Category Archives: CMA Awards

CMA Live Blog 2009

CMA AwardsWinners

Musician of the Year – Mac McAnally

Musical Event of the Year – “Start A Band”, Brad Paisley & Keith Urban

Music Video of the Year – “Love Story”, Taylor Swift

Single of the Year – “I Run To You”, Lady Antebellum

Song of the Year – “In Color”, Jamey Johnson, Lee Thomas Miller, James Otto

Vocal Group of the Year – Lady Antebellum

New Artist of the Year – Darius Rucker

Album of the Year – Fearless, Taylor Swift

Vocal Duo of the Year – Sugarland

Male Vocalist of the Year – Brad Paisley

Female Vocalist of the Year – Taylor Swift

Entertainer of the Year – Taylor Swift

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11:05 DM: Final tally of CMA staff predictions: Leeann – 9, Dan – 7, Tara – 6, Kevin – 5 (not counting Video). Leeann triumphs again! Thanks for joining us, everyone!

11:04 KC: Artists who have won 4 CMA awards in one night: Johnny Cash. Merle Haggard. Vince Gill. Alison Krauss. Dixie Chicks. Taylor Swift.

11:00 DM: Well, this certainly feels like some kind of watershed moment for country music. I guess we’ll see what happens, huh?

10:59 KC: Though to get us back to reality: Female winners of the Entertainer of the Year award – Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Barbara Mandrell, Reba McEntire, Shania Twain, Dixie Chicks, Taylor Swift.

10:57 KC: And she brought out the band. And she thanked the fans. And she’s crying. Darn you, Taylor Swift. Making me be happy for you!

10:56 KC: And her parents just made me get misty.

10:55 KC: Okay, she deserved this one.

10:55 DM: A clean sweep.

Entertainer of the Year: Taylor Swift

10:54 DM: After that, no Entertainer result could surprise me.

10:52 KC: Before the show, I told Dan that I hoped there would be some surprises tonight. God says “Ha!”

10:48 DM: Dave Matthews is pretty cool. It’s a shame he couldn’t be here for a more interesting song. Anybody remember his Crossroads with Emmylou Harris? That was cool.

10:46 KC: Pardon my absence. I had to put a “Kanye Was Right” sticker on my car.

10:42 DM: Well, the backlash should start pretty soon here. I don’t even wanna know what’s being said in the Carrie Underwood fan forums right now.

10:40 DM: Speechless.

10:40 KC: Oh dear.

Female Vocalist of the Year: Taylor Swift

10:37 KC: People are crazy. Crazy enough to give Lady Antebellum single of the year, but not quite crazy enough to give it to Billy Currington.

10:35 DM: Billy Currington. I feel a power-nap coming on!

10:34 KC: Also praying that Reba can drag George Strait up to the NYC metro area when they tour together.

10:33 KC: This decent Reba single reminded me of an interesting piece of trivia: All five female vocalist nominees are in the top 20 of the singles chart this week. See what’s possible when you don’t nominate Alison Krauss?

10:31 DM: Have you guys noticed how Reba is just going by the one name now? Not a fan. She still sounds good, but it’s time for some better singles.

10:26 KC: Now they brought the Hall of Fame CMA moment back? After the Emmylou Harris induction has already come and gone?

10:24 KC: Okay George Strait just saved it. Perhaps because he actually has been country all along?

10:24 KC: Let’s all pray that Martina isn’t previewing Timeless II.

10:24 KC: Even if Roy Clark was dead, it wouldn’t be excusable for Barbara Mandrell to get such a lopsided amount of attention.

10:21 DM: Well, I’m glad they’re doing something for the inductees. Even if it involves “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool.”

10:21 KC: I have this fear that Taylor Swift is going to win Female Vocalist.

10:19 KC: That sounds like a dangerous thing to do on a tractor.

10:18 DM: Is Jason Aldean really at superstar status now? Bummer.

10:15 DM: Upsets at every turn.

Male Vocalist of the Year: Brad Paisley

10:11 KC: To answer LeAnn’s question, “By listening to their music.”

10:10 KC: I didn’t know who I was supposed to be at 19, either.

10:09 From the Comments, Diamond: Kanye. NOW. Please…

10:08 KC: I wonder how LeAnn Rimes feels about all of this.

10:07 DM: Gotta say, there are probably at least five girls in a ten-foot radius of Swift who could be up there singing this better.

10:04 DM: Wow, burn.

10:03 KC: Rascal Flatts commercial for Wendy’s. A celebrity endorsement that is completely believable.

10:02 KC: Why didn’t B&D get up and talk? Way to sink a classy moment.

10:01 KC: Sugarland: A standing O I can get behind.

10:00 DM: Don’t think we didn’t notice your complete lack of applause for Joey + Rory, CMA! For shame.

Vocal Duo of the Year: Sugarland

9:59 KC: B&D’s retirement announcement was timed so it could impact CMA voting. Let’s see if it did the trick.

9:58 KC: In terms of personal grooming, he’s somewhere between Jennings and Cousin It.

9:57 KC: Still don’t think Johnson’s schtick is particularly authentic.

9:56 DM: John Rich got a mention. Not going to do much to help that smugness thing.

9:54 DM: Jamey Johnson doing “Between Jennings and Jones” at the CMAs. If he doesn’t kick ass, he’s going to come off really smug.

9:54 KC: Dan, the time for steel-tipped intervention was when they were considering recording it in the first place.

9:52 DM: I remember Ronnie doing a good job on “It’s Getting Better All The Time” some number of years back.

9:52 KC: This final B&D CMA performance has me feeling sentimental for all of those amazing CMA performances from them over the past eighteen years, of which I can’t name one.

9:51 DM: Brooks & Dunn’s final CMA performance is “Honky Tonk Stomp.” I’d like to kick the balls of whoever made that call.

9:48 KC: KC: Shout-out to Cutting the Treacle, living up to the name and the comment thread’s MVP so far.

9:46 KC: Women who’ve won Album of the Year: Sissy Spacek, Anne Murray, Patty Loveless, Dixie Chicks, Lee Ann Womack, Taylor Swift. Rank them as you wish.

9:44 KC: Shocked that Jamey Johnson didn’t win.

