It’s no surprise that one of the top stories of 2022 would involve Michigan-bred star Billy Strings. In April, he and his band performed on the Grammys, though he didn’t win for best bluegrass album.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Today, our countdown of most-read Local Spins stories of 2022 arrives at No. 6 with a look back at Billy Strings’ brief appearance on the nationally televised Grammy Awards show in April. While he once again was nominated for best bluegrass album, he didn’t repeat his win from 2021. Check out the story and watch videos from his Grammy night activities.
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Amid all of the crises the world has been facing, the music world’s version of a welcome respite came Sunday by shedding light on some of its brightest and most talented artists, often in poignant fashion.
The Grammy Awards – delayed by several weeks due to COVID and staged in Las Vegas rather than Los Angeles – not only trotted out the usual pop superstars during its glitzy, nationally televised spectacle, but devoted part of the night to genres “not historically represented” on the evening telecast.
That includes the burgeoning influence of bluegrass and West Michigan’s own guitar hero Billy Strings, who earned some fleeting moments of televised glory with his band atop the MGM Grand Garden Arena late during Sunday’s show.
As an intro and outro to a commercial break, the CBS telecast featured a live outdoor performance by Strings & Company, including the ending to “Hide and Seek” which appears on his latest, Grammy-nominated album. For some, it was a disappointingly brief snippet for an artist one fan described as “one of the most dynamic acts on the scene today.”
Nevertheless, it did put the acclaimed bluegrass guitarist and his band in the national spotlight once again.
While Billy Strings, aka William Apostol, didn’t technically win a Grammy on Sunday in either of the two categories in which he was nominated, he can claim at least a share of the credit for one of them: He performs four songs on the album, “My Bluegrass Heart,” that won legendary banjoist Bela Fleck the Grammy Award for best bluegrass album.
Fleck won the Grammy during the Sunday afternoon “premiere ceremony” where most of the awards are actually presented, beating out Billy Strings’ highly acclaimed “Renewal,” as well as nominated recordings by The Infamous Stringdusters, Sturgill Simpson and Rhonda Vincent. Fleck now has 15 Grammy Awards to his credit.
“Congrats, Bela Fleck on the Grammy win for best bluegrass album,” Apostol declared on Facebook.
“It was an honor to be a small part of that amazing record. Onward and upward for bluegrass and beyond!”
Apostol also had been nominated for best American roots performance for his song, “Love and Regret,” but that Grammy went to Jon Batiste for “Cry.” Allison Russell, Brandy Clark with Brandi Carlile, and The Blind Boys of Alabama with Bela Fleck were also nominated in that category.
Apostol, an Ionia County native who now resides in Nashville, won his first Grammy Award in 2021 for the album, “Home,” which also helped make the virtuoso guitarist Local Spins’ “Newsmaker of the Year.” He’s also featured in the 2023 Local Spins Calendar.
Other winners announced on Sunday afternoon also boasted recent Grand Rapids connections of sorts: Multi-Grammy-winning jazz bassist Christian McBride was a winner yet again (best large jazz ensemble album) just five weeks after playing a three-night run at St. Cecilia Music Center in Grand Rapids.
Listening Room last November hosted a two-show evening by Grammy winner Los Lobos (best Americana album), with The Pyramid Scheme not so long before that spotlighting Christone “Kingfish” Ingram (best contemporary blues album).
The star-studded evening Grammy Awards show featured an emotional tribute to victims of the war in the Ukraine led by John Legend as well as a salute to late drummer Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters. The rock band on Sunday won three Grammys and was initially slated to perform on the show until Hawkins’ sudden tragic death on March 25.
Some big winners on Sunday included Olivia Rodrigo (best new artist, best pop solo performance, best pop vocal album), Chris Stapleton (best country album, best country song, best country solo performance), Silk Sonic (song of the year, record of the year, best R&B performance — a tie with Jazmine Sullivan — best R&B song), and Jon Batiste (album of the year, best American roots song, best American roots performance).
View the full list of winners and nominees at Grammy.com.
VIDEO: Billy Strings (Red Carpet Interview)
VIDEO: Billy Strings & Band (From Grammy Awards)
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