My CMA Picks

I’m not even going to try to handicap this year’s CMA Awards. It’s been years since I’ve been able to intuitively call these races. But I will be happy to share my preference for each category. Check to see who takes home the trophies Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 8 p.m. on CBS.

P.S. If you’re wondering how a New Yorker with a country music blog has managed to avoid talking about the show’s move to the Big Apple this year, and all the controversy and hoopla surrounding it, the answer is simple: I don’t care.

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

My Pick: “As Good As I Once Was” – Toby Keith
These are all great clips, but my cousin and I just keep doing that turn away from the bar to face the camera that Toby does to start the first chorus, just to make each other laugh. It’s a very funny video, and humor should be rewarded more often.

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

My Pick: “Party For Two” – Shania Twain with Billy Currington
It’s still stuck in my head. Anyway, Twain and Currington’s voices blend perfectly, and it’s the only song of the five that I really enjoy.

Horizon Award
Dierks Bentley
Big & Rich
Miranda Lambert
Julie Roberts

My Pick: Sugarland
It’s a tough call between Sugarland and Big & Rich, but I give the former the edge because they really broke through this year, while B&R were working their debut CD for a second year in a row.

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

My Pick: Big & Rich
It’s time for a changing of the guard here, and I think Big & Rich are far more creative and talented than Montgomery Gentry, who have already won once anyway. Please, no more Brooks & Dunn!

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

My Pick: “I May Hate Myself In The Morning” – Lee Ann Womack
One of my favorite records of all-time, not just this past year. I had to get #10-#6 of my top 400 up so I could do this CMA post without giving away some of the list. I really hope she wins.

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

My pick: “I May Hate Myself In The Morning” – Odie Blackmon
It’s a fantastic, timeless song that is refreshingly honest. I can’t say enough good things about it, so I’m just going to stop here.

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

My Pick: Lee Ann Womack There’s More Where That Came From
Tough call between Womack and McGraw, but Lee Ann’s traditional masterpiece gets the edge. Tim’s won twice in this category anyway.

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

My Pick: Sugarland
They get the edge for AKUS for writing every song on their album together, and riding their collective effort to stardom. They’re also a powerful live act, the most important group – hell, the only important group – to come along since the Dixie Chicks.

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

My Pick: Alan Jackson
He’s still the best, and he only has two of these. His control keeps “Monday Morning Church” from being maudlin, and his humor carried “Talkin’ Song Repair Blues”, which would’ve tripped up a lesser vocalist. I think he’s the gold standard; the only one in his league here is Strait, who has five wins in this category – that’s right, five!

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

My Pick: Alison Krauss
It’s a no-brainer. I hate to be the one to say it, but the only one in this category who can replicate on stage what’s on the record is Krauss. I remember when I used to pick my preferred winner based on the specifics of the year – the album sales, chart success, etc. – because it was a given that the woman could sing live flawlessly. Pam, Trisha, Patty, Kathy, Wynonna, Tanya, Reba, even Faith and Chapin – no studio tricks needed. I miss those days.

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

My Pick: Keith Urban
He’s selling a ton of records, dominating radio (three 5-week #1 singles from this new album), he’s a phenomenal live act and he’s even crossing over to the pop charts. He represents the genre on the international stage and does so with humility and dignity. He’s the classiest star country has produced in a long time, and this year, he was also the brightest.

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