The Common Good

Some Hidden Gems Among the Grammy Glitterati

Marley brothers. Photo by Getty Images.
The brothers Marley (L to R): Damian, Ziggy, Stephen, Kymani and Julian. Photo by Getty Images.

The 2012 Grammy Awards are upon us. With more categories than you could shake a baton at, the very best in music will come together this weekend to recognize and celebrate the achievements of some of the biggest talent of 2011.

While most are focused on the biggest categories — and trying to guess just how many awards Adele will take home with her — there are some real gems tucked away in a number of the less well-known categories.

For instance ... in the "Best Folk Album" category, there’s usually underutilized instruments a-plenty, including an album made entirely on the ukulele from Eddie Vedder (which the Pearl Jam frontman cleverly named Ukulele Songs).

Better known for comedy? True. But that hasn’t stopped Steve Martin putting his banjo skills to work and earning himself a nomination in the "Best Bluegrass Album" category.

Family Guy creator and singer-extraordinaire Seth MacFarlane is up for three Grammys, two for his album Music Is Better Than Words, which is nominated alongside offerings Tony Bennett, Susan Boyle and Harry Connick Jr. in the "Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album" category.

There’ll be some friendly brotherly competition between Stephen, Ziggy and Damian Marley, with all three sons of the legendary Bob nominated for awards (Stephen and Ziggy competing in the same category of "Best Reggae Album").

The highlight in the "Contemporary Christian Music Album" category has to be the stunning new album from Gungor, Ghosts Upon The Earth. There are also some great artists nominated in the "Best Gospel Album" class.

Mentions of nominations for Bon Iver, Mumford and Sons or The Civil Wars are strictly limited in this post, as if you get me on a roll about the brilliance of these bands, I will never, ever stop. But they are nominated. For lots of awards. Very well deserved awards.

Recognize the name Kurt Elling? If you’ve read our bloggerina Cathleen Falsani’s book, The God Factor, then you should. The "Best Jazz Vocal Album"-nominated artist, and son of a Lutheran (Missouri Synod) pastor, was one of the people profiled in Cathleen's 2006 book. How many other Grammy nominees are one-pesky-German-exam away from a MDiv at the University of Chicago? German might not be his strong suit, but brother Kurt is fluent in vocalease!

There are many, many categories at this year’s Grammy Awards (78 to be exact).

Which of them interest you? Are there more gems that we’ve overlooked?

(P.S. We are also really excited that both Tina Fey and Betty White are up for the "Best Spoken Word Album" award . May they both win it, please??)

Jack Palmer is a communications assistant at Sojourners. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackPalmer88.

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