9:45 DM: And the tweens have it.

Album of the Year: Fearless, Taylor Swift

9:42 DM: I think my dad may have had that ugly black Aloha-cowboy vest.

9:42 KC: My dad also went out with his Boots On.

9:41 KC: My dad had that POW MIA hat!

9:39 DM: Seriously, Nettles has better stage presence than just about anybody else we’ve seen tonight. Maybe Zac Brown Band could compete. Still not digging her head voice, though.

9:38 KC: KC: Love this song. Love this duo.

9:36 DM: Carrie has a lot more charisma this year. And speaking of charisma, here comes Jennifer Nettles!

9:30 DM: …So how about Tim’s jester pants?

9:27 DM: Tim forgot his first few words because he was looking around waiting for that “famous Southern people” montage Kevin promised to start up. Now that it has, he’s good.

9:25 DM: I really want to like this song – it’s certainly something new for Keith – but I just can’t get into it somehow. Doesn’t feel accessible.

9:23 DM: Keith Urban debuting his new single about how depressing empty carnivals are.

9:21 DM: I don’t know whether to smile that Little Jimmy got a spot at all or weep that it was just so he could deliver a limp Kanye joke.

9:15 KC: For me, the Tennessee line just meant that I had another three hours of driving until Nashville or another twelve until New York.

9:12 KC: Much like cheddar cheese and Grey Goose, Vince Gill makes everything a little bit better.

9:11 DM: Good thing Daughtry is here. I was worried they might mention the Country Music Hall of Fame inductees or something.

9:10 KC: Darius Rucker joins Shelby Lynne in possession of both a country new artist award and the Best New Artist Grammy.

New Artist of the Year: Darius Rucker

9:08 KC: Wynonna – you look great, but you won the HORIZON AWARD, not the New Artist award

9:07 KC: Songs that stink live and on record: “Alright”, whatever Taylor sang.

9:07 KC: Songs that haven’t: “White Liar”, “Welcome to the Future”

9:07 KC: Songs that have sounded better live tonight: “Need You Now”, “Cowboy Casanova”, “Twang”

9:06 KC: Also, very cool set piece

9:05 KC: Why is it that the whole “they sound bad because of the sound system” argument falls apart every time that Carrie Underwood opens her mouth and puts the rest of them to shame?

9:05 DM: I meant that positively. She looks hot.

9:03 DM: Oh man. This performance is going to inspire drag shows for years to come.

9:02 DM: Carrie launching into “Cowboy Casanova.”

9:00 KC: Dan, it’s taking all my strength to get through this show without medication, and I’m watching at home.

8:58 DM: Now the healing can begin.

8:57 KC: Rascal Flatts didn’t win, which is more satisfying than any winner could be.

Vocal Group of the Year: Lady Antebellum

8:56 DM: OH! VOCAL GROUP MOMENT OF TRUTH!

8:55 DM: Is it me, or do the TV star presenters always seem the most medicated?

8:54 KC: That’s Jamey Johnson and Kid Rock up on the rafters, shaking out their hair.

8:53 KC: I bet Miranda Lambert feels just like that string of Christmas lights.

8:50 KC: If Jason Aldean recorded this, it would sound like a Metallica record.

8:50 KC: Amazing how this man has managed to wade through at least three “Country Goes Crazy for Crossover” phases without even sullying his crisp white shirt.

8:48 KC: The CMA needs a little “Twang” too. Thanks George!

8:47 DM: Incidentally, the awards for Video and Musical Event were given out pre-show. The winners are “Love Story” and “Start A Band”, respectively.

8:45 KC: I cursed on the CMAs. That means I’m hard-core!

8:44 DM: But point taken – it was a breath of fresh air.

8:44 KC: Scratch that – AK&US  and Nickel Creek have been on the show since then.

8:43 KC: Though  to be fair, it’s the first time since the Dixie Chicks ruled the CMAs that a band has actually played well live on the stage.

8:42 KC: The devil went down to K-Mart, he was looking for some clothes to wear. He found a polo shirt and stone-washed jeans for his big awards show affair.

8:40 DM: Alright, this is the most interesting CMA performance I’ve seen in some time. They’re so un-glamorous compared to the rest of the crowd that it’s a little mesmerizing.

8:40 KC: Loving the tambourine guy.

8:39 KC: Halloween was eleven days ago and a lot less scary.

8:39 DM: Zac Brown Band doing “Devil Went Down To Georgia.” I’m sure they can play it, but seriously, WTF?

8:38 KC: The history geek in me wants to tell Brad that he just woke up the founder of the Lutherans, not the leader of the civil rights movement

8:36 KC: Apparently in the future, you don’t have to sing into the microphone.

8:35 DM: Seconded.

8:35 KC: Seriously, if Mario or Link show up, I’m switching my Entertainer vote to Brad

8:34 KC: Pac-Man!

8:33 KC: PONG!!!!

8:31 DM: I know what you mean, Kevin. I get to a point where I just have to stop reading reviews in order to enjoy music.

8:29 KC: This song’s grown on me a bit. Miranda’s talent and her hype keep switching leads in their ongoing race. Right now, it’s hype by a nose.

8:28 KC: Craig Wiseman won Song in 2004 and 2006. Bill Anderson in 2005 and 2007. Jamey Johnson in 2007 and 2009. Next year, Jennifer Nettles better prepare a speech!

8:27 DM: Wow, this mix is terrible. She’s singing well, but she and the drums are about all you can hear.

8:24 DM: Miranda Lambert doing “White Liar.” Interested to hear how it sounds live.

8:24 KC: Jamey’s comment about not thinking he’d ever be allowed to come to stuff like this would seem a bit more believable if he hadn’t already won in this category before.

8:22 Song of the Year: “In Color”

8:21 KC: Darius, we already knew white people don’t have any rhythm. You didn’t have to rub it in.

8:20 DM: This song does not deserve a giant light-up sign of its title.

8:20 KC: Way to set the bar at just “Alright” and still not even approach it.

8:18 KC: Nobody’s EVER made the leap from rock to country as gracefully as Darius Rucker? Somewhere, the family of Conway Twitty is screaming.

8:17 KC: I think Brad & Carrie just locked in hosting duties for the next five years.

