LIANE HANSEN, host:

The Oscars may be a month away but this Wednesday the 48th Annual Grammy Awards are given out in Los Angeles. There's already plenty of buzz around such superstars as U2, Kanye West and Mariah Carey. But our music director Ed Wharton scanned the list of nominees for some out of the way surprises that probably won't make the next cover of Entertainment Weekly.

ED WHARTON reporting:

You don't hear a lot about polka nominees, for example.

(Soundbite of music)

That's Jimmy Sturr, one of this year's nominees in the polka field, who's teamed up with guitarist Duane Eddy for that cut for his CD Shake, Rattle and Polka. There are over 100 categories in the Grammy Awards, everything from world music to spoken word to surround sound is represented. Jazz composer Herbie Hancock blurs the lines between the genres as he reaches out to rock, world and alternative players in his new CD Possibilities.

(Soundbite of music)

Hancock's been nominated for three Grammies this year as a soloist on Terrence Blanchard's CD Slow, plus two nominations for Possibilities, Best Pop Instrumental Performance for this cut featuring ex-Phish guitarist Tre Anestasio, and this one, A Song For You, with Christina Aguilera, nominated for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals. (Soundbite of song)

The group LCD Soundsystem electrifies the dance floor with music from their new CD which is nominated for Best Electronic Dance Album. Their sound recalls the heyday of post punk discos in this song nominated for Best Dance Recording, Daft Punk is Playing at My House.

(Soundbite of music)

It's getting harder and harder to find jazz on the radio or in popular culture these days, so its good to scan the Grammy nominees to see what's hot in the field. One of the most inventive composers in jazz who deserves more attention is drummer and percussionist John Hollenbeck. The New York-based John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble has been nominated for its CD, A Blessing.

(Soundbite of music)

On the world music stage, the players from the Buena Vista Social Club are having their moment in the sun thanks to an explosion of interest in Cuban music following the documentary film several years back. Sadly, many players have since passed away, but some are still going strong. Trumpeter Manuel Guajiro Mirabal has a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Tropical Latin Album.

(Soundbite of music)

Now, as for the big-name nominees for the big-name categories like Record and Album of the Year, I'm sure U2 and Gorillaz and Gwen Stefani are all deserving. But there's only one Grammy nominee I'm really rooting for this year. Beck, nominated for Best Alternative Music Album for his phenomenally fun and funky CD Guero.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: Ned Wharton's Director's Cuts, including full audio tracks and more Grammy nominees from off-the-beaten path can be found at our website at NPR.org.

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