King Cake is the title of Los Angeles-based fiddler Lisa Haley's recent album, which is nominated as "Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album" alongside Geno Delafose & French Rockin' Boogie's Le Cowboy Creole; The Lost Bayou Ramblers' Live: Á La Blue Moon; the Pine Leaf Boys' Blues De Musicien; Roddie Romero And The Hub City All-Stars' The La Louisianne Sessions; Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience's Live! Worldwide; and Racines for their self-titled release.
It will be a travesty and major embarrassment if California's Haley wins the Cajun/zydeco Grammy, which is why — despite serious reservations about the Grammy Awards and their relevance these days — I'm renewing my membership with the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
Annual membership costs $100; to become a voting member of the Academy, you must have credits on six commercially released tracks. This applies to creative and technical professionals including vocalists, musicians, producers, engineers, conductors, arrangers, art directors, album notes writers (that's how I qualify), narrators, and music video artists and technicians. Associate and affiliate non-voting memberships are also available for music retailers, attorneys, educators, students and more. I've always thought it's disappointing that some of the most knowledgeable potential voters — the fans who buy albums and attend concerts — aren't eligible to vote at least in some capacity. The Grammy Awards, however, are billed as honors given by musicians' peers.
But if some of your peers are clueless, have an agenda or are adept at politicking, that's where the Grammy Awards can be hijacked. A purely hypothetical example: a musician in Los Angeles, home to extensive music-industry infrastructure and a large swath of Grammy voters, could work the phones and ask friends and associates to vote for his or her album. And if they're competing in a category with a smaller pool of voting members — say, Louisiana NARAS members — you can guess what might happen. On a purely local level, the same axiom holds: a 10-piece Louisiana band with more voting members and friends has a better chance out of the gate of winning the Grammy than a five-piece Louisiana band.
That's just one of the reasons I've let my NARAS membership lapse for the last five years, because the honor system of voting for the best album in each category can be manipulated. On other fronts, most major record labels have done little to endear themselves to consumers in the past decade. With the advent of the CD format, record labels reissued their catalogs on CD at price points designed to maintain profit levels, charging customers in the neighborhood of $20 to repurchase albums they already had on vinyl or cassette. Then when music started showing up on the Internet on trading sites like Napster and Kaaza, they acted like a wailing giant behemoth, with the Recording Industry of America even suing a 65-year-old Massachusetts grandmother who'd never even heard of file-sharing for copyright violations. Protecting artists' intellectual property is a serious issue, but the major record labels lost a lot of supporters with their hamfisted responses. And as the industry spiraled downward while record companies tried to figure out a plan, a lot of the backbone and heart of the industry — independent retailers, publicists, promoters, etc. — went out of business.
If I sound like a broken-record nattering nabob of negativity, here's why I'm renewing my NARAS membership: I'd hate to see NARAS' and the Grammys' shortcomings outweigh the many positive things they do. In the past two years, through the NARAS' MusiCares Hurricane Relief Fund, the Music Rising program and Grammy Foundation preservation grants, nearly $4 million has been dispersed to music professionals and organizations affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In addition to its hurricane relief efforts, NARAS recently named Reid Wick as NARAS' Gulf Coast membership coordinator. I've known longtime New Orleans educator and musician Wick for more than a decade, and if there's anyone who can beef up NARAS' musician outreach and professional development programs in Louisiana, it's him. Free NARAS seminars and programming, along with various industry discounts, are all benefits of membership.
And more important, even if the Grammys' stature has waned in recent years, winning a Cajun/zydeco Grammy Award can only serve to possibly help local artists, through increased industry recognition.
In 1989, The Grammys suffered one of its biggest embarrassments when Jethro Tull won Best Heavy Metal album — over Metallica. Let's hope we don't have a similar result when the winner of the first Cajun/zydeco Grammy is announced Feb. 10.
FDA to regulate e-cigarettes, Jodie Foster gets married, Vermont to require labels on genetically-modified food, and more national and international news for today, April 24, 2014:
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.
State Rep. Stuart Bishop says he’s concerned with the quality of Capitol Lake, but when it comes to Louisiana’s coastline, this Lafayette Republican doesn't seem to give a damn.
Democrats sweating this year's elections may be hoping that the Obama administration's latest delay to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline takes a politically fraught issue off the table for the midterms.
Louisiana lawmakers are entering the second half of their three-month regular legislative session, which must end by June 2. Where some of the major issues stand:
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.