8:16 DM: Why can’t Carrie Underwood record countrier music? She’s cleaning up on these song parodies.

8:16 KC: Check out our Country Universe spin-off site launching tomorrow: ladyantebellumsingleoftheyearseriously????.com

8:13 KC: Full disclosure. I purchased the cassingle of Victoria Shaw’s “Cry Wolf” back in ’94.

Single of the Year: Lady Antebellum, “I Run To You”

8:12 DM & KC: WHAT????

8:11 KC: Look! Skeeter Davis grew a beard!

8:11 KC: Kid Rock. Performing AND presenting. Of course.

8:09 DM: Gotta say I’m actually liking some of the opening monologue this time. The gags on Tim & Faith’s colognes and the Brooks & Dunn/Sugarland competition are pretty solid.

8:07 KC: Hope that’s the first and last Kanye joke.

8:06 DM: For a second I thought they were actually just going to stand there and sing old country songs. Bummer.

8:05 DM: Ditto, Kev.

8:04 KC: All of my objective, “She’s the top performer right now and should be acknowledged” comments are difficult to stand by when I hear her sing

8:03 DM: Dramatic moments in song = key time to start singing in fake British accent.

8:01 KC: It’s 8:01. Do you know where your Pro Tools are?

8:00 DM: Taylor performance. She’s doing that Joe Jonas harangue song.

7:59 DM: Show time’s almost here! Kevin and I will be doing double-duty throughout the night and highlighting some of your comments. Get pumped!

Given that CMA Live Blogging has become so widespread that even the super-cool Whitney Pastorek at Entertainment Weekly is doing it, our “update the post repeatedly while you add your comments” approach seems almost quaint.

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Filed under CMA Awards, Live Blog

CMA Awards: Predictions and Personal Picks

The CMA Awards are upon us again, and I must say that this is the most underwhelming lineup I’ve ever seen, and I started watching the show back in 1991. We’ll be back to live blog the festivities on Wednesday night. In the meantime, enjoy our personal picks in each category, along with who we think will actually win.

brad-paisleyEntertainer of the Year

Should Win:
  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley – Leeann, Tara
  • George Strait
  • Taylor Swift – Kevin, Dan
  • Keith Urban
Will Win:
  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley – Kevin, Leeann, Tara
  • George Strait
  • Taylor Swift – Dan
  • Keith Urban

Kevin: Much like the field finally cleared for him in the Male Vocalist race two years ago, I expect that this is Paisley’s year to win with his sixth nomination. I think Taylor Swift deserves to win, though. There’s no getting around the fact that she’s the biggest thing out there right now.

Leeann: I won’t be shocked (or really even disappointed) if Taylor Swift picks it up, but I really feel it’s finally Brad’s year.

Dan: Swift is the face of the genre right now, and she’s putting out better-written material than many of the veterans in this category. It looks like a race between her and Paisley, and I think she may actually get it.

Tara: It wouldn’t be inappropriate for Swift to take this award, and I would much (understatement) prefer her to win this over the vocalist award. But to me, Paisley is the all-around entertainer, and I think it’s his year to be recognized.

brad-paisleyMale Vocalist of the Year

Should Win:
  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley – Leeann, Tara
  • Darius Rucker
  • George Strait – Dan
  • Keith Urban – Kevin
Will Win:
  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara
  • Darius Rucker
  • George Strait
  • Keith Urban

Leeann: I have no doubt that Paisley will win again, as he  has had a strong year and the CMAs tend to prefer him for this award.  While I think Urban is technically a very worthy opponent, the combination of Paisley’s warm voice and stronger album makes me continue to root for him.  I’d also be just as happy if Strait won, however, and feel that his and Paisley’s albums were the strongest of the year.

Dan: Looks like an easy Paisley win, but I’ll give Strait the nod for all-around strength this past year.

Tara: I don’t anticipate that Paisley’s winning streak will be broken. I’m pulling for him on the strength of his material, but wouldn’t mind one bit if Urban took the award. Just please, CMAs, don’t give it to Rucker!

Kevin: Paisley’s poised to pick up his third trophy, with his only real competition being five-time winner George Strait. I’d give a fourth trophy to previous winner Keith Urban over the rest of the field. He really sang rings around the rest of ‘em when comparing their latest albums.

Carrie Underwood 09Female Vocalist of the Year

Should Win:
  • Miranda Lambert - Leeann
  • Martina McBride
  • Reba McEntire
  • Taylor Swift
  • Carrie Underwood – Kevin, Dan, Tara
Will Win:
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Martina McBride
  • Reba McEntire
  • Taylor Swift
  • Carrie Underwood – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara

Dan: I tend to find Underwood boring, but I do think she released some of her better singles this past year. Swift just isn’t a strong enough vocalist to merit this prize, and I’d rather see Lambert win in a year where she has more momentum going, which could well be next year.

Tara: It will no doubt spark controversy when Underwood takes her fourth trophy and joins the ranks of Reba McEntire and Martina McBride, and that’s another discussion all together – but looking at the nominees for this year, it’s clear she deserves to win. In terms of sheer vocal talent, few artists in the genre come close to her. I’d love to see Lambert take this award (and Underwood would too!), but like Dan, I don’t think it’s her time just yet.

Kevin: I won’t believe a different winner in this race until I see it. I was underwhelmed by the latest albums from Lambert, McBride, McEntire, and Swift, and quite frankly, Underwood is the only lady of the five to put out more than one single this year that I actually really liked (“Just a Dream”, “I Told You So.”) I remain in her corner.

Leeann: Carrie will deserve to win this award when she wins it this year.  I, however, still prefer Lambert’s voice and feel that her output (album) is the most interesting of the nominees.

Sugarland JoeyVocal Duo of the Year

Should Win:

  • Big & Rich
  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Joey + Rory
  • Montgomery Gentry
  • Sugarland – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara
Will Win:
  • Big & Rich
  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Joey + Rory
  • Montgomery Gentry
  • Sugarland – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara

Tara: Sugarland continues to excite me, and I think they deserve this award again.

Kevin: I love Joey + Rory, but Sugarland have really been blowing me away lately.  I’d pick them for Entertainer if they’d been nominated.

