But when she considered the competition - a field of 165 potential nominees that included well-respected acts such as John Hiatt, Los Lobos, and Shelby Lynne - she didn't dare get her hopes up.
"The party was basically a consolation party," Chorney says. "When I looked over the big-name submissions, I didn't see a wild-card slot in there. I figured I didn't have a chance in hell."
She didn't hear her name on the air. But after the show ended, the complete list of nominees in all 78 categories was announced. "And then I started receiving messages from my Grammy365 people, saying 'Linda!!!' " Chorney recalls. "Oh my God, I was in shock. Happy shock. My jaw was dropped wide open."
Chorney is by far the most out-of-the-blue - and also the youngest - entry in the Americana field, which also includes Ry Cooder's Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down, Emmylou Harris' Hard Bargain, Lucinda Williams' Blessed, and Levon Helm's Ramble at the Ryman.
"I thought, 'This is great, they're going to want to listen to my music.' Because how else could I be selected unless this is a great album?" she asked, referring to Emotional Jukebox, released on her own Dance More Less War label.
Indeed, Chorney would seem to qualify as a feel-good Cinderella story, a decades-in-the-making overnight success who, after starting out in the late 1980s self-releasing her music on cassette tapes, finally landed her big break.
But many in the Americana-music community didn't see it that way. Some irate gatekeepers of the loosely defined genre have portrayed her as an undeserving interloper who gamed the system. While others defended her, vehement detractors have called for her to withdraw her nomination.
Among them is Houston Press music writer William Michael Smith, who wrote that he has "never seen anything quite as shameful as Chorney's calculated internet march to the Grammy ballot."
The beef isn't just that Chorney is a relative unknown. It's that her music doesn't fit easily into the category in which she's nominated. Emotional Jukebox mixes pleasantly mild covers of Beatles and Led Zeppelin songs with Chorney's own tunes in a folkie, singer-songwriter vein, with touches of jazz and R&B. Contributors include Will Lee of The Late Show With David Letterman's band and Lisa Fischer, a touring vocalist for the Rolling Stones, who sings on a cover of "Mother's Little Helper."
It's a slick, professionally produced, coffee-shop sound that would sit comfortably with latte sippers, but not so well in a hardscrabble honky-tonk setting more commonly associated with Americana.
In addition, the Boston-born Chorney, who played ski resorts in Colorado for years before moving to Monmouth County in 2007, doesn't have connections with the Americana communities built around such institutions as the online music magazine No Depression. That only furthered the idea that - somehow - she must have cheated.
On a No Depression discussion board, Robert Earl Keen's manager, Melissa Haycraft, voiced her vexation in December: "This Grammy incident is what makes this business so wrong. We follow the rules and in the end someone who doesn't gets on the ballot . . . I am truly disappointed in the system."
Discussion on that board got so nasty that the website's administrator felt the need to quiet the grumbling: "Linda's music doesn't connect with me but she seems like a fun, interesting person with a great attitude," Kyle Fairchild wrote in a posting. "I am feeling a little embarrassed by how the No Depression community has responded to her nomination and the belittling comments and personal attacks on her."
So did Chorney game the system? Or did she take a DIY approach within the rules, using networking tools to overcome obstacles in a way that independent artists are often celebrated for?
The recording academy says she did nothing wrong. Bill Freimuth, the Grammy vice president in charge of the voting process, told Variety that Chorney "was very diligent in pursuit of attention by the Grammy voters, and it evidently paid off. Enough of the voters received her communications, listened to her music, thought it was worthwhile, and voted for it."
Here's how she did it. Emotional Jukebox was released last January - it's available on the CD Baby website, and on Amazon and iTunes. (At the time of Chorney's nomination, the album, which Chorney sells at live shows, had not registered any sales on Nielsen SoundScan. She won't reveal sales figures, but said the album sold "enough" copies to keep her going.)
Chorney's sax player, Thomas Hutchings, suggested that she join the peer-to-peer Grammy365 network to make contacts. And when the Grammy balloting process began in September, she submitted herself in six categories, putting Emotional Jukebox up for Americana album - and, in a show of chutzpah, album of the year. She also offered songs such as "I'm Not Gonna" and "Broken Promised Land," in the country and R&B categories.
The academy reviewed her submissions, judging Emotional Jukebox to indeed be an Americana album. Then, with help from her husband, Scott Fadynich, Chorney sent requests to connect to 6,000 members of Grammy365. (There are more than 12,000 voting members of the academy.)
"I stayed in my sweats for two weeks," she says. "I didn't leave the house."
As on Facebook, people can either accept or reject a request on Grammy365. About 1,500 accepted, and Chorney - deciding to focus on one category rather than six - wrote to each one, asking only that they consider Emotional Jukebox for Americana album. (It's against the rules to actually ask people to vote for you.)
Chorney has no idea how many votes she got; those numbers are known only to the accountants at Deloitte. It was enough to get her a nomination, though, and to kick up an Americana kerfuffle.
"Roseanne Cash said, 'Americana is where you go when you don't fit anywhere else,' " Chorney says, a day before performing at the Paramount Theater in Asbury Park at a Light of Day benefit show. Willie Nile preceded her there, and was joined by Bruce Springsteen. Afterward, Chorney quipped, "I always wanted Bruce to open for me."
The Americana category "is ill-defined," says the singer, who sells "Who the F$%# is Linda Chorney" T-shirts at www.lindachorney.com. "It's a mix of genres. Some people think they own the category, and they don't."
Since getting nominated, Chorney, who is writing a book called Grammy Gate, has kept up her networking efforts for the second round of Grammy voting, which ended earlier this month.
"A lot of people are saying, 'Oh, Linda, you've got all this buzz, that's enough to win. But I don't know," says Chorney, who will head to Los Angeles for the Feb. 12 daytime ceremony at which the Americana golden gramophone is given out. (The prime-time ceremony for major awards will be hosted that night by LL Cool J, from the Staples Center.)
"Would I be disappointed if I don't win? Yeah, sure. But it'll be a big surprise if I do. And I do think it was enough of an accomplishment to get this far."
To see video of Linda Chorney performing her songs, go to Dan DeLuca's "In the Mix" blog at
Contact music critic Dan DeLuca at 215-854-5628, email@example.com, or @delucadan on Twitter. Read his blog, "In the Mix," at www.philly.com/inthemix.