Tag Archives: Rascal Flatts

Single Review: James Otto, “Groovy Little Summer Song”

There’s been many a discussion this past month about what makes an artist most effective: is it vocal nuance or personal connection? Is it songs with explicit absolute truth or implicit absolute emotion? They’re interesting topics to explore, but somewhere in between the analyses, we’ve lost sight of –and perhaps even appreciation of– the artists who have the potential to make our analyses futile. Because some artists actually have it all.

Let’s be real: “Groovy Little Summer Song” isn’t near James Otto’s most memorable, well-written material. It’s not as infectious as his mega-hit, “Just Got Started Lovin’ You,” nor as impassioned as the lesser-known “For You,” and his soulful phrasing seems to eat up some of the words. But “Groovy Little Summer Song” is an incredibly refreshing re-introduction to an artist who can deliver both rich, distinctive vocals and pure, raw sentiment. Otto may be simply asking a DJ to crank up a cool summer tune, but he still manages to color his performance with shades of believable soul, technical substance (the falsetto is a treat) and authentic summer bliss.

It helps that country radio rarely hears groovy little summer songs, making this one a breath of fresh air against its island-flavored and often one-dimensional peers. Otto’s summer is a little slower-burning and smoother than that of Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown Band, Jack Ingram or…Rascal Flatts. It’s a little more contemplative and a little more intoxicating. Country radio’s tried-and-true themes could stand to gain a splash of emotive soul.

As we sift through the crop of mainstream country acts this year, let’s remember to keep an eye on Otto. Like Sunset Man, his upcoming album has the potential to make him a contemporary example of an artist whose strengths are multi-faceted. And we need more of the kind.

Written by Al Anderson, Carson Chamberlain, and James Otto

Grade: B

Listen: Groovy Little Summer Song

 

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Grammy 2010 Staff Picks & Predictions

Even in Grammy’s darkest hours, CU brings its picking powers!

– Superhero television show about our blog from the 50’s.

We won’t be live-blogging this time around, but will be reacting to the show in a full post tomorrow, and welcome your reactions in comments on this post. The awards telecast starts at 8 pm Eastern, and I imagine there will be some red carpet action in the hour prior.

Record of the Year

Picks

  • Beyonce, “Halo” – Kevin
  • Black Eyed Peas, “I Gotta Feeling”
  • Kings of Leon, “Use Somebody” – Tara
  • Lady GaGa, “Poker Face” – Dan
  • Taylor Swift, “You Belong with Me”

Predictions

  • Beyonce, “Halo”
  • Black Eyed Peas, “I Gotta Feeling”
  • Kings of Leon, “Use Somebody” – Kevin, Dan, Tara
  • Lady GaGa, “Poker Face”
  • Taylor Swift, “You Belong with Me”

Kevin: Am I wrong for preferring Eric Cartman’s rendition of “Poker Face” over the original? This is a pretty lightweight slate of contenders. I really like “Halo”, but I suspect Kings of Leon will win, simply because it’s the only rock song in a lineup of pop hits.

Dan: “Poker Face” just feels very representative of popular music in 2009. I wouldn’t whine if it got passed over so that “Bad Romance” could take this award next year, though.

Tara: I would’ve pulled for “Single Ladies” in a heartbeat had it been submitted, but “Use Somebody” is just as deserving of this award. It’s a fantastic song even outside the context of its moment in pop culture, and it’s the kind of larger-than-life song that the voters have picked to win in the past.

Album of the Year

Picks

  • Beyonce, I Am…Sasha Fierce
  • Black Eyed Peas, The E.N.D.
  • Lady GaGa, The Fame Kevin, Tara
  • Dave Matthews Band, Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King
  • Taylor Swift, Fearless – Dan

Predictions

  • Beyonce, I Am…Sasha Fierce
  • Black Eyed Peas, The E.N.D.
  • Lady GaGa, The Fame
  • Dave Matthews Band, Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King Kevin
  • Taylor Swift, Fearless – Dan, Tara

Kevin: I’d like to see dance music get some respect in the big category, even if there are a half-dozen Madonna albums at this point that would’ve been worthier winners than The Fame. Again, I think the Top 40 votes are going to be split, leaving Dave Matthews Band the winners.

