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LOS ANGELES -- Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney -- roots-rock duo The Black Keys -- won three trophies and Auerbach garnered a fourth on his own in a momentous night for Nashville music of all stripes at Sunday's 55th Grammy Awards.
Auerbach won more Grammys than any other artist of the evening, and the Keys' three trophies matched Kings of Leon's haul of three years ago.
Auerbach and Carney moved to Nashville from Akron, Ohio, in 2010, quickly integrating themselves into the music community, and using the city as home base for recording current album "El Camino" and other projects. Auerbach's acumen in the studio led to a best producer Grammy, and Dr. John's Auerbach-produced "Locked Down" won a best blues album Grammy on Sunday.
"Thank you, everyone in Music City, for welcoming us," Auerbach said upon receiving the best rock album prize for "El Camino." "Nashville, Tennessee is a wonderful place."
Taylor Swift opened the show with an elaborate presentation of the record of the year-nominated "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," and performances followed from Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley, Mikky Ekko, The Black Keys, Kelly Clarkson, Jack White (in a sparkling rhinestone suit from clothier Manuel, who is based in Nashville), Hunter Hayes, Carrie Underwood, Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes and best country album winner Zac Brown.
Nashville performers offered pop, roots rock, R&B, classic and contemporary country, soul and jazz-tinged sounds. And Nashville-connected musicians won Grammys for rock, pop, Christian, classical, visual media, music video, Americana, bluegrass, blues, folk, spoken word and country works.
"They've been calling Nashville 'Music City' for a long, long time," said songwriter Josh Kear, who penned best country song winner "Blown Away," a smash hit for Underwood, with Chris Tompkins. (The two also collaborated on "Before He Cheats," which won the best country song Grammy five years ago.) "But I think what you're seeing now is people starting to understand the full scope of what's going on in that city, from the classical music being made there to all the genres that have done well today."
Underwood's recording of "Blown Away" also won the best country solo performance Grammy, triumphing in a category that included music from Bentley, Hayes, Blake Shelton, Ronnie Dunn and Eric Church.
Little Big Town, the group that won two Country Music Awards in November after 12 years of country music industry struggle, won the country duo/group performance prize for "Pontoon." It was Little Big Town's first Grammy victory, after five nominations.
"You always hope they're going to call your name, but when you're in a category with Taylor Swift, often they're not going to call your name," said Little Big Town's Karen Fairchild. "This is pivotal for us."
Bandmate Phillip Sweet added, "It feels like the beginning of something."
While Swift's "Safe & Sound" collaboration with Nashville duo The Civil Wars didn't win the duo/group Grammy, it did win as top song written for visual media. Swift and John Paul White and Joy Williams of The Civil Wars wrote "Safe & Sound" with T Bone Burnett, for film "The Hunger Games." Swift has long been a vocal supporter of The Civil Wars, something White joked about at the winner's podium after the superstar thanked he and Williams.
"I think it's appropriate that Taylor thanks us," White said. "We've been carrying her for awhile, and it's getting really tiring."
Janis Ian first strode to the Nokia Theater podium to announce the classical category winners during the pre-telecast. She returned to collect her second career Grammy, for the audiobook version of "Society's Child: My Autobiography." Ian was first Grammy nominated as a teenager, and she won a Grammy in 1975 for "At Seventeen." "Society's Child: My Autobiography" won out over projects from Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama, Rachel Maddow and Ellen DeGeneres.
"To say this is a stunning upset would be an understatement," she said. "I keep thinking there's a punch line here somewhere. 'An ex-president, a first lady and three lesbians walk into a bar.'"
"I got my first Grammy nomination at the age of 15," Ian continued. "I remember a board member backstage saying, 'If we could only get some radio coverage.' For better or worse, I have watched my business become an industry. ... One thing remains the same: We do not sell music, we sell dreams."
Blanton Alspaugh won the classical producer of the year award for his work with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, The Oregon Symphony, The Wolf Trap Opera Company and others. It was the fifth classical producer nomination of Alspaugh's career.
Toby McKeehan, who performs and records as TobyMac, won his second Grammy as a solo artist when his "Eye On It" was announced as the best contemporary Christian album. Touring commitments kept McKeehan from the awards show: He performed in Nashville on Saturday, and in Atlanta on Sunday.
Atlanta-based Lecrae's "Gravity" was named best gospel album.
"I do hip-hop that goes against the grain," he said. "It's not misogynistic. I'm not killing anybody. Every song that I do is filtered through a spiritual lens."
Bonnie Raitt's "Slipstream," which includes contributions from Nashville's George Marinelli, Bonnie Bishop and Gary Nicholson, won the Americana album prize. And the Grammy for top bluegrass album went to Steep Canyon Rangers, for an album co-produced by Gary Paczosa.
"People like that this kind of music is organic," said Steep Canyon Rangers mandolin player Mike Guggino. "It's real musicians, playing real, wooden, stringed instruments."
Raitt noted the prominent wins and nominations for artists whose sounds are drawn from American roots music traditions. The Black Keys, Jack White, top album winner Mumford & Sons and many other major players at this year's awards show are rooted in blues, folk, country, rock and soul.
"I think great music just rises to the top," Raitt said. "Great music and great melodies and people that mean it, it's really refreshing when it comes around again. Americana has really come into its own."
By Peter Cooper