Raising Sand, the rootsy Robert Plant/Alison Krauss collaboration, was the Grammy magnet everyone expected it would be. The project won five awards, including Album of the Year, and, in a surprise, Record of the Year for "Please Read The Letter." That track beat out Coldplay's smash "Viva La Vida," but the English band still managed to win three awards, including Song of the Year.
This is the second time in less than a decade that a contemporary folk album produced by T Bone Burnett has been voted Album of the Year. The soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou? won in 2001. Krauss has now won 26 Grammys, a total equaled by only one non-classical artist in Grammy history, Quincy Jones. The legendary producer has won 27 Grammys. Stevie Wonder is in third place among non-classical artists with 25.
Adele won for Best New Artist over Jonas Brothers and Duffy, among others. Some pundits (including me) thought Adele and Duffy might split the vote, allowing JoBros to sneak in and take the prize. This is the second straight year that a female British "neo-soul" artist has taken this award; Amy Winehouse won last year. Even more impressive, Adele's "Chasing Pavements" won for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance over Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love," the year's #1 hit, which has sold more than nine times as many downloads as Adele's song.
John Mayer won in the rock field for the first time, beating Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney, among others, for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance for "Gravity." Mayer also won for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for the fourth time for "Say." Mayer is only the third male artist, following Michael Jackson and Eric Clapton, to win both the pop and rock awards in the same year.
Mary J. Blige's Growing Pains beat Ne-Yo's Year Of The Gentleman for Best Contemporary R&B Album. Ne-Yo had two big things going for him: He had won the same award last year for Because Of You and he was a finalist this year for Album of the Year. (He was the only Album of the Year finalist not to win his "genre" album category.)
Kings Of Leon's "Sex On Fire" won for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals, beating Coldplay and Radiohead, among others.
And Daft Punk's "Harder Better Faster Stronger" won for Best Dance Recording, beating a pair of #1 crossover hits, Rihanna's "Disturbia" and "Just Dance" by Lady GaGa featuring Colby O'Donis.
If those were among the night's biggest surprises, other outcomes were more predictable. George Strait, who has been turning out hits since 1981 and who has amassed 22 Country Music Assn. Awards, finally took home his first Grammy. Strait won Best Country Album for Troubadour.
Jennifer Hudson, who experienced a horrific family tragedy last fall, won for Best R&B Album for Jennifer Hudson. Voters also rallied behind Natalie Cole, a long-time Grammy favorite, who is battling Hepatitis C. Cole won for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for Still Unforgettable, the sequel to her 1991 album, Unforgettable With Love (which was the first winner in that category).
Al Green won two awards, both for tracks from his album Lay It Down. These are, incredibly, the R&B legend's first awards in the R&B field. He has won eight Grammys for gospel recordings and one in the pop field for a 1994 duet with Lyle Lovett.
Radiohead's In Rainbows won as Best Alternative Music Album. It's the British band's third award in the category, which puts it in a tie with the White Stripes for the most wins in the category.
Duffy won, as expected, for Best Pop Vocal Album for her hit debut, Rockferry. The win was especially noteworthy given the strength of the competition. Three of her rivals--Eagles, James Taylor and Sheryl Crow-have won a combined total of 20 Grammys.
Eagles lost that award, but won for Best Pop Instrumental Performance for "I Dreamed There Was No War." It's the first instrumental award for the group which, uniquely, has won vocal awards in three different fields-pop ("Lyin' Eyes"), rock ("Heartache Tonight") and country ("How Long").
A few acts got the last laugh. Sugarland's Love On The Inside and Carrie Underwood's Carnival Ride weren't even nominated for Best Country Album, but both artists walked off with performance awards for tracks from those albums. Sugarland's "Stay" won for Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal. The duo's Jennifer Nettles also won for Best Country Song for writing the song. Underwood won for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for "Last Name." It was her third victory in a row in this category.
Kanye West won two awards, without even releasing an album during the eligibility period--a neat trick. West won for a pair of collaborations, "American Boy" and "Swagga Like Us." West has now won 12 Grammys, the highest total for any rap artist. (Eminem is second among rappers, with nine Grammys.)
Jose Feliciano won for Best Tropical Latin Album for Senor Bachata, 40 years after he was crowned Best New Artist. No other artist in Grammy history has ever won another Grammy so many years after claiming the Best New Artist prize.
The late George Carlin won for Best Comedy Album for It's Bad For Ya. It was his fifth win in that category. Only two comedians have won as many times in this category. Bill Cosby leads with seven wins. The late Richard Pryor also won five.
Zappa Plays Zappa, featuring Dweezil Zappa, won Best Rock Instrumental Performance for "Peaches En Regalia." Zappa's father, the late Frank Zappa, introduced the song on his 1969 album Hot Rats. Dweezil Zappa's touching acceptance speech was the emotional highlight of the pre-telecast awards, and would have been a lovely moment on the telecast.
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' Runnin' Down A Dream won for Best Long Form Music Video. Petty had won before as a solo artist and with the Traveling Wilburys, but this was the first Grammy for his group. It came a mere 32 years after the group's debut album. The award was accepted in the pre-telecast portion by the film's director, Peter Bogdanovich.
An unheralded winner was New Orleans. Three winning albums paid tribute to that ravaged city. Dr. John And The Lower 911 won Best Contemporary Blues Album for City That Care Forgot. The Blind Boys Of Alabama won Best Traditional Gospel Album for Down In New Orleans. And BeauSoleil & Michael Doucet won Best Zydeco Or Cajun Music Album for Live At The 2008 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
One final Grammy trivia note: Raising Sand is the third collaboration involving two solo artists to win for Album of the Year. It follows Double Fantasy, by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and Getz/Gilberto, the union of jazz tenor saxophonist Stan Getz and Brazilian bossa nova star Joao Gilberto.