Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Boston Globe: Grammy-Winning Rounder Records

Grammys ease way for Mass. label

By Sarah Rodman, Globe Staff February 11, 2009

The three founders of Burlington-based Rounder Records were no strangers to the Grammy Awards, having been rewarded many times for the label's specialties: folk, bluegrass, and roots music. But Sunday night, the former local college students, who started Rounder 38 years ago, stepped out from their niche in the biggest possible way. A Rounder release won the top two awards, for album and record of the year.

The artists who claimed those prizes, Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, swept every category in which their album "Raising Sand" was nominated.

"As an independent label, it's one of those things that you dream about," said John Virant, president of Rounder, "and it became a reality."

But when Virant and label founders Marian Leighton-Levy, Ken Irwin, and Bill Nowlin returned from Los Angeles, where they celebrated into Monday morning, they faced the same challenges as do every record company executive.

Even Plant seemed to understand, praising Rounder from the Staples Center stage as "an independent label working against all sorts of stuff, which is terrible, but thank you."

Last year, Rounder cut its staff from more than 100 employees to roughly 75, and at the time Nowlin (a Tufts grad like Irwin) admitted uncertainty about the label's long-term future. "Keeping the record company alive is the main goal," he said.

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