Lee Ann Womack, Brad Paisley Get 6 CMA Nods Each

The 2005 CMA Award nominations have been announced, and there’s a long overdue changing of the guard. The full list is here, and my comments follow each of the major categories below. On the whole, I’m amazed how closely my wish list matched the actual noms, far more than usual.

Entertainer of the Year
Kenny Chesney
Alan Jackson
Toby Keith
Brad Paisley
Keith Urban

Paisley & Urban break into the Entertainer of the Year category for the first time, taking the place of perennial nominee Brooks & Dunn, who haven’t really deserved the slot since the mid-90’s, and more surprisingly, Tim McGraw, who scored only one nomination this year. It’s significant that of all these nominees, only one (Alan Jackson) has been a major star since the early 90’s. It took a very long time, but we finally grew some new superstars. If their sophomore albums match the success of their debuts, MusikMafia members Gretchen Wilson and Big & Rich may find themselves in this category in the near future.

Male Vocalist
Kenny Chesney
Alan Jackson
Brad Paisley
George Strait
Keith Urban

This category is more static, with Brad Paisley returning to the category after a one-year absence, replacing another frequent nominee, Toby Keith. There really aren’t enough slots in this category right now to capture all the big male vocalists these days; splitting the men up between “entertainers” and “vocalists” may be the best option. I’m surprised it’s Kenny that got the nod over Toby, since Toby is the stronger vocalist. But voter support for him doesn’t seem as strong as it is for Brad and George this year. Other strong male vocalists like Gary Allan and Trace Adkins continue to be overlooked just because there’s no room at the table.

Female Vocalist
Sara Evans
Alison Krauss
Martina McBride
Gretchen Wilson
Lee Ann Womack

Hard to argue here. I’m surprised Krauss is represented in both the female and group categories, but she does enough solo work to justify it. Faith Hill and Trisha Yearwood are back on the scene, but only had singles barely released during the eligibility period. The comeback of Lee Ann Womack has her taking the slot that Terri Clark has had for the last two years; with the latter only releasing one single that didn’t do very well, and Womack making the best album of her career, it’s easy to understand why.

Vocal Duo
Big & Rich
Brooks & Dunn
Montgomery Gentry
Van Zant
Warren Brothers

For the first time since the late 1980’s, this category actually has five legitimate competitors. Big & Rich have sold the most records by far, and Brooks & Dunn and Montgomery Gentry have been hits at both radio and retail. Van Zant have seen their debut single and album both go top ten, and the Warren Brothers, still waiting for that breakthrough hit, have become media stars through their CMT reality show Barely Famous. After so many years of wondering why duos have their own category, this may finally be the end of the “Brooks & Dunn award.”

Vocal Group
Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas
Diamond Rio
Rascal Flatts

A decent lineup, with fingers crossed that AKUS or Sugarland get the prize instead of the undewhelming hair gel boys.

Horizon Award
Dierks Bentley
Big & Rich
Miranda Lambert
Julie Roberts

There are two huge acts in this category – Big & Rich and Sugarland – and a third, Dierks Bentley, who is doing very well. Julie Roberts got a gold record and Miranda Lambert a #1 album, but both of them are faltering at radio and not living up to the hype that surrounds them. They are place-fillers in this category.

Album of the Year
Tim McGraw Live Like You Were Dying
Rascal Flatts Feels Like Today
George Strait Somewhere Down In Texas
Keith Urban Be Here
Lee Ann Womack There’s More Where That Came From

The big surprise here is that the Toby Keith CD isn’t included, but Urban, McGraw and Rascal Flatts have been steadier sellers. George Strait’s nomination is a surprise, since it’s such a new album, but it is a decent record. Womack is in here on merit; the album has sold respectably, but it is the massive critical and industry acclaim that have carried her to the nomination, and rightfully so. If voters go on merit, she’ll win.

Single of the Year
“Alcohol”- Brad Paisley
“As Good As I Once Was” – Toby Keith
“Baby Girl” – Sugarland
“Bless The Broken Road” – Rascal Flatts
“I May Hate Myself In The Morning” – Lee Ann Womack

The Sugarland nomination is a shock to me, but a welcome one. I think this is a race between the Flatts megahit and the Womack instant standard. CMA voters tend to lean traditional, so I wouldn’t be surprised if “I May Hate Myself In The Morning” wins over the bigger hits in this category.

Song of the Year
“Alcohol” – Brad Paisley
“As Good As I Once Was” – Toby Keith & Scott Emerick
“Bless The Broken Road” – Marcus Hummon, Bobby Boyd & Jeff Hanna
“I May Hate Myself In The Morning” – Odie Blackmon
“Redneck Woman” – Gretchen Wilson & John Rich
“Whiskey Lullaby” – Bill Anderson & Jon Randall

An arcane publishing rule allows for “Redneck Woman” and “Whiskey Lullaby” to be nominated two years in a row; the latter just might win.

Music Video of the Year
“Alcohol” – Brad Paisley
“As Good As I Once Was” – Toby Keith
“Day Go By” – Keith Urban
“I May Hate Myself In The Morning” – Lee Ann Womack
“When I Think About Cheatin'” – Gretchen Wilson

What can I say? Five great videos that really stood out from the standard CMT fare. Great choices.

Musical Event of the Year
“Good News, Bad News” – George Strait & Lee Ann Womack
“I’ll Never Be Free” – Willie Nelson & Lee Ann Womack
“New Again” – Brad Paisley & Sara Evans
“Party For Two” – Shania Twain with Billy Currington
“Trip Around The Sun” – Jimmy Buffett & Martina McBride

I haven’t heard the Paisley/Evans duet. Shania & Billy have the only big hit here, but I imagine one of Lee Ann’s duets will get the prize, most likely the one with Strait, though it would be a shoo-in if it was released as a single.

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