Leeann: I’d technically love for Joey + Rory to win, but I know full well that Sugarland is the duo that truly deserves to win based upon their impact this year.

Dan: Sugarland. But I want to talk to whoever is picking their singles.

lady-antebellum-and-a-chairVocal Group of the Year

Should Win:

  • Eagles
  • Lady Antebellum – Tara
  • Little Big Town
  • Rascal Flatts
  • Zac Brown Band – Kevin, Leeann, Dan

Will Win:

  • Eagles
  • Lady Antebellum – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara
  • Little Big Town
  • Rascal Flatts
  • Zac Brown Band

Kevin: I find Zac Brown Band more interesting, and I think they have a real shot at winning this. I suspect Lady Antebellum has a bit more industry support, though, so I’ll give them the edge.

Leeann: Lady A will win because they’ve got more industry support and popularity with radio, but the Zac Brown Band has certainly put out more interesting music and have a refreshingly unique sound that deserves to be rewarded.

Dan: Pretty much what Kevin and Leeann said. “Chicken Fried” notwithstanding.

Tara: It’s definitely a race between Zac Brown Band and Lady Antebellum, and I can understand why my co-bloggers are rooting for the former. But even if Lady Antebellum’s talent needs a little cultivating, their music strikes a very personal chord with me, and I’ll be thrilled when they take this award. Can you believe Rascal Flatts might actually walk away from an awards show empty-handed?

zac-bbNew Artist of the Year

Should Win:
  • Randy Houser
  • Jamey Johnson – Dan
  • Jake Owen
  • Darius Rucker
  • Zac Brown Band – Kevin, Leeann, Tara

Will Win:

  • Randy Houser
  • Jamey Johnson – Kevin
  • Jake Owen
  • Darius Rucker – Dan, Leeann, Tara
  • Zac Brown Band

Kevin: A weak lineup that speaks volumes about why country music is where it is today. I think Zac Brown Band should win. They’ve really been the real breakthrough act of the five. But I suspect in this battle of “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” co-writers, Jamey Johnson will emerge victorious.

Leeann: While I’m tempted to root for Jamey Johnson, I think Zac Brown Band has a chance of keeping me intrigued over the next few years (even if they fall out of the mainstream), though I don’t think they’ve reached their potential  just yet.  I predict that Darius Rucker will actually win, however, as he’s been the most successful in the last year.

Dan: Time will tell whether Johnson is able to remain a strong artistic force, but I’d say he has as good a chance as any of these five if he can keep from getting self-important. Rucker is the biggest star on the ballot, though, and I suspect he’ll squeak the win over Johnson and Zac Brown Band.

Tara: Johnson and Zac Brown Band are both deserving recipients of this award, but I personally prefer the band’s music. With the commercial success Rucker’s seen in the past year, though, I think it’s his award to lose. Not too sure how I feel about that.  

thatlonesomesongAlbum of the Year

Should Win:

  • Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song – Leeann, Dan
  • Brad Paisley, American Saturday NightTara
  • Sugarland, Love on the InsideKevin
  • Taylor Swift, Fearless
  • Keith Urban, Defying Gravity
Will Win:
  • Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song – Kevin, Dan, Tara
  • Brad Paisley, American Saturday Night
  • Sugarland, Love on the Inside
  • Taylor Swift, Fearless – Leeann
  • Keith Urban, Defying Gravity

Leeann: While Johnson’s album hasn’t really stuck with me over the past year or so, I still think it’s the best album out of the bunch.  I think Swift will win, however, due to the volume of sales and hit singles.

Dan: All of these albums have strengths, but That Lonesome Song is the only one that makes me optimistic about country music’s future. I expect it to triumph, though Swift’s has a great shot, too.

Tara: Paisley’s album, to me, strikes that sweet balance of traditional and contemporary. I think it’s a strong, interesting and relevant album that epitomizes why Paisley is so deservingly successful. But Johnson will deserve this award when he takes it, and I recognize and appreciate his positive influence on mainstream country music.

Kevin: I expected more nods overall for Jamey Johnson. I think that the eligibility period hurt him, with the project less fresh in voters’ minds. But the CMA values traditional country more than any other awards organization, so I expect him to win this. I enjoy the Sugarland album far more than any of the other four, so I’m rooting for that one.

Jamey smile 2Single of the Year

Should Win:

  • “Chicken Fried” – Zac Brown Band
  • “I Run to You” – Lady Antebellum
  • “In Color” – Jamey Johnson – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara
  • “People Are Crazy” – Billy Currington
  • “Then” – Brad Paisley
Will Win:
  • “Chicken Fried” – Zac Brown Band
  • “I Run to You” – Lady Antebellum
  • “In Color” – Jamey Johnson – Kevin, Leeann, Tara
  • “People Are Crazy” – Billy Currington – Dan
  • “Then” – Brad Paisley

Dan: I’ve just got a bad feeling about that Currington single. “I Run To You” does have some smokin’ production, but “In Color” is the only one of the five I can still stand.

Tara: Ouch. I’m pleased that “I Run to You” is nominated as it’s a personal favorite, but I don’t think any song other than “In Color” is deserving of this award. Again…ouch.

Kevin: This is the weakest lineup in the history of this category.

Leeann: Johnson’s song feels old to me now, but it’s the best song in this underwhelming category, though I’m sure David Letterman disagrees.  While I like the production on “People Are Crazy” the best in this line-up, the hook (not to mention the frustratingly weak story development) is just lame.

randy-travisSong of the Year

Should Win:
  • “Chicken Fried” – Zac Brown & Wyatt Durette
  • “I Told You So” – Randy Travis – Kevin, Leeann, Tara
  • “In Color” – Jamey Johnson – Dan
  • “People Are Crazy” – Bobby Braddock & Troy Jones
  • “Then” – Chris Dubois, Ashley Gorley & Brad Paisley
Will Win:
  • “Chicken Fried” – Zac Brown & Wyatt Durette
  • “I Told You So” – Randy Travis – Leeann
  • “In Color” – Jamey Johnson – Kevin, Dan, Tara
  • “People Are Crazy” – Bobby Braddock & Troy Jones
  • “Then” – Chris Dubois, Ashley Gorley & Brad Paisley

Tara: I would absolutely love to see Travis take this award; Underwood’s success with the song proves that the best-written country songs are timeless. I think “In Color” has more pull, though.

