Something Else! Reviews on the 2009 Grammy winners

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Click through the titles below for Something Else! reviews on a number of last night’s key Grammy-award winners, including Robert Plant and Alison Krauss — who must have charley horses from going up and down to the podium so often.

We also review B.B. King, whose terrific “One Kind Favor” was also produced by T-Bone Burnett; Al Green, Ricky Skaggs, The Eagles, Dr. John and a Miles Davis reissue that just might be the most important jazz recording ever. Really.

ROBERT PLANT AND ALISON KRAUSS, ‘RISING SAND’: Won for album of the year and best contempory folk/Americana album. Individual tunes from the release were also recognized, including “Please Read the Letter” (record of the year); “Rich Woman” (best pop collaboration with vocals); and “Killing the Blues” (best country collaboration with vocals.)

Our take: You don’t have to be a big fan of either Plant or Krauss to appreciate Raising Sand. Indeed, approaching this album without preconceptions of either makes it sound even better.

B.B. KING, ‘ONE KIND FAVOR’: Named best traditional blues album of the year.

Our take: King opened himself up creatively and, in some ways, even musically (since he’s always been more known for a polished, citified sophistication) in the still-stirring autumn of his justly legendary career. This record is like a trip to the bottom of a popping 1950s pot of country-cooked dirty rice, familiar yet complex.

DR. JOHN AND THE LOWER 911, ‘CITY THAT CARE FORGOT’: Named best contemporary blues album.

Our take: Not every song is memorable, but the focus on the theme makes even the lesser tunes hold together with the better ones. Just when people might be ready to roll their eyes at yet another Katrina-themed album, Dr. John delivers one of the most sincere profferings of a message from that event with a man clearly inspired to bring enough of his “A” game to make sure people are listening.

MILES DAVIS, ‘KIND OF BLUE: 50TH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTOR’S EDITION’: Recognized for best album notes, written by Francis Davis.

Our take: One can write a book or essay on this one record and in fact, many have. The Legacy Edition itself contains a 2,500 word essay adorned with additional photos, all contained on a pdf file within Disc 1. That’s all fine and good, but ultimately—as Miles himself would surely concur—such talk is cheap. The music is where everything that needs to be said is said. Kind Of Blue speaks a whole encyclopedia set of what jazz is truly about.

THE EAGLES, “I DREAMED THERE WAS NO WAR”: The song, featured on ‘Long Road Out Of Eden,’ was named best pop instrumental performance.

Our take: Just as Don Henley promised, this isn’t a record that bothers in the least to follow any trend, it’s unabashedly an Eagles record. Like another prominent seventies band who avoided creative fallout in the 80’s and 90’s simply by not releasing new material during that time, Eden provided the Eagles a Steely Dan-style comeback.

AL GREEN, ‘LAY IT DOWN’: The album featured two award-winning cuts, “You’ve Got The Love I Need,” featuring Anthony Hamilton (named best traditional R&B vocal performance) and “Stay With Me (by the Sea)” with John Legend (named best R&B performance by a duo or group with vocals.

Our take: If you’ve been waiting for the secular Al Green to come back and found “I Can’t Stop” and “Everything’s OK” to be wanting, “Lay It Down” is the place to embrace his music again. Green today continues to inspire newer generations of great soul singers, but he remains the greater of all who’ve followed him. With this latest release, his hold on the throne remains firm.

RICKY SKAGGS, ‘HONORING THE FATHERS OF BLUEGRASS’: Named best bluegrass album, it features celebrated tunes from 1946-47.

Our take: Skaggs, even with his aptly named Kentucky Thunder backing group, is careful not to mismanage these long-held notions — offering a timely r
eminder of what made bluegrass music the careening joy that it is. Skaggs also convincingly argues for Bill Monroe’s place in the infrastructure of rock music. Listen closely to “Honoring the Fathers” and you’ll hear elements of the legends of Elvis, of Dylan, of Led Zeppelin, of the Eagles, of R.E.M.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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