The Country Music Association Awards take place Wednesday, November 10th at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee; they will be broadcast on ABC starting at 8 p.m. This year’s list of nominees features many of the hottest new names in country music – here’s who I think can beat the best.
Entertainer – nominees: Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Zac Brown Band. My choice – Paisley. Paisley keeps putting out hit records, has an established fan base, and has one of the best stage shows in country music. Lady A, Lambert, and Zac Brown Band have had record-breaking years, but are still working on the “entertainment” factor.
Female Vocalist – nominees: Lambert, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood. My choice – Lambert. From moving (“The House That Built Me”) to tongue-in-cheek (“Only Prettier”), Lambert’s style and voice should unseat Swift as the darling of country music.
Male Vocalist – nominees: Dierks Bentley, Paisley, Blake Shelton, George Strait, Urban. My choice – Strait. I have a soft spot for Strait, who was one of the reasons I began listening to country music. Having also just seen his amazing Strait-and-Reba concert tour, I can honestly say his voice has never sounded better.
Album – nominees: Need You Now, Lady A; Play On, Underwood; Revolution, Lambert; Twang, Strait; Up on the Ridge, Bentley. My choice – Revolution. Lambert’s third album is both personal and playful, and country fans can relate to her music.
Musical Event – nominees: “Bad Angel” – Bentley with Lambert and Jamey Johnson; “Can’t You See” – Zac Brown Band with Kid Rock; “Hillbilly Bone” – Shelton with Trace Adkins; “I’m Alive” – Kenny Chesney with Dave Matthews; “Til the End” – Alan Jackson with Lee Ann Womack. My choice – “Hillbilly Bone.” Their voices blend well, and the tune is straight-forward country.
New Artist – nominees: Luke Bryan, Easton Corbin, Jerrod Neimann, Chris Young, Zac Brown Band. My choice – Zac Brown Band. They have crossover appeal and have had amazing rookie success – they’re a plus for country music.
Vocal Group – nominees: Lady A, Little Big Town, Rascal Flatts, The Band Perry, Zac Brown Band. My choice – Lady A. This is a tough call between Lady A and Zac Brown, but “vocally,” I think Lady A has the upper hand.
Vocal Duo – nominees: Brooks & Dunn, Joey + Rory, Montgomery Gentry, Steel Magnolia, Sugarland. My choice – Brooks & Dunn. One last go-round for the best duo in country music for the last 20 years.
Single – “A Little More Country Than That,” “Hillbilly Bone,” “Need You Now,” “The House That Built Me,” “White Liar.” My choice – “Need You Now.” A beautiful performance that gained Lady A crossover appeal.
Song (to songwriter) – “A Little More County Than That,” “Need You Now,” “The House That Built Me,” “Toes,””White Liar.” My choice – “The House That Built Me.” A song that can easily take anyone back to their childhood.
Music Video – “Hillbilly Bone,” “Need You Now,” “The House That Built Me,” “Water,” “White Liar.” My choice – “Water.” Paisley’s videos are always imaginative and fun.
Musician – Paul Franklin (steel guitar), Dann Huff (guitar), Brent Mason (guitar), Mac McAnally (guitar), Randy Scruggs (guitar). My choice – McAnally. I was a fan of McAnally’s solo work many years ago, and his guitar work is terrific.