CA: Matt Ross-Spang may have engineered another Grammy winner
Nominations for the 59th annual Grammy Awards were announced Tuesday, and although he was not “officially” nominated, Memphis recording engineer Matt Ross-Spang could walk away with back-to-back trophies in the Best Americana Album category.
Ross-Spang — the former Sun Studio engineer, now based at Phillips Recording Service — has become a one of Nashville producer Dave Cobb’s go-to engineers over the past few years. As such, Ross-Spang engineered the Best Americana Album winner from 2016, “Something More Than Free” by Jason Isbell. This week, another Cobb-produced, Ross-Spang-engineered album, Lori McKenna’s “The Bird and the Rifle,” was nominated in the same category.
Outside of the Grammy’s “big four” categories, engineers aren’t listed among the official nominees, but they are rewarded with a Grammy trophy if the album wins. For Ross-Spang, a Grammy win with Isbell to start 2016 and a chance to win again with McKenna would close what has been a banner year for the 29 year-old studio maven.
In tandem with Cobb, Ross-Spang also spent 2016 working on projects for the Lone Bellow, Anderson East and Kris Kristofferson, among others. On his own, he produced records for Sean Rowe, Patrick Sweany and U.K. artist Emily Barker, and worked on archival tracks for Elvis Presley.
Mostly notably, Ross-Spang also produced, engineered, mixed and played on “Midwest Farmer’s Daughter,” the breakthrough album for newly minted Americana star Margo Price. This week, Ross-Spang reunited with Price to begin work on her follow-up album at Phillips. Next month, he’ll join Cobb in Nashville to work on a new album by Isbell.
Beyond Ross-Spang, a handful of Memphis- and Mid-South-connected artists will be up for Grammy awards. Stax Records stalwart William Bell earned two nominations for his album “This is Where I Live.” Bell got a nod in the Best Traditional R&B Performance category for his song “The Three of Me,” and he will also vie for the Best Americana Album trophy, against Kris Kristofferson, The Avett Brothers and Lori McKenna. Bell’s 2016 comeback was released by the Concord Music Group’s revived Stax Records label.
Two of Mississippi’s finest bluesmen, Luther Dickinson and Bobby Rush, will compete for Grammys. Dickinson’s project “Blues & Ballads (A Folksinger’s Songbook: Volumes 1 & II)” and Rush’s “Porcupine Meat” will both be up for the Best Traditional Blues Album award. Millington native and pop superstar Justin Timberlake got a writer’s nomination for “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from the movie “Trolls,” which will be up for Best Song Written for Visual Media.