The Best New Artist slot pits Britney against...the blues?

By EW Staff
Updated February 18, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

Who says the spirit of the ’60s is dead? Thanks to either talent or the Grammy judges’ perverse sense of humor, virtually unknown blues-belting singer-guitarist Susan Tedeschi finds herself vying with Kid Rock, Britney Spears, Macy Gray, and Christina Aguilera for the title of Best New Artist. “It’s pretty amazing that I’m even in the same category as some of those people,” gushes Tedeschi, before admitting she wouldn’t know a Kid Rock if he threw one at her. “I don’t watch television and I don’t really have a radio,” she says, “so I’m not really up on who the new artists are. Who are Limp Bizkit?”

The short answer to that question: not a group likely to intersect with Tedeschi’s hermetic universe. Her debut, Just Won’t Burn, is a collection of rocked-up blues and soul that accurately reflects the 29-year-old Massachusetts native’s tastes. “I grew up on blues, soul, and folk,” says Tedeschi. “That’s what my parents played around the house.” And, God bless her, that’s what she’s stuck to since she began working the Boston-area blues circuit after graduating from the Berklee College of Music in 1991, blissfully content to turn a deaf ear to musical forms outside that rubric. Paul Butterfield would be proud.

While all this Grammy business is kind of new to her, she has bought a dress to wear on her big night. Just don’t ask her about designers: “I don’t really know the brand on it, but it’s very pretty and classic.” And she sees eye to eye with the judges where one past Grammy queen is concerned. “Bonnie Raitt and I have a lot of parallels,” she says excitedly, noting that they both hail from the same region, play guitar, and dig da blooz. “But the thing that’s really neat is her birthday’s Nov. 8 and mine is Nov. 9,” she giggles girlishly. “We’re 21 years and one day apart.” Whoa. Come Grammy night, we’ll find out just how far those Raitt-Tedeschi parallels really extend.