Dan: In little over a year, Fearless has grown from success story to cultural artifact. It’s that rare pop album that seems to have a personality all its own, like Jagged Little Pill in a yellow sundress (and sung about as well). I could see anyone but the Peas taking this, but I think Swift’s support in both Nashville and the Top 40 crowd will take her to the top.

Tara: I have to say I was fairly shocked to see Swift’s truckload of Grammy nominations, so I’m having a little trouble wrapping my mind around the Academy’s thought process – but, I suppose a Swift win in this category is inevitable. However, I fully back Lady GaGa, who is the perfect storm of creativity, vision, swagger and raw vocal talent (remember that, pop world?). Continue reading

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My Grammy Wish List: 2010 Edition

Since this was a solo blog, doing a Grammy Wish List has been an annual tradition.  I’m not too excited about this year’s Grammys, to be honest. 2009 was a weak year in my opinion, and the shortened 11-month eligibility period didn’t help matters.  But a tradition is a tradition, so here are my picks in the eleven categories that I care about this year:

* denotes my personal wish:

Record of the Year

  • Beyoncé, “Halo”  *
  • The Black Eyed Peas, “I Gotta Feeling”
  • Kings of Leon, “Use Somebody”
  • Lady Gaga, “Poker Face”
  • Taylor Swift, “You Belong With Me”

It’s always nice to see a country radio hit in there, but I honestly can’t stand “You Belong With Me.”  I dig the Kings of Leon song, but the record that I enjoy the most here is “Halo.”  Some pundits have suggested that Beyoncé threw her chances at this trophy by submitting “Halo” instead of “Single Ladies”, but I like that song even less than “You Belong With Me.” Love “Halo”, though.

Song of the Year

  • Lady Gaga & RedOne, “Poker Face”
  • Hod David & Musze, “Pretty Wings”
  • Thaddis Harrell, Beyoncé Knowles, Terius Nash & Christopher Stewart, “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)”
  • Caleb Followill, Jared Followill, Matthew Followill & Nathan Followill, “Use Somebody”  *
  • Liz Rose & Taylor Swift, “You Belong With Me”

Great to see Liz Rose in there, too, but I still can’t stand the song.  I think “Use Somebody” is a great composition that could easily be a hit in other formats if the right artist covered it. Are you listening, Sugarland?

Best New Artist

  • Zac Brown Band *
  • Keri Hilson
  • MGMT
  • Silversun Pickups
  • The Ting Tings

Zac Brown Band don’t quite live up to the hype, but they come a lot closer than last year’s nominee, Lady Antebellum.

Best Country Album

  • Zac Brown Band, The Foundation
  • George Strait, Twang *
  • Taylor Swift, Fearless
  • Keith Urban, Defying Gravity
  • Lee Ann Womack, Call Me Crazy

There isn’t an album here that is built for more than cherry-picking. Strait’s set has the most cherries.

Best Female Country Vocal Performance

  • Miranda Lambert, “Dead Flowers”
  • Martina McBride, “I Just Call You Mine”
  • Taylor Swift, “White Horse”
  • Carrie Underwood, “Just a Dream” *
  • Lee Ann Womack, “Solitary Thinkin’”

The only women who brought their A-game to this category are Swift and Underwood.  “White Horse” might be the better song, but Underwood’s is the better vocal performance by a country mile.

Best Male Country Vocal Performance

  • Trace Adkins, “All I Ask For Anymore”
  • Billy Currington, “People Are Crazy”
  • Jamey Johnson, “High Cost of Living”
  • George Strait, “Living For the Night” *
  • Keith Urban, “Sweet Thing”

I love the Strait song, so it’s my pick, but this is one of the only strong categories this year and I wouldn’t mind seeing any of these five win.

Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals

  • Brooks & Dunn, “Cowgirls Don’t Cry”
  • Zac Brown Band, “Chicken Fried”
  • Lady Antebellum, “I Run to You”
  • Rascal Flatts, “Here Comes Goodbye”
  • Sugarland, “It Happens” *

No A-game here, but Sugarland’s B-game is better than the rest.

Best Country Vocal Collaboration

  • Dierks Bentley & Patty Griffin, “Beautiful World”
  • Kenny Chesney & Mac McAnally, “Down the Road”
  • Brad Paisley & Keith Urban, “Start a Band”
  • Carrie Underwood & Randy Travis, “I Told You So” *
  • Lee Ann Womack & George Strait, “Everything But Quits”

Some amazing pairings here, but Underwood and Travis are the only ones with the material to match the talent.