Kevin: I think Johnson will win, but kudos to Carrie Underwood for recognizing the value of the Randy Travis-penned gem and making it a hit all over again.

Leeann: This is not one of my favorite Randy Travis songs, but for nostalgia’s sake, I’m rooting for him to win this one. I even think it has a chance of winning, since it was a hit song for one of today’s country music’s most popular artists. I think the Paisley composition is, by far, the weakest though.

Dan: I like probable-winner “In Color” marginally more than “I Told You So.” Any of the other three winning would hurt me way down deep.

randy-travis-and-carrie-underwoodMusical Event of the Year

Should Win:

  • “Cowgirls Don’t Cry” – Brooks & Dunn featuring Reba McEntire
  • “Down the Road” – Kenny Chesney with Mac McAnally
  • “Everything But Quits” – Lee Ann Womack with George Strait
  • “I Told You So” – Carrie Underwood featuring Randy Travis – Kevin, Tara
  • “Old Enough” – The Raconteurs with Ricky Skaggs and Ashley Monroe – Leeann, Dan
  • “Start a Band” – Brad Paisley and Keith Urban
Will Win:
  • “Cowgirls Don’t Cry” – Brooks & Dunn featuring Reba McEntire
  • “Down the Road” – Kenny Chesney with Mac McAnally
  • “Everything But Quits” – Lee Ann Womack with George Strait
  • “I Told You So” – Carrie Underwood featuring Randy Travis – Kevin, Dan, Tara
  • “Old Enough” – The Raconteurs with Ricky Skaggs and Ashley Monroe
  • “Start a Band” – Brad Paisley and Keith Urban – Leeann

Kevin: Will the CMA really pass up the chance to give a trophy to Randy Travis for the first time in 21 years? I hope not.

Leeann: Paisley’s and Urban’s collaboration was originally accidentally left off the ballot, but the superstar pairing is the most likely to win.  Conversely, I suspect that the inclusion of the collaboration with Ricky Skaggs and Ashley Monroe was likely an accident, but I’d still love to see this dark horse nomination win. It’s certainly the most interesting song of the category.  I might have gone for the Underwood/Travis pairing if Travis’ inclusion didn’t seem so random.  I liked Underwood’s original version better, as Vince Gill’s harmony seemed more natural.

Dan: It’s totally between “I Told You So” and “Start A Band”, but I’m pulling for the underdog Raconteurs record, too. I like my collaborations a little spontaneous like that, and it’s always great to see outsiders included in the CMA fold.

Tara: While I have a particular soft spot for “Down the Road,” which I thought was one of the best singles of 2008, it should come as no surprise that I’m pulling for the beautiful, rough-and-pure “I Told You So.” I think it will easily win.

george_straitMusic Video of the Year

Should Win:
  • “Boots On” – Randy Houser
  • “Love Story” – Taylor Swift
  • “People Are Crazy” – Billy Currington
  • “Start a Band” – Brad Paisley and Keith Urban
  • “Troubadour” – George Strait – Kevin, Dan, Tara
Will Win:
  • “Boots On” – Randy Houser
  • “Love Story” – Taylor Swift – Kevin, Dan, Tara
  • “People Are Crazy” – Billy Currington
  • “Start a Band” – Brad Paisley and Keith Urban
  • “Troubadour” – George Strait

Dan: I enjoy the Strait video most, but Swift’s is the flashiest, and that tends to win out.

Tara: Strait’s video is poignant and tastefully done. I never understood the appeal of Swift’s Shakespearean video, but apparently a whole generation of country music fans does. My money’s on Swift.

Kevin: I think the Swift fairytale will get the most votes, but the Strait clip hypnotizes me every time it’s on. Who knew a simple slide show could be so powerful and such a perfect fit for a song?

paul-franklinMusician of the Year
Should Win:
  • Eddie Bayers (drums)
  • Paul Franklin (steel guitar) – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara
  • Dan Huff (guitar)
  • Brent Mason (guitar)
  • Mac McAnally (guitar)

Will Win:

  • Eddie Bayers (drums)
  • Paul Franklin (steel guitar)
  • Dan Huff (guitar)
  • Brent Mason (guitar)
  • Mac McAnally (guitar) – Kevin, Leeann, Dan, Tara

Dan: I should really start paying more attention to this kind of thing. But I know Paul Franklin’s been doing steel for everyone from Lyle Lovett to Rascal Flatts in the past year. Respek!

Tara:
Franklin’s the one I’m most familiar with, and I agree with Kevin and Dan that he deserves it. I’ll admit I’m not entirely sure how to gauge who’ll win this year, but I suppose I’d go with McAnally again.

Kevin: I guess that McAnally will repeat his victory from last year. The other previous winners won quite a bit of time ago – Dann Huff in 2001 and 2004, Brent Mason in 1997 and 1998.  My sympathy goes to Eddie Bayers, who is nominated for the tenth time and has yet to win. I have no choice but to pull for Paul Frankin, though, who has lost this award sixteen times.  Here’s hoping that seventeen’s a charm!

Leeann: Please don’t let it be Dann Huff! That’s all I ask.  Of course, I’m partial to the steel guitar, not to mention that it’s a shame that a steel guitar player has to work so hard to win a country music award.

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If It’s Comin’ from the Country , It’s Comin’ from the Heart

Country Universe reader, Sheldon, brought this clip to my attention. It’s Dolly Parton singing a song that was specially written for the opening of the 1988 CMA awards that she was hosting that year. Oh, how I wish the Association would have Dolly and Vince host the show someday. But alas, that’s beside the point. Enjoy this fun video.

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CMA Noms ’09

cma_awardIt’s that time of year again! For each major category, we’ll look at who’s broken in since last year, who’s been booted out, plus some initial thoughts. As always, we invite you to share your own opinions in the comments. Without further ado:

Entertainer

  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley
  • George Strait
  • Taylor Swift
  • Keith Urban

Who’s In: Taylor Swift

Who’s Out: Sugarland

Snap Judgment: With Carrie Underwood and Sugarland a little out of the spotlight recently, it’s no shock to see the regular foursome of Chesney, Paisley, Strait and Urban prevail. Swift was a logical inclusion given her across-the-board dominance, but I gotta say that I’m surprised to see her acknowledged for it by the historically traditional-leaning CMA.

Male Vocalist

  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley
  • Darius Rucker
  • George Strait
  • Keith Urban

Who’s In: Darius Rucker

Who’s Out: Alan Jackson

Snap Judgment: Pretty predicable. Rucker has shown he can get serious spins at radio, which is probably what won him this slot over Jamey Johnson.

Female Vocalist

  • Miranda Lambert
  • Martina McBride
  • Reba McEntire
  • Taylor Swift
  • Carrie Underwood

Who’s In: Reba McEntire

Who’s Out: Alison Krauss

Snap Judgment: Again, no big surprises. Martina always hangs in there somehow, doesn’t she?

Vocal Duo

  • Big & Rich
  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Joey + Rory
  • Montgomery Gentry
  • Sugarland

Who’s In: Joey + Rory

Who’s Out: The Wreckers (finally!), oddly not Big & Rich

Snap Judgment: I guess there has to be at least one defunct act in this category every year, huh?

Vocal Group

  • Eagles
  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town
  • Rascal Flatts
  • Zac Brown Band

Who’s In: Zac Brown Band

Who’s Out: Emerson Drive

Snap Judgment: I’m baffled to see the Eagles still here. I expect there will be a lot more shake-up in this category next year, with Love and Theft, Eli Young Band and The Lost Trailers all experiencing a rise in profile recently.

New Artist

  • Randy Houser
  • Jamey Johnson
  • Jake Owen
  • Darius Rucker
  • Zac Brown Band

Who’s In: Completely new line-up!

Snap Judgment: A strong group. Johnson, Rucker and Zac Brown Band are selling better than many of the veteran acts, so they’re the serious contenders this year, but all five nominees show great artistic potential.

Album

  • Brad Paisley, American Saturday Night
  • Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song
  • Sugarland, Love On The Inside
  • Taylor Swift, Fearless
  • Keith Urban, Defying Gravity

Snap Judgment: Probably as good a line-up as you could’ve hoped for. Never thought I’d live to see a CMA category where I thought Keith Urban had the weakest offering!

Single

  • “Chicken Fried” – Zac Brown Band
  • “I Run To You” – Lady Antebellum
  • “In Color” – Jamey Johnson
  • “People Are Crazy” – Billy Currington
  • “Then” – Brad Paisley

Snap Judgment: Sigh.

Song

  • “Chicken Fried” – Zac Brown & Wyatt Durette
  • “I Told You So” – Randy Travis
  • “In Color” – Jamey Johnson, Lee Thomas Miller & James Otto
  • “People Are Crazy” – Bobby Braddock & Troy Jones
  • “Then” – Brad Paisley, Chris DuBois and Ashley Gorley

Snap Judgment: I mean, it’s not like Randy Travis ever had his own hit with “I Told You So” or anything.

Musical Event

  • “Cowgirls Don’t Cry” – Brooks & Dunn featuring Reba McEntire
  • “Down The Road” – Kenny Chesney with Mac McAnally
  • “Everything But Quits” – Lee Ann Womack with George Strait
  • “I Told You So” – Carrie Underwood featuring Randy Travis
  • “Old Enough” – The Raconteurs featuring Ricky Skaggs and Ashley Monroe
  • “Start A Band” – Brad Paisley with Keith Urban

Snap Judgment: How in the world did that Raconteurs record sneak in there? Props, CMA!

Music Video

  • “Boots On” – Randy Houser
  • “Love Story” – Taylor Swift
  • “People Are Crazy” – Billy Currington
  • “Start A Band” – Brad Paisley with Keith Urban
  • “Troubadour” – George Strait

Snap Judgment: Not bad. Houser’s doesn’t have much, but the only one I outright dislike is Currington’s. It’s just another excuse for him to sit around looking scruffy on a beach.

Musician

  • Eddie Bayers
  • Paul Franklin
  • Dann Huff
  • Brent Mason
  • Mac McAnally

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Producing the CMAs

This is a guest contribution by regular commenter, Michael Hawkins, who posts as Highwayman3.

CMAThe movies have the Oscars, the world of music has the Grammys, and that world subdivided into the country genre has the CM’s—the annual extravaganza that we fans look forward to every year. We see our favorites perform, win awards and lose with smiling gracious faces, or not [insert the inevitable Faith Hill reference here]. Everyone picks their favorites in each category as to who they’d like to win. But what about the show itself, the backdrop for which these prestigious awards are presented?

Recently, there have been posts at both The 9513 and on this site where people have been weighing in on their favorite moments from these awards. It occurred to me that none of those moments have happened in the last few years. The awards have slid into mediocrity, which is a fitting representation of the current state of country music. I understand producing these awards must be tough because you have to be everything to everyone, and acknowledge the traditional country, the Disney country, the old and new alike, and bring in people who don’t belong for the sake of ratings.

What’s wrong with the show?

The awards themselves seem like an after thought, filler in between all the endless performances. The main suspense isn’t who wins, but rather, how many performances the producers can fit in 3 hours. Also, it’s become an award show that is ashamed of its roots, barely mentioning who is inducted into the Hall of Fame. Any artist with the slightest sign of a wrinkle, regardless of their legend status is shunned and hidden in the audience next to seat fillers and radio contest winners. It’s an award show with self esteem issues, not cool enough to stand on its own. You can bet the main attraction used to promote this year’s show will be a non-country performer like Kid Rock, The Eagles of last year, and Jamie Foxx of two years ago.

What can be done?

Well, the first order of business would be for the Sommet Center to take out a one day restraining order from Miley Cyrus on November 11, 2009, or better yet, the whole Cyrus family, Billy Ray, Noah, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Yes, she’ll bring in ratings, but we’ve gotten along fine without her for 40 plus years.

The CMA’s need to take a cue from  the Grammy awards, or even the American Idol finale. There are so many surprises, legends, moving moments, coming at you, left right and center, you don’t know what’s coming next, all you know is you’re in for the ride, you’re loving every second and you’re talking about it the next day. Last year, the biggest surprise was Shania Twain presenting Entertainer of the Year, which she has done at least 3 times before, and to those who keep up on country news, it was hardly a surprise at all.

What can possibly be done to make the night more entertaining?

How about taking a cue from this yearis Academy Awards and only announce a handful of performers, leaving the rest a mystery? Don’t tell us who and what everyone’s performing, which leaves more room for surprises. Also, like the Oscars, don’t announce who is presenting, and before each award have a mini-montage of past winners. Then at the end, the curtain opens and a surprise past winner comes out and shares insights on their winning experience. Instead of the otherwise cheesy dialogue or weird presenter pairings, it would make more sense if they just brought out Trisha Yearwood for Female Vocalist, Vince for Male, The Judds for Duo, Alabama forGroup, and hand it off to the winner like an Olympic torch or rite of passage. This way of thinking would work out great for the Entertainer of the Year category, in bringing out past winners, Roy Clark, and Barbara Mandrell, who also happen to be this year’s Hall of Fame inductees.

Speaking of the Hall of Fame, I would prefer it if it went back to how it used to be with a taped bio and artists performing a medley of hits. But even that is too much to ask. If they are going to cut it out entirely, the least they could do is show 3 separate 30-60 second bios of each of the inductees at different times as they are going to commercial and have them wave from the audience. Or, from the paragraph above, show a taped piece just before Barbara and Roy present Entertainer.

The most boring parts of the show are seeing full performances from all the mundane hits of the past year. Was it necessary for Darius Rucker to perform “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” last year when he wasn’t nominated? Yes, it’s necessary for the biggest hits to be performed, but does every top 5 hit of the past year have to be sung? Instead, encourage them to sing unique songs, like Alan Jackson in 2005 performing, “Wonderful Tonight”, songs you’ll actually remember more than 5 minutes after they are performed. Another idea, which the Grammys have down pat, is pairing people up. Think of the Al Green, Keith Urban, Justin Timberlake and Boys 2 Men grouping of earlier this year. For the CMA’s, this would be a perfect year to acknowledge the 20th anniversary of the hat act boom of 89. Why not bring out Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Garth Brooks, and Travis Tritt for a small medley?

Instead of each of the new artist nominees performing their full songs – do we really want to see Julianne Hough performing a full version of her song this year? –  it would be great if they stole from the ACM’s all-star opener this year, and did the same thing with the 5 nominees. Lady Antebellum can be the ring leader like Brooks & Dunn were at the ACMs, and they all can perform a small portion of their hits. To wrap it up, Lady Antebellum can present the award. This will allow more time for the Collaboration and Video of the year awards to be back on the telecast.

If you ran the CMAs, thinking creatively but realistically, which special moments would you create that could go down in history and make country’s biggest night more fun to watch? How would you make George Strait’s performance less predictable? And how would you measure that Miley restraining order? In inches, feet, yards, or miles?

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Picking the CMA Nominees: Music Video of the Year

Ah, Music Video of the Year. The awkward stepchild of the CMA Awards. Aside from provoking fewer blog wars than the bigger races, it’s also the category that apparently takes the least effort for voters to fill up, since predicting the nominees is o

ften as easy as asking yourself, “well, which songs are probably going to be nominated for Song and Single?”

Nevertheless, music videos remain an important aspect of an artist’s public image, and sometimes even rise to the level of legitimate art. Keeping in mind the eligibility period (July 1st, 2008 – June 30th, 2009), below are the five videos I would most like to see recognized as such by CMA voters. Interestingly, four of them were breakthrough videos for their artists:

Randy Houser, “Anything Goes”

A little melodramatic, but a lot captivating. I can’t get over the way he plays the chorus of the song to his ex, like he can’t even have a moment of self-pity to himself.

Joey + Rory, “Cheater Cheater”

The CU J+R lovefest continues! Come on, how can you resist their spousey charms atop this hot bluegrass beat? Truth be told, I’m an equally big fan of the sharp “Play The Song” treatment, but since this is the one that actually stands a chance, I’ll give it the nod.

Jamey Johnson, “In Color”

I found it really tacky when they tried to recreate this clip in his ACM performance, but the thing itself is an understated beaut, carefully capturing the song’s mood and imagery without ever getting in the way.

Taylor Swift, “You Belong With Me”

Haters to the left. This video is a four-minute distillation of everything likable about its maker, and it manages to pull through its various cliches thanks to its sheer pluck. Since “Love Story” swept the CMT’s, I expect this one to remain relegated to VMA territory, but this is the stronger work.

Zac Brown Band, “Chicken Fried”

I still don’t care for the song, but the video more than makes up for it. The visuals are gorgeous, the vibe is warm and personal, and it even provides a context to the seemingly random military shout-out in the song’s bridge.

Which five videos would you like to see nab a nomination this year?

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Picking the CMA Nominees: Album of the Year

This year’s eligibility period runs from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009. In those twelve months, there have been some solid albums released, and while there isn’t a wealth of treasures to choose from, there are enough good albums to round out this category.

Here are the five albums that I would nominate for Album of the Year:

Joey + Rory, The Life of a Song

The past twenty years have brought several excellent breakthrough albums by groups, especially those by Sugarland, Little Big Town, Brooks & Dunn, Diamond Rio, and Big & Rich. This set by Joey + Rory is better than all of them, and is selling quite well despite limited airplay.

Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song

It’s been nominated for ACM’s trophy and for the Best Country Album Grammy, but Johnson’s best shot at winning has always been with the traditional-leaning CMA voter membership. If both Sugarland and Taylor Swift secure a nod, he’s a shoo-in.

Patty Loveless, Sleepless Nights

We’re knee-deep in cover albums by veteran artists, but this is one of the best. Voters may be more likely to cite Lee Ann Womack’s latest, if they’re planning on nominating a traditional female at all, but this is the better album.

Brad Paisley, American Saturday Night

If Paisley were to win this, it would be deserved, as it’s possibly the best album of his career. His penchant for releasing albums in June might work against him, but hopefully voters will have a chance to live with this album before they fill out their ballots.

Sugarland, Love on the Inside

One of the best mainstream country albums of the decade, in my humble opinion.  It’s certainly the first album since Home that I can listen to from start to finish and is wholeheartedly embraced by country radio. Okay, maybe since Live Like You Were Dying or Fireflies.  But gosh, have there been few albums this decade that fit both descriptions.

What five albums do you think should be nominated this year?

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Picking the CMA Nominees: Vocal Duo and Vocal Group

It’s often argued that Vocal Duo and Vocal Group should be combined into one category, but this is one of those rare years where the two categories have more than five worthy nominees between them.

My picks for Vocal Duo:

The only real filler in this category is Big & Rich, who have been largely dormant this past year.

As for Vocal Group, all five of my picks have been very active these past twelve months:

  • Eli Young Band
  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town
  • Rascal Flatts
  • Zac Brown Band

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It’s often argued that Vocal Duo and Vocal Group should be combined into one category, but this is one of those rare years where the two categories have more than five worthy nominees between them.
My picks for Vocal Duo:
Big & Rich
Brooks & Dunn
Joey + Rory
Montgomery Gentry
Sugarland
The only real filler in this category is Big & Rich, who have been largely dormant this past year.
As for Vocal Group, all five of my picks have been very active these past twelve months:
Eli Young Band
Lady Antebellum
Little Big Town
Rascal Flatts
Zac Brown Band
What are your picks for Vocal Duo and Vocal Group?
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Picking the CMA Nominees: Female Vocalist

As I work my way through these categories, it’s becoming apparent to me that this was a very weak year for country music. I’m struggling to come up with a list of five women who actually made a musical impact over the twelve months that make up the eligibility period.

Only two women have made any serious commercial impact this year, so I’m filling up the category with the women who put out solid music that also did reasonably well:

Patty Loveless

If the Grammys can acknowledge her, I don’t see why the CMA should overlook her. She made an excellent covers album that has sold as well as several major label efforts.  She was a surprise nominee in 2003 on the strength of Mountain Soul, and it would be nice to see the CMA show such good judgment again.

Dolly Parton

Also a surprise nominee in 2003, and very worthy of returning to the lineup this year. Not only did she sell out venues across Europe, she also earned a Tony nomination for Best Score.

Oh, and that independent album she released on her own label last year? It’s sold twice as much as the latest albums from Martina McBride and Lee Ann Womack, and outsold the albums of such radio staples as Trace Adkins, Montgomery Gentry, and Blake Shelton.

Taylor Swift

Let’s just say it now so we can be spared it being said over and over again in the comments:

Taylor Swift shouldn’t win a vocalist award because she can’t sing!

I understand this argument. After all, the same is true for Kenny Chesney and Shania Twain, who won Entertainer of the Year but not their respective vocalist awards. But they were still nominated, and rightfully so. You can’t tell the story of women in country music in 2009 without including Taylor Swift.

Carrie Underwood

Does she deserve to join the illustrious ranks of four-time winners in this category? You betcha. Given that Underwood’s a happy medium between Reba McEntire’s country-pop and Martina McBride’s power balladeering, she seems to fit in perfectly.

Oh, and if it seems too soon for Underwood to be in the same league as McEntire, remember that Reba wasn’t a superstar when she won those four trophies. She didn’t even earn a platinum album until two years after her winning streak ended.

Lee Ann Womack

Why Lee Ann Womack, and not Miranda Lambert? Each had a moody single go top twenty this year, but Lambert’s was off of an album released during the 2007 eligibility period.

Why Lee Ann Womack, and not Martina McBride?  Their albums have sold in similar numbers, but Womack’s was a good deal better.

Why Lee Ann Womack and not Julianne Hough or Kellie Pickler? If you’re asking that question, you must be new to Country Universe.

What five women do you think should be nominated for Female Vocalist this year?

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Picking the CMA Nominees: Male Vocalist of the Year

The past two decades have only brought eight winners in the CMA Male Vocalist race, with only two of them – Toby Keith and Clint Black – winning only once.  Compare this to the Female Vocalist race, which has brought twelve winners during the same time frame, though even that race has become more streaky of late, with Martina McBride and Carrie Underwood combining for seven victories in the past eleven years.

Is it time for an overhaul in the Male Vocalist race? Yes and no. There’s no denying that some of the multiple nominees/winners over the past nineteen years remain the genre’s strongest male voices. Still, there’s room for some others at the table. The problem is that there are so very few of the genre’s male artists that are genuinely at the top of their game. Even most of the men listed below have had weak singles this year.

Still, if I picked the five nominees for the 2009 CMA Male Vocalist of the Year, they would be:

Jamey Johnson

If Johnson earns fewer than five nominations at this year’s CMA Awards, I’ll be shocked. In fact, I think he’ll earn six, with the surprise nomination being in this category. These aren’t predictions, though, so I’ll state that while I’m not particularly a fan of Johnson, his success at retail with a traditional project that has only received airplay for one single is darn impressive. Along with Brad Paisley, he’s one of only two artists I’ve listed that were determined by genuine merit, not process of elimination.

Brad Paisley

The genre’s most consistent radio act and the reigning champion for the past two years. In a stronger year, I would think it’s time to move on from acknowledging him in this category and consider him more for Entertainer of the Year, but he’s still the presumptive favorite in this race. At the very least, he deserves another nomination.

Darius Rucker

Too soon? Possibly.  But replace his name with other candidates  – say, Dierks Bentley, Jason Aldean, Gary Allan, Rodney Atkins, or Blake Shelton – if you think they made better music this year.

George Strait

It’s hard to make the call about which perennial favorite – Alan Jackson or George Strait – deserves a shot this year, especially since neither of them are likely to contend for the win.  “Sissy’s Song” is better than any of Strait’s singles this past year, but all of Strait’s are better than Jackson’s other two – “Country Boy” and “Good Time.” Seeing “I Still Like Bologna” sent to radio puts me firmly in Strait’s corner, whose “River of Love” and “Troubadour” brought me listening pleasure this year.

Keith Urban

I don’t think that there’s a stronger singer in consistent rotation on country radio, even if his material has been slight this year.  A case could be made for Tim McGraw or Toby Keith getting this slot instead, but they’re dealing with the same problem: weaker material than they’ve generally been known for.

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