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And the Grammy Nominees for Best Bluegrass Album Are

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Best Bluegrass Album NominationsThe Recording Academy has announced the nominations for the 57th Grammy Music Awards to be held Sunday, February 8, 2015. In our favorite castegory, number 48 we find the nominations for Best Bluegrass Album.

This is always an exciting time for bluegrass bands and with some fresh sounds in the running, this should be an exciting category to watch and to listen to. All of the albums are outstanding and cover the broad spectrum of the narrow genre of bluegrass music.

The nominees for Category 48 - Best Bluegrass Album are:

  • The Earls Of Leicester, The Earls Of Leicester, Label: Rounder
  • Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe, Noam Pikelny, Label: Compass Records
  • Cold Spell, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, Label: Compass Records
  • Into My Own, Bryan Sutton, Label: Sugar Hill Records
  • Only Me, Rhonda Vincent, Label: Upper Management Music

The Earls of LeicesterThe Earls of Leicester, a tribute to legendary bluegrass artists Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. This new album was just released by Rounder Records on September 16, 2014. "This record is something I've been waiting my whole life to do," veteran Dobro master Jerry Douglas says of the self-titled debut by the new all-star dream team combo that he has assembled, organized and produced.

The six-man band encompasses Douglas plus acclaimed writer, producer, and solo artist Shawn Camp on lead vocals and guitar, renowned Nashville banjoist Charlie Cushman on banjo and guitars, veteran songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and Hot Rize member Tim O'Brien on vocals and mandolin, second-generation fiddle phenom Johnny Warren, and Barry Bales, Douglas' longtime bandmate in Alison Krauss and Union Station, on vocals and bass.

The new group is the product of Douglas's lifelong passion for the music of bluegrass pioneers Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and their band the Foggy Mountain Boys, whose seminal work in the '50s and '60s created the template for what we know as contemporary bluegrass, and transcended traditional genre barriers to popularize the music with an unprecedented mass audience.

Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill MonroeNoam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe adds a new dimension to bluegrass. Hailed by the Chicago Tribune as the “pros’ top banjo picker," Pikelny released his solo debut, In the Maze, in 2004. In 2010, he was awarded the first annual Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass earning him an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. Noam Pikelny has Widely known for his work in cutting-edge string band music as a founding member of Punch Brothers, Grammy-nominated Noam Pikelny has emerged as the preeminent banjoist among a new generation of acoustic musicians. Already praised as “a player of unlimited range and astonishing precision” by comedian/banjoist Steve Martin, Pikelny presented his new concept album, Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe, a unique interpretation of traditional Bluegrass through a bold, complete adaptation of one of the most influential instrumental bluegrass music records of all-time. Joining Pikelny on this tour de force project are the finest instrumentalists in bluegrass: Stuart Duncan (fiddle), Bryan Sutton (guitar), Ronnie McCoury (mandolin), and Mike Bub (bass).

Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe, recorded in 1976, five years before Pikelny was even born, features twelve classic tunes written by the father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe (1911-1996), and performed by his longtime fiddler Kenny Baker (1926-2012). While many fine musicians worked for Bill Monroe, Monroe would introduce Kenny Baker to audiences as "the best in bluegrass." Baker’s fiddle brought an elegant and refined voice to Monroe's music and Pikelny precisely transposes Baker’s versions to the banjo, note-for-note, track-by-track. It is the first bluegrass record that remakes an entire album in sequence, though never drifting into an exercise in musical impersonation; instead Pikelny uses the Monroe instrumentals as blueprints and springboards for his own improvisations and those of his band.

The album’s concept first came about when Pikelny jokingly texted McCoury, asking, “Could I get away with calling an album Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe?” It was over a year later that, upon reflecting on the joke, he began listening anew to Baker's album, and saw that it offered him an opportunity to develop a unique banjoistic voice for that particular set of bluegrass standards. The end result, Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe, shows Pikelny at a new pinnacle of maturation as a banjo player and musician, redefining the role of the banjo in his own way with an unprecedented approach to melodic playing and thereby setting a new standard in bluegrass for years to come.