Best Female Pop Vocal Performance

  • Adele, “Hometown Glory”
  • Beyoncé, “Halo”
  • Katy Perry, “Hot N Cold”
  • Pink, “Sober” *
  • Taylor Swift, “You Belong With Me”

Pink is an awesome songwriter, and easily the most substantial female pop star to come along in the last decade.  “Sober” is one of her best.

Best Pop Vocal Album

  • The Black Eyed Peas, The End
  • Colbie Caillat, The Breakthrough
  • Kelly Clarkson, All I Ever Wanted
  • The Fray, The Fray
  • Pink, Funhouse *

It’s not quite as good as I’m Not Dead, but it comes close.

Best Dance Recording

  • The Black Eyed Peas, “Boom Boom Pow”
  • David Guetta and Kelly Rowland, “When Love Takes Over”
  • Lady Gaga, “Poker Face”
  • Madonna, “Celebration” *
  • Britney Spears, “Womanizer”

Even her throwaway singles are built to last.

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Review: Lady Antebellum, “American Honey”

When did being able to sing reasonably well cease to be a requirement for country music?

Nashville mythology claims it all comes down to the song, but the singer and the production have always been just as important components in great country records.  Generally speaking, country singers have always been able to…sing. Even the ones that weren’t distinctive or sounded like the latest George Strait clone were able to carry a tune.

With all due respect to Lady Antebellum, I’m tired of this nonsense. This song isn’t sung well, and it’s certainly not interesting enough to warrant suffering through the painful mediocrity of the lead vocal. As for the harmonies? Give them all the Vocal Group trophies you want – heck, Rascal Flatts has five of them – it doesn’t change the fact that there’s no discernible difference between this band and a faceless group of backup singers helping a solo artist out in the chorus.  The metaphor that the entire song is built around is applied to so many different things as to render it meaningless.

Then again, if you think that you’ve grown up good and slow like American honey, steady as a preacher and free as a weed, then you don’t need my help selecting the music that’s right for you. We have very different tastes.

For me, I’m simply worn out by all of this filler music, and I have no interest in elevating it to a higher standard because the music surrounding it is of equal or lesser value.  We’re going to need much stronger standard bearers than this among the new generation if we’re going to get through this decade.

Grade: D

Listen: American Honey

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Top-Selling Country Albums of 2009

Here are the top selling country albums of the calendar year 2009.  The number in parentheses is the album’s rank on the overall list encompassing all genres. The totals are rounded to the nearest thousand:

  1. Taylor Swift, Fearless (1) – 3,157,000
  2. Zac Brown Band, Foundation (15) – 1,243,000
  3. Carrie Underwood, Play On (19) – 1,150,000
  4. Rascal Flatts, Unstoppable (21) – 1,123,000
  5. Lady Antebellum, Lady Antebellum (24) – 948,000
  6. Jason Aldean, Wide Open (27) – 940,000
  7. Darius Rucker, Learn to Live (31) – 849,000
  8. Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift (36) – 766,000
  9. Keith Urban, Defying Gravity (38) – 715,000
  10. Sugarland, Love On the Inside (41) – 678,000
  11. Kenny Chesney, Greatest Hits II (54) – 547,000
  12. Tim McGraw, Southern Voice (55) – 547,000
  13. George Strait, Twang (62) – 499,000
  14. Brad Paisley, American Saturday Night (69) – 462,000
  15. Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song (71) – 460,000
  16. Carrie Underwood, Carnival Ride (74) – 457,000
  17. Taylor Swift, The Holiday Collection (79) – 425,000
  18. Reba McEntire, Keep On Loving You (93) – 389,000
  19. Rascal Flatts, Greatest Hits Volume 1 (104) – 359,000
  20. Miranda Lambert, Revolution (112) – 334,000
  21. Alan Jackson, Good Time (124) – 311,000
  22. Billy Currington, Little Bit of Everything (125) – 310,000
  23. Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Raising Sand (126) – 305,000
  24. Dierks Bentley, Feel That Fire (129) – 298,000
  25. Toby Keith, American Ride (137) – 288,000
  26. Sugarland, Gold and Green (149) – 255,000
  27. Carrie Underwood, Some Hearts (158) – 248,000
  28. Sugarland, Live on the Inside (168) – 232,000
  29. Sugarland, Enjoy the Ride (180) – 225,000
  30. Kellie Pickler, Kellie Pickler (190) – 218,000
  31. Various Artists, Now Country Vol. 2 (192) – 214,000
  32. Kenny Chesney, Lucky Old Sun (193) – 219,000

