Josh Caffery was in Breaux Bridge recently when he ran into a local musician who had just been nominated for a Grammy Award. A musician himself, Caffery congratulated his friend (whom he refuses to identify), but he didn’t know what Caffery was talking about. The friend said he’d received a text message informing him he had been nominated for a Grammy but thought it was a joke.
But the Grammys are no joke. They’re strictly business. Those who have them kiss them and caress them — and are sure to make mention of them whenever possible. It looks great in a press release and announces to everyone that you’ve not only been recognized by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (or “The Recording Academy” as they’re calling it now), but that you’re bona fide, singled out by your musical peers for your excellence. This year’s Grammy Awards are Sunday, Feb. 8, in Los Angeles and will broadcast live on CBS.
Last year was the first year for the Grammys to carve out a niche specifically for Cajun and zydeco music. But there was a bit of grumbling that went along with the excitement. In fairness, every year with the Grammys, regardless of the category or the nominees, there’s moaning and groaning — like when Jethro Tull won for best Metal band (over Metallica) and Bruce Hornsby (“That’s Just The Way It Is”) won for his accomplishments in bluegrass. The Cajun and zydeco category has likewise had its own peculiarities.
Last year, instead of the standard five nominees, there were seven, with a three-way tie for one of the slots. (No one seems to know which nominees were tied in that last slot or how three acts got precisely enough votes each to put them all neck and neck as contenders.) The nominees included Terrance Simien, Geno Delafose, the Pine Leaf Boys, the Racines, Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars, the Lost Bayou Ramblers, and Lisa Haley.
Haley, a Los Angeles-based fiddler whose album King Cake was up for the honor, was the only nominee in the category not from Louisiana. She campaigned aggressively by way of e-mail and postcards, asking voting NARAS members to place a check mark next to her album on their ballot. There was a real concern among some Louisiana musicians that Haley might walk away with the first C/Z Grammy.
But in the end, the award went to zydeco musician and Mallet Playboy Terrance Simien, whose wife, Cynthia, waged a six-year battle to get The Recording Academy to recognize that Cajun and zydeco musicians warranted their own category.
This year, there’s the standard five nominees, all from Louisiana, except for Cedric Watson, a Texas native who has made Lafayette his home. Watson’s nominated for his self-titled release, along with BeauSoleil & Michael Doucet (Live At The 2008 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival), Michael Doucet (From Now On), the Pine Leaf Boys (Homage Au Passé), and Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys (Live At The 2008 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival).
But here’s the rundown of this year’s mix of weirdness:
• Michael Doucet is up against himself, one for his solo album and another for his work with his band of 35 years, BeauSoleil.
• Two of the albums — BeauSoleil’s and The Mamou Playboys’ — are live recordings from the 2008 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival released by MunckMix. Sources close to both bands indicate that when the nominees were announced, neither band had even heard the recordings that garnered them the nomination.
• Most of the albums are of Cajun music. The album by Watson, a former member of the Pine Leaf Boys, is the only one that could remotely be considered zydeco, and even that’s arguable. Most of what Watson does lies somewhere in between the worlds of Cajun and old-time Creole music, with his own new spin on it.
• The Pine Leaf Boys’ Homage au Passe was nominated last year before the CD was even made — the physical CD, that is. The tracks themselves were released on iTunes last year for digital downloads, which put them in the running for a 2008 Grammy, even though the physical CD’s official release date was yesterday, less than a week from the Grammy Awards on Sunday.
Then there’s the issue of Feufollet, an issue raised by the Pine Leaf Boys’ Wilson Savoy. On the band’s Web site in early December, Savoy posted a message of thanks for the nomination followed by the question: “But what about Feufollet?” Savoy was dismayed that Feufollet’s impressive Cow Island Hop wasn’t one of the five nominees. “Feufollet’s latest CD is the most awesome album to be released in Louisiana in our genre. When you listen, you hear a bunch of young guys and a girl who have been influenced by all kinds of music and are not afraid to mix it with their Cajun roots and kick ass.”
Feufollet member Caffery says the band was just trying to make a good record and wasn’t aiming for a Grammy Award. “The Grammys aren’t about aesthetic valuations,” he says. “In an ideal world, we would like them to be. But it has little to do with the artistic quality of a recording project and more to do with the extent to which it reflects the music industry’s involvement.”
While he admits that, sure, a Grammy Award, or even a nod, would have been nice, he says neither he nor his bandmates are bitter or upset by the oversight. “That’s great if people can make a living playing music,” he says, “but that’s not really the important thing about the music here. It’s a form of communication between people. It’s not really something that’s solely motivated by economics.
MAY 23 Here's a story in the Picayune about some statistics that must come as a blow to folks who believe that any private school can do a better job of educating kids than any public school: Danielle Dreilinger reports that only 30 percent of the voucher kids are passing. That's less than half of the state wide average, she says. It's an interesting statistic because most of the schools (if not all) taking voucher kids have never had their students' standardized test scores released to the public before.
MAY 23 Stephen Sabludowsky blogs on Bayou Buzz about auditor requests here. Recently the state GOP started crowing about a request from the Legislative Auditor, claiming they were being targeted because of their anti-tax stance. (Uh, your what?) Denial and hyperbole aside, the state Democratic party blew holes in that theory with an email announcing they'd received the same request, Sabludowsky writes here.
MAY 23 Jim Brown blogs about the senate race in this post. He says that, given Bobby Jindal's "lack of traction" on the national stage, it might make more sense for the governor to consider running against Mary Landrieu for the senate seat. Since Tim Teeple left the Cassidy team, it makes sense he might land on a Jindal for Senate team, Brown opines.
MAY 23 In this Louisiana Voice post, blogger Tom Aswell writes of rumors that his nemesis, state Superintendent of Education John White, may be soon departing Louisiana for a federal post. It's hard to believe, given his performance, Aswell says, but stranger things have happened. An anti-White BESE member says that, if true, White is quitting before he can be fired.
MAY 23 In this post on American Zombie, blogger Jason Berry writes about the Mother's Day shooting. Mayor Landrieu said that "this is not who we are," but the fact is, this is New Orleans, Berry writes. The violence infused in the city is the result of a culture created by "sins of omission or sins of commission," Berry writes. It's not a problem that can be solved by legislating, policing, praying or publicizing, he says: Someone's got to understand what's happening first.
MAY 23 This post in the Westside Journal tells us what Port Allen Mayor Deedy has been up to lately: vetoing ordinances, apparently. This story is most interesting, however, when it delves into a petition that has been circulating around the city lately. It accuses the former mayor of a lot of nasty things; the former mayor says it is full of lies and "broken syntax" which may be a larger offense in his eyes.
MAY 23 This editorial posted in The Advocate is a bit confusing. The writing is poor - definitely not up to the usual editorial writing standard there - and the point is hard to grasp. Apparently, the writer is saying that privatization of state efforts is OK, as long as there is oversight and transparency, but Jindal's not good at that, and the legislature shouldn't over-react. Okey Dokey. Can't they get one of them Pulitzer-winning people to write an editorial?
MAY 23 This post on The Lens gives you links to a new Google Earth tool that allows you to see any spot on earth transform over the past 30 years. Bob Marshall, who covers the coast for the paper, says that in the case of Louisiana's coastline, it's possibly something you don't want to see, because it's not a pretty picture. There are several clips here, showing critical areas erode away. For Marshall, it was vindication for all those times he was met with eye-rolling when he talked about erosion.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.