ACM Nominees Announced

For contemporary country artists, there’s no award more prestigious than the ACM Award. Except for the CMA Award. And the Grammy. Okay, at least it’s better than a Flameworthy. Voted on by radio and industry folk, these awards tend to favor commercialism, though they often follow the CMA’s lead in the major categories. Major labels have a lot of pull here, particularly BMG, which received some very surprising nominations for its second-tier acts. Overall, this is a stronger list than usual from the ACM’s. When Alison Krauss gets five nominations, it’s a good year indeed.

Here are the nominees in the major categories, with my choices for winner in bold:

Entertainer Of The Year
Brooks & Dunn
Kenny Chesney
Toby Keith
Tim McGraw
Keith Urban

How does Brooks & Dunn keep getting nominated in this category over bigger acts? Shania Twain, Alan Jackson and George Strait all had bigger years in 2004 than the duo that never dies. It’s cool to see a new face in this category – Keith Urban has certainly earned it. But the artist with the most commercial, touring and creative success this year is Tim McGraw.

Top Male Vocalist
Kenny Chesney
Alan Jackson
Toby Keith
Tim McGraw
Keith Urban

The CMA gave it to Keith Urban, and he deserved it. He’s the strongest new male artist of the last few years, and besides legend Alan Jackson, he’s the best singer in the category.

Top Female Vocalist
Terri Clark
Sara Evans
Martina McBride
Gretchen Wilson
Lee Ann Womack

Martina McBride has won this award a few times already; the other four nominees have never won. Gretchen Wilson is too new to warrant a win in this category, even though she sold the most records. The other three women – Terri Clark, Sara Evans and Lee Ann Womack – are all established artists who have been making great music lately. My gut says Womack because I love her new album so much, but it’s a 2005 release, and this award is for the calendar year of 2004. I prefer Terri Clark over Sara Evans in terms of her musical legacy, but in 2004, it was one great single after another from Sara. I think I’d give it to her, but it’s a close call. I just hope Martina loses.

Top Vocal Group
Alison Krauss & Union Station

Diamond Rio
Rascal Flatts
The Notorious Cherry Bombs

I’ve never understood why Alison Krauss & Union Station were left out of this category in favor of putting Krauss in the Female Vocalist lineup. As a group, they are so above and beyond their competitors here it’s laughable.

Top Vocal Duo
Big & Rich

Blue County
Brooks & Dunn
Montgomery Gentry
The Warren Brothers

Say it with me – Big & Rich! Big & Rich! Big & Rich!

Top New Artist
Big & Rich

Josh Gracin
Julie Roberts
Josh Turner
Gretchen Wilson

I’ll say it again – Big & Rich! Big & Rich! Big & Rich!

Album Of The Year
Kenny Chesney, When The Sun Goes Down
Sara Evans, Restless
Tim McGraw, Live Like You Were Dying
Keith Urban, Be Here
Gretchen Wilson, Here For The Party

Sara’s album has a lot of filler between a few great singles; I’m shocked she’s nominated, given that labelmate Alan Jackson had a new studio album last year and he’s been snubbed. Regardless, the best album here, far and away, is Tim McGraw’s epic Live Like You Were Dying.

Single Of The Year
“Bless The Broken Road” – Rascal Flatts
“Days Go By” – Keith Urban
“I May Hate Myself In The Morning” – Lee Ann Womack
“Live Like You Were Dying” – Tim McGraw
“Redneck Woman” – Gretchen Wilson
“Whiskey Lullaby” – Brad Paisley & Alison Krauss

The mega-hit war between “Redneck Woman” and “Live Like You Were Dying” will end with a victory for Tim. But my favorite single of 2004 is actually nominated, even though it’s been hanging out at #14 for the last few weeks and hasn’t had near the radio impact of the other five nominees. Lee Ann Womack better prepare herself for a whole lot of CMA nominations this fall if even the ACM’s are acknowledging her masterpiece There’s More Where That Came From.

Song Of The Year
“American Soldier” – performed by Toby Keith; written by Toby Keith & Chuck Cannon.
“Bless The Broken Road” – performed by Rascal Flatts; written by Marcus Hummon, Bobby Boyd and Jeff Hanna.
“I May Hate Myself In The Morning” – performed by Lee Ann Womack; written by Odie Blackmon.
“Live Like You Were Dying” – performed by Tim McGraw; written by Craig Wisman & Tim Nichols.
“Whiskey Lullaby” – performed by Brad Paisley & Alison Krauss; written by Bill Anderson & Jon Randall.

Again, Tim’s hit will be victorious. I fully expect him to sweep. But I think “I May Hate Myself In The Morning” is a song for the ages. Just today, I mentioned the title, and my co-worker wanted to know more. After saying the first verse, she said that’s brilliant, and couldn’t wait to hear it. It’s just so damn true to life, it almost hurts.

Video Of The Year
“Girls Lie Too” – Terri Clark
“Live Like You Were Dying” – Tim McGraw
“Redneck Woman” – Gretchen Wilson
“Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)” – Big & Rich
“Whiskey Lullaby” – Brad Paisley & Alison Krauss

One more time – Big & Rich! Big & Rich! Big & Rich! Sorry, but I friggin’ love these guys.

Vocal Event Of The Year
“Creepin’ In” – Norah Jones and Dolly Parton
“Hey Good Lookin'” – Jimmy Buffett with Clint Black, Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Toby Keith and George Strait
“Party For Two” – Shania Twain with Billy Currington
“When The Sun Goes Down” – Kenny Chesney with Uncle Cracker
“Whiskey Lullaby” – Brad Paisley & Alison Krauss

My head says “Whiskey Lullaby” (which will probably win) and I fear a slight loss of credibility here, but the Shania/Billy track is too infectious to resist.

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