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.
The former star of Saturday Night Live throws in his 2 cents on the Big Oil lawsuit.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday, March 10, 2014:
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.
Jim Bernhard, who engineered the sale of The Shaw Group for $3 billion, recently has told several people involved in Democratic politics that he intends to run for governor in 2015.
A New Orleans levee board wants to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for decades of damage to our state’s coastline, but the Legislature may be poised to put the kibosh on the suit.
New standards curb elective induction
CVS stops tobacco sales
If an Acadia Parish fiddler misses a note while swatting a fly, will a St. Martinville accordionist learn “Ma ‘Tite Fille”?