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.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Jell-o sales plummet; Hamas kills suspected informers; bodies arrive in Malaysia and more national and international news for Friday, August 22, 2014.
That’s what Lafayette Parish has obtained in Pentagon surplus since 2006.
Qualifying continues through Friday.
The political tilt of the Senate during President Barack Obama's final two years in office is likely to hinge on a handful of female contenders in tight and costly races.
A former BP executive will be allowed to travel to the United Kingdom later this month while he awaits trial on charges relating to an investigation of the 2010 Gulf oil spill.
Friends and family will celebrate Spider's life in September.
Saints safety Jairus Byrd has rarely been so eager to hit and be hit, if only to reassure himself that his surgically repaired back is as healed as doctors believe.
Jindal privatized nearly all the LSU hospitals without waiting for federal officials to sign off on financing arrangements that rely on millions of federal Medicaid dollars.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and her main Republican challenger, Congressman Bill Cassidy, verbally sparred as they officially signed up on the opening day of qualifying for Louisiana's November election.
Superintendent tells crowd he'd just emerged from a four-hour meeting with the attorney hired to investigate him.
The start of the three-day qualifying period for November’s elections has so far yielded 10 official bids and one new announcement from candidates seeking a seat on the school board.
It’s been just over four months since attorney Barry Domingue committed suicide the morning before he was to stand trial for a second day in the federal Curious Goods case, leaving his fellow attorney/co-defendant Daniel Stanford with a temporary mistrial and awaiting his day in court.
Candidates for Louisiana's Nov. 4 election must officially sign up for the ballot this week.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's effort to derail Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards was halted Tuesday by a state judge who said the governor's actions were harmful to parents, teachers and students.
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram isn't letting a humbling start to his pro career lower his opinion of what he can still accomplish in the NFL.
Visualize Lafayette’s next great thing from 3,000 feet.
A Baton Rouge judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday against enforcing a law that prohibits anyone 70 or older from running for justice of the peace or constable.
Gov. Bobby Jindal believes the last-minute passage of a pension hike for his state police superintendent, Col. Mike Edmonson, was improperly handled, according to the governor's office.
As the courts hash out the attempts to preserve and shelve Common Core in Louisiana, a group of six state lawmakers are planning an Aug. 22 trip to Oklahoma to meet with their counterparts and strategize for the 2015 regular session.
While hopes are high for turnout this fall, a new report from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate suggests that Louisiana's midterm face-offs may amount to nothing special in terms of votes cast.
The attorney hired by the Lafayette Parish School Board for a special investigation of Superintendent Pat Cooper has submitted his final report, though it may be another week before the findings are made public.
The Tea Party of Louisiana is calling Sen. David Vitter a “turncoat” for his newfound embrace of Common Core educational standards.
An annual report evaluating Gov. Bobby Jindal's privatization of Medicaid lacked important financial information and presented rosy performance reviews not corroborated by data, according to a review released Monday.
Lafayette attorney Michelle Meaux-Breaux has announced her plans to seek the Division E seat for judge in the 15th Judicial District.