter, and I like the Tyler Childers, too, even if Childers isn’t so sure what Americana is either.  My profile says I’ve listened to Brandi Carlile, but not much.  I liked Margo Price’s initial release but she’s gone off the liberal deep end—Isbell isn’t afraid to get political, but he’s not a one-trick pony either.  I’m With Her, Lukas Nelson, and Nathaniel Ratliff are good, too, but just good, not great to date.

No, my difficulty in deciphering is more that I like Jason Isbell, but I have such high expectations I really think he can do a LOT better than “If We Were Vampires”.  I have high expectations for many artists that I think can do better.  We can all do better.


A Love Story for the Animas River

I remember the Orange Tang of the Animas River running through Durango, Colorado, and on down to Farmington, New Mexico, in August 2015. Where normally kayakers and fly fishermen joust with tubers, the river coursed with the mineral runoff of Silverton’s shuttered Gold King Mine, zinc, cadmium, aluminum arsenic, and iron hydroxides let loose by an EPA remediation team.

Jonathan Thompson, a writer who grew up in Durango, stood on a bridge and watched for the river to turn orange as the slug of mine waste ran through the heart of his hometown. The environmental disaster seems a natural fit for the one-time editor at High Country News, a respected regional journal with a well-practiced environmental bent. Yet rather than use the one-off event to self-promote and evangelize as an “I told you so” moment, Thompson takes the Gold King incident and puts it in the context of over a millennia of human settlement in the Four Corners region.

As part elegy, part ode, and all based on practiced journalism, the River of Lost Souls—el Rio de las Animas Perdidas—is a love story to the Animas Valley and the communities of Silverton and Durango to the north and south. This is a love story to the San Juan Mountains and the river valleys flowing from them, the place where Thompson grew up, where his parents and grandparents and great-grandparents generations back decided to sink roots. This is a love story to the Ancestral Puebloans and Dine and Utes who came first, the miners and farmers and ranchers who came later, and the diverse crowds who call Southwest Colorado home today.

It’s easy to see why readers on the Colorado Plateau—Southwest Colorado, Northwest New Mexico, Arizona, Utah—would want to read this book, to better understand the place we’ve chosen as home. Why would other folks across the country care? As we well know, water often has much more to say about land use than our best multi-color land use plan. River of Lost Souls is a fascinating story and contemplation of water, our natural environment, and how we can do better building the places we love.

River of Lost Souls by Jonathan P. Thompson (Torrey House) 2018

(This review previously appeared in the APA Small Town & Rural Planning newsletter, courtesy Colorado Chapter APA.)

Denver’s Civic Center Park

The Civic Center in Denver, at the intersection of Colfax and Broadway, is the beating heart of Colorado, stretching from the Colorado Capitol to Denver City Hall.  The statue on the west steps of the Capitol Building is a Civil War cavalryman, dismounted with rifle in hand, in Memorial of the Colorado soldiers who fought and died in the War Between the States.


Modernism Overlooking Tradition

Pagosa Sun
Pagosa Springs, Colorado, is a tourist town, and we want to encourage our visitors to stop downtown and admire the scenery…and our shops. Pagosa Springs also has a rich heritage and tradition as a Western, Mountain town, far from fancy modern steel and glass stylish architecture.

The Town this last year dropped a pretty penny replacing the Overlook deck structure thingy along the river, above the hot springs (after which Pagosa Springs is named), in the heart of downtown. A local architect designed the fancy, and he’s a good guy. But I struggle to see any local context in this modern masterpiece. The local Historic Preservation Board review committee asked to participate in the design review and were quickly alienated by the Town fathers–the parking overlook is not technically part of the downtown Historic District, but it certainly felt like the centerpiece of the Historic District.

Instead, we get not-so-cheap and easy modernism. It’s not bad, just an amazing opportunity lost.

Spring 1918 on the Western Front

In March 1918, Bolshevik Russia signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Central Powers ending the Great War on the Eastern Front. This freed up Germany for Operation Michael and a last great Spring Offensive on the Western Front.

The German Empire began their Kaiserschlacht on 21 March 1918, with the first of four offensive operations.  The global conflict that had begun in late summer 1914 had turned into a war of attrition and Germany was having an increasingly difficult time with food and supplies.  After defeating Russia, the Austria-Hungary Empire was occupied on the Italian Front and in occupation of Romania, leaving Germany to fight the Western Front in Flanders and France.  With the American entry in 1917, it became clear to the German High Command that decisive action was necessary before U.S. troops became a decisive factor.  And almost a year after President Wilson’s declaration of War, the U.S. Army was just getting mobilized in France, the main theater of the Western Front.

The German army had also adopted training and tactics that had proven successful against the Russian army on the Eastern Front.  For example, new elite Stormtrooper (Stoßtruppen) assault troop units specialized in small, fast-moving infiltration tactics, by-passing heavily defended infantry positions to cut communications and supply lines.  British and French troops, by contrast, had been bogged down in trench warfare along the 300 mile long Hindenburg Line since the winter of 1916, with little opportunity for innovation.

The 21st of March was a Thursday in 1918.  At 4:30 in the morning, the Germans opened an artillery bombardment on British positions at Saint-Quentin, in the Aisne area of northern France.  This area, along with Somme and Pas-de-Calais areas in the modern Hauts-de-France region, had been devastated in the Battle of the Somme in 1916.  The bombardment spread with mortars, mustard gas, chlorine gas, tear gas and smoke canisters filling the foggy day along a 40 mile front.  The objective was to isolate the British from the French and force a British withdrawal back across the Channel.  On the first day, the Germans gained ground.  Friday and Saturday (22-23 March) were also foggy, and British troops fell back in fighting retreats to maintain communications.  The lines were badly fragmented by Sunday the 24th and Monday the 25th, and some British units along the Somme retreated with the French army.  The French were increasingly concerned with defending routes to the capital in Paris, which was in range of German long-range artillery.

On Tuesday the 26th of March, leading French and British leaders (including Winston Churchill) met at the Doullens Conference in an attempt to form a more unified command.  French General Ferdinand Foch was tapped, officially given the title of Commander-in-Chief later, on 3 April, at Beauvais, including American forces and later Italian forces.  Unified Allied command proved essential to defeating the Central Powers through the rest of 1918.

The Germans continued to advance over 26th-28th, advancing about 40 miles into France at one point, with a final assault coming Saturday the 30th on the French south of the Somme and on the British near Amiens, with fighting continuing through the 4th and 5th of April. While the German army had captured ground and gained morale, they had not achieved their strategic objectives.  Both sides had about 250,000 casualties apiece, with little difference in situation.  If anything, by being forced to accept unified command, the Allies came out stronger for their losses.

Operation Michael was followed by Georgette (Battle of Lys) in April, Blücher-Yorck (3rd Aisne) in late May, and Gneisenau in June, generally with slight German gains in territory with casualties comparable on both sides.  However, by July the advantage swung to the Allies.  The German Army had lost about 1,000,000 fighting men in the first 6 months of 1918 and faced ever increasing challenges with supplies.  With the first major American action begun, the Allies recovered from the Spring Offensives and went on the counter-offensive that ultimately won World War I.