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The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Conclusion: #20-#1

#20
“Not Ready to Make Nice”
Dixie Chicks
2006
Peak: #36

It’s easy to label this as a transitory response of a song, whose quality is stamped by context and time, but to do so is to undermine its carefully crafted layers of universal emotion. Anger is only the outer coating of the song – beneath it lies a tender-to-the-touch complex of feelings:  pain and disgust, confusion and resolve, stubbornness and defeat. “Not Ready to Make Nice” may always recall a certain unfortunate episode in country music history, but its theme – that sometimes there’s a price to pay for standing up for what you believe – is timeless. – Tara Seetharam

#19
“Probably Wouldn’t Be this Way”
LeAnn Rimes
2005
Peak: #3

A striking portrait of grief that alternates between phases of desolation, disillusionment and gratitude. Rimes’ interpretation of the lyrics is chillingly precise. – TS Continue reading

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The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 5: #120-#101

The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 5: #120-#101

120 Keith Urban Be Here

#120
“Tonight I Wanna Cry”
Keith Urban
2005
Peak: #2

A chillingly frank portrait of loneliness, awkward reference to “All By Myself” notwithstanding. Few mainstream vocalists today could pull off something this intense. – Dan Milliken

119 Loretta Van Lear Rose

#119
“Portland, Oregon”
Loretta Lynn with Jack White
2004
Peak: Did not chart

If you can take a healthy dose of dirty rock ‘n’ roll in your country, this is one of the coolest-sounding records of the decade, a classic one-night-stand duet. That it’s a very cross-generational pairing singing it would be creepy if not for the goofy smiles shining through Lynn’s and White’s performances. – DM Continue reading

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The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 2: #180-#161

The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 2: #180-#161

180 Flatts Melt

#180
“These Days”
Rascal Flatts
2002
Peak: #1

It’s the pairing of aching nostalgia and all the power that comes with a Flatts country-pop ballad that makes this song so potent. – Tara Seetharam

179 Ashton

#179
“Takin’ Off This Pain”
Ashton Shepherd
2007
Peak: #20

Like a wide-eyed hybrid of Loretta Lynn and Jennifer Nettles, Shepherd burst onto the scene snapping her newly ring-free fingers at the clueless sap not treating her right. Next Decade, please take note: you’ve got a star in waiting. – Dan Milliken Continue reading

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The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 5: #60-#51

    The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 5

    bruce robison country sunshine

    #60
    Bruce Robison, Country Sunshine

    One of modern country’s little-known heroes, Robison has built a career on simple songs of unusually strong focus, voice and insight. His strongest collection from this decade mainly explores love at its point of disenchantment, with characters sitting at various fallouts pondering who’s to blame, who used who, or why the feelings aren’t requited. Not so much Sunshine, then, but quite a bit of Country. – Dan Milliken

    Recommended Tracks: “Friendless Marriage”, “What Would Willie Do”, “Tonight”

    59 Rascal

    #59
    Rascal Flatts, Feels Like Today

    The group has yet to hit the nail on the “Rascal Flatts” head again like they did with this country-pop album – a collection of powerful, melody-driven songs on which Gary LeVox manages to tastefully reign in his tenor. When paired with the right material –particularly deep-rooted love songs like “Bless The Broken Road” –, the Flatts boys can emote like it’s nobody’s business, resulting in soaring, passionate performances. – Tara Seetharam

    Recommended Tracks: “Where You Are”, “Bless The Broken Road”, “Oklahoma-Texas Line”

    58 Keith

    #58
    Keith Urban, Love, Pain & the whole crazy thing

    Urban’s creativity peaked with this ambitious set, with arrangements as revelatory as his lyrics. As an album, it’s a cohesive work of art, yet it still managed to produce his strongest collection of singles that work just as well outside of their home. – Kevin Coyne

    Recommended Tracks: “I Told You So”, “Stupid Boy”, “Got it Right This Time”

    57 Willie

    #57
    Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel, Willie and The Wheel

    Willie Nelson teamed up with Western swing giants Asleep at the Wheal to create a project filled with warm treatments of Western swing standards. While Nelson sounds very much alive on this album, his trademark phrasing perfectly captures a relaxed, yet proficient, vibe. In order to be as prolific as Nelson tends to be, it’s common for him to minimally prepare for his recordings. It’s been reported that this was not the case for this album, however. Instead, he studied and practiced these songs until he felt comfortable enough to really do them justice. His extra effort is clearly evident as a result. – Leeann Ward

    Recommended Tracks: “Hesitation Blues”, “I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None…”, “Right or Wrong”

    56 Brad

    #56
    Brad Paisley, American Saturday Night

    I’m drawn to albums that can flawlessly blend contemporary and traditional country music, and Paisley’s eighth album is a remarkable example in all senses. It’s a surprisingly revealing, carefully-written album that’s engaging yet lighthearted, and it embraces social consciousness as effectively as it does Paisley-seasoned humor. He’s not the first to do so, but Paisley certainly furthers the case that you can successfully look both forwards and backwards on the same album. – TS

    Recommended Tracks: “Welcome To The Future”, “Everybody’s Here”, “You Do The Math”

    ryan heartbreaker

    #55
    Ryan Adams, Heartbreaker

    Adams had already released some exemplary work with Whiskeytown by the time the Aughts rolled around, but it was his classic solo debut that cemented him as alt-country’s “It” Boy. With the aural looseness of folk and the shrewd scrutiny of classic country, Heartbreaker plays like the very encapsulation of despair, each track exposing a cathartic new layer of its creator’s weary, self-mocking psyche. It would all be insufferably bleak if it didn’t sound so strangely healing. – DM

    Recommended Tracks: “AMY”, “Oh My Sweet Carolina”, “Come Pick Me Up”

    54 Bruce

    #54
    Bruce Springsteen, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions

    Recorded in Springsteen’s living room, The Seeger Sessions is a project that celebrates the songs of activist and folk singer, Pete Seeger. For this unique recording, Springsteen temporarily breaks away from his rock E Street Band and forms the more organic, big band style Sessions Band, which includes horns, banjo, guitar, percussion, piano, B3 organ, Harmonica, violin and upright bass. The result is a delightful album that sounds like a well executed jam session rather than a stuffy studio affair. – LW

    Recommended Tracks: “Old Dan Tucker”, “O Mary Don’t You Weep for Me”, “Pay Me My Money Down”

    53 Lady

    #53
    Lady Antebellum, Lady Antebellum

    There isn’t anyone in country music quite like this vibrant trio, whose debut is a heartfelt, organic mainstream country album with undertones of 70’s-esque R&B. There’s a beautiful imperfection to the pairing of Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott’s equally soulful voices, and they’ve got a particular knack for writing melodies that are as interesting as they are expressive. Lady Antebellum is both a skillful showcase of these strengths and an exciting glimpse at the group’s potential in country music. – TS

    Recommended Tracks: “All We’d Ever Need”, “Love’s Lookin’ Good On You”, “I Run To You”

    52 Alan

    #52
    Alan Jackson, Like Red On a Rose

    Who would think that the combination of bluegrass legend Alison Krauss and traditional country legend Alan Jackson would result in an album like this? With Krauss as producer, Jackson became the consummate crooner, singing with such depth and nuance that it was like hearing a completely different singer. – KC

    Recommended Tracks: “Like Red On a Rose”, “Nobody Said That it Would Be Easy”, “The Firefly’s Song”

    51 Brad

    #51
    Brad Paisley, Time Well Wasted

    Brad Paisley’s fourth album continues the more aggressively muscular sound that its predecessor, Mud on the Tires had already wisely adopted. As is typical for a Paisley album his sharp wit shows up throughout the disc in the form of sly observations to which people can easily relate. However, he strays from the humor at times in order to deliver some of the most beloved songs of his career, including “Waitin’ on A Woman” and “When I Get Where I’m Going.” – LW

    Recommended Tracks: “Rainin’ You”, “Easy Money”, “Time Well Wasted”

    – – –

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    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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