Surprising Shutouts and Nominations for the 2006 CMA’s

This morning, Brad Paisley and Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland announced the nominees in the “big five” categories of the 2006 CMA Awards. An hour later, the rest of the nominees were announced Here’s a rundown:

Entertainer of the Year

  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley
  • Rascal Flatts
  • Keith Urban

Who’s in: Rascal Flatts

Who’s out: Toby Keith

Rascal Flatts are undeniable for this category, given their huge record sales and big tour, but it’s shocking that it was Keith who lost his slot. He launched a record label, had a #1 album and a few more hit singles, and certainly is selling at a faster clip than Brooks & Dunn, who continue to be nominated in this category with artists who are, quite frankly, out of their league in terms of record sales and touring stats.

Female Vocalist

  • Sara Evans
  • Faith Hill
  • Martina McBride
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Gretchen Wilson

Who’s in: Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood

Who’s out: Alison Krauss, Lee Ann Womack

Underwood’s nomination indicates wide industry support. Hill is a surprise, but deserves the nod. Krauss remains on the ballot because she’s nominated for Vocal Group with Union Station. Womack won big last year but was quiet over this voting period. Trisha Yearwood being ignored is a minor shock, given she’s won this category twice and was a perennial nominee for nearly a decade.

Male Vocalist

  • Dierks Bentley
  • Kenny Chesney
  • Alan Jackson
  • Brad Paisley
  • Keith Urban

Who’s in: Dierks Bentley

Who’s out: George Strait

The big shock: George Strait doesn’t receive a nomination in this category. The five-time winner is left off for the first time since 1992, and only the second time since 1984. Keith is snubbed again, and the new slot goes to Dierks Bentley over established stars like Tim McGraw, Trace Adkins and the criminally ignored Gary Allan.

Vocal Duo

  • Big & Rich
  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Montgomery Gentry
  • Van Zant
  • The Wreckers

Who’s in: The Wreckers

Who’s out: The Warren Brothers

This category is always the five most commercially viable duos. There are more of those than ever, probably five for the first time since Brooks & Dunn started dominating this category. The Warren Brothers were the obvious choice to fall out, given the strong success of The Wreckers. When Sugarland is finally nominated as a duo next year, Van Zant better watch their backs.

Vocal Group

  • Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas
  • Little Big Town
  • Lonestar
  • Rascal Flatts
  • Sugarland

Who’s in: Little Big Town

Who’s out: Diamond Rio

Just after losing their record deal with Arista, Diamond Rio snap a 14-year running streak of being nominated in this category, pushed aside for new group Little Big Town. The Chicks being left off was predictable, but poor SHeDaisy still can’t get any CMA love.

Horizon Award

  • Miranda Lambert
  • Little Big Town
  • Sugarland
  • Josh Turner
  • Carrie Underwood

I’m a bit surprised Jason Aldean didn’t make the cut, given he had to announce half the categories. They could have planned that better. Anyway, strong list overall. I expect Underwood to win in a walk. Sugarland would have a better shot if their second album was out and doing well. They have a big question mark hanging over them since losing 1/3 of their team.
Album of the Year

  • Brooks & Dunn, Hillbilly Deluxe
  • Kenny Chesney, The Road & The Radio
  • Alan Jackson, Precious Memories
  • Brad Paisley, Time Well Wasted
  • Rascal Flatts, Me & My Gang

BMG certainly flexed some muscle here, scoring 4 out of 5 album slots. Surprisingly, their biggest-selling album – Carrie Underwood’s Some Hearts – is not nominated. Other big sellers by the Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill, Toby Keith, Martina McBride and Gretchen Wilson failed to make the cut. The Jackson nomination is a nice surprise. The album bored me to tears, but the man made an old-time gospel album and sold platinum. That’s impressive.


  • “Believe” – Brooks & Dunn
  • “Better Life” – Keith Urban
  • “Jesus, Take the Wheel” – Carrie Underwood
  • “Summertime” – Kenny Chesney
  • “When I Get Where I’m Going” – Brad Paisley featuring Dolly Parton

What a schizophrenic selection. “Summertime” seems especially ludicrous, given Chesney had two more substantive singles before it.


  • “8th of November” – Big Kenny & John Rich
  • “Believe” – Craig Wiseman & Ronnie Dunn
  • “Jesus, Take the Wheel” – Hillary Lindsey, Brett James & Gordie Sampson
  • “Tonight I Wanna Cry” – Keith Urban & Monty Powell
  • “When I Get Where I’m Going” – Rivers Rutheford & George Teren

I’m impressed the CMA acknowledged Big & Rich’s Vietnam ballad here. Good call. Most of the