Cold SpellWith the release of Cold Spell, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen prove that they've got it all – including momentum.
Some critics have called the band "the new NewGrass Revival" and that comparison is no exaggeration. This foursome has vocal prowess and instrumental chops in spades. Cold Spell is a testament to the power and versatility of traditional bluegrass instrumentation, and the album's 10 tracks move effortlessly through Solivan and crew's virtuosic, electrifying and broad–minded brand of bluegrass music.

From the evocative opening track "Say It Isn't So" through the bluesy "No Life in the this Town" to the hard hitting "She Said She Will" and the grassy instrumental "Yeah Man," penned by reigning IBMA Banjo Player of the Year Mike Munford, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen prove that bluegrass can rock and groove.

The album’s ten tracks show just how far the traditional bluegrass instrumentation of banjo, mandolin, guitar and acoustic bass can go in the right hands. From the evocative opening track “Say It Isn’t So,” through the bluesy “No Life in this Town,” to the future jam grass anthem “She Said She Will” (featuring Solivan’s bluesy tenor vocals and a jaw dropping banjo performance from Mike Munford, International Bluegrass Music Association’s reigning Banjo Player of the Year), Frank Solivan and his bandmates (Munford on banjo, Danny Booth on bass and Chris Luquette on guitar) take their brand of bluegrass through the paces proving track after track that bluegrass can rock and groove. With special guests Leon Alexander, Sam Bush, John Cowan, Rob Ickes and Megan McCormick.

Bryan Sutton - Into My OwnNashville, TN -- Bryan Sutton returned to Sugar Hill Records with his fourth solo release, Into My Own. “The goal,” Bryan Sutton says, “was to try to make a record that only I could make.” Indeed, even a cursory listen is enough to establish that Into My Own, his fourth album for Sugar Hill Records, fulfills that goal—and does so in a way that reflects not only the instrumental virtuosity that his admirers have come to expect, but also the spirit and sensibilities of a musician intent on challenging himself to continuously grow in every way.

For those who think of him as just one of the best acoustic guitarists around, Into My Own will come as an unexpected revelation, while for those who’ve been following his evolution at least since 2009’s Almost Live, it deserves welcome as the culmination of a remarkable musical growth spurt—rich, varied, and, just as he says, a record that only he could make.

For what Into My Own does for the first time is present Bryan Sutton, not so much on his own (though there’s a bit of that too), but as an artist who’s worked his way into a musical place that’s all his own, and not just as a phenomenal guitarist, but as a singer and songwriter.

Featured alongside Bryan Sutton are some of the best pickers in the genre, also true friends and collaborators; Bill Frisell joins in for “Frissell’s Rag” while Noam Pikelny, Sam Bush, Ronnie McCoury, Stuart Duncan and more stop in to play a few. Sutton takes center stage on “Run Away” and “Been All Around This World,” demonstrating even further how each track bursts with its own energy.

 Only MeRhonda Vincent’s latest album, Only Me, debuted at #1 on Billboard Bluegrass Album chart, following a 4-month reign by Alan Jackson. In addition, the critically acclaimed album, debuted on four other Billboard charts including: #10 Heatseekers, #36 Top Current Country Albums, #55 Top Country Albums, #60 Indie Albums. “The New Queen of Bluegrass” as dubbed by the Wall Street Journal, found her new album debuting at the top of the bluegrass music charts as well.

"It’s a dream come true!” said Rhonda Vincent. “I was hoping for a #1 CD with Only Me, but never expecting it after only 2 days of sales. This is unbelievable! "

Country Weekly exclaimed that her fans “appreciate the honest and true music Rhonda Vincent continues to crank out after all these years.” In addition to and endorsement by country superstar Dolly Parton, the media is called this “the perfect mix of country and bluegrass” (ParcBench).

The album features duets with both Willie Nelson and Daryle Singletary. Nelson said “Rhonda’s voice is beautiful. I am thankful for her letting me be a part of it all,” while Singletary said that he loves singing with Rhonda “cause she makes you bring your A game!!”

Obviously there are some top bluegrass albums in the running and there were certainly many other outstanding albums released during the past year. The awards are just a few months out but we can start guessing who the winner will be beginning today.

The complete list of nominees for all categories may be found on Grammy.com/

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