Producer of the Year, Non-Classical

Jan 28, 2008 6:04 PM


Brendan O’Brien is always going to be known as the hard-rock guy, even with albums by Bruce Springsteen and other more temperate types dotting his CV. Four of the five albums that led to his Producer of the Year nomination fall into hard rock category: AC/DC’s Black Ice brought the Australian group back into the limelight after many years away; Crack the Skye by Mastadon is big, ambitious and hard-rock concept album by the Atlanta-based group; Pearl Jam’s Backspacer marked a reunion between O’Brien and the group he last worked with in the late ’90s; and the Massachusetts’ Killswitch Engage are probably to heaviest of the lot—their self-titled O’Brien-produced disc is their fifth album since 2000. The other album O’Brien produced during the eligibility period is Bruce Springsteen’s Working on a Dream, which was another critical and commercial success for The Boss. (The two previously won a Grammy for The Rising.)

T Bone Burnett

It seems as though in the past decade T Bone is always nominated in one or more Grammy categories; and since 2001, when he won this category, as well as Album of the Year for O Brother, Where Art Thou, he’s taken home a whopping 10 Grammy awards, including four just last year (for the Plant/Krauss Raising Sand and B.B. King’s One Kind Favor ). This year he’s up for the award for having produced the San Francisco jam band Moonalice’s self-titled album and the superb acoustic album by Elvis Costello and friends called Secret, Profane and Sugarcane . Nobody does Americana quite like T Bone—no doubt his work on the Jeff Bridges film Crazy Heart will result in several nominations next year.

Ethan Johns

Multi-instrumentalist, engineer, producer—Ethan Johns wears many hats and has carved out quite a career for himself, working with a slew of great and distinctive artists, including U2, Ryan Adams, Crowded House, Emmylou Harris, The Jayhawks, Kings of Leon, Counting Crows, Rufus Wainwright and many others. He earned a nomination this year primarily on the strength of Ray LaMontagne’s Gossip in the Grain, the third album the two have made together since 2003. All in all, it has not been hard for Johns to escape the long shadow of his famous father, Glyn Johns—talent wins out.

Larry Klein

Known for years primarily as bassist/co-producer/husband (ex-) of Joni Mitchell, Larry Klein has really come into his own in recent years; indeed, he won a Grammy for last year’s Album of the Year—Herbie Hancock’s The Joni Letters—and also has won for the Joni-plus-orchestra disc Both Sides Now and her superb 1994 album, Turbulent Indigo. This year’s he’s nominated for Zachary Richard’s Acadian Driftwood, pop-jazz chanteuse Madeleine Peyroux’s Bare Bones, Melody Gardot’s My One and Only Thrill, Luciana Souza’s Tide (she is his current wife) and Tracy Chapman’s very well-received Our Bright Future.

Greg Kurstin

After co-writing, -producing, engineering and playing on several tracks of Lily Allen’s 2006 breakthrough album, Alright, Still, L.A.-based Greg Kurstin got the call to serve in those same capacities for Allen’s excellent follow-up, It's Not Me, It's You. He co-wrote every song on the album, worked up the arrangements, hired musicians and pieced it all together to create a wonderfully cohesive but very forward-looking disc. The same could be said about the quirky album he made for his own duo, The Bird and The Bee, Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future. Kurstin has also played on and/or produced for the likes of Ben harper, Pink, Nelly Furtado, Natasha Bedingfield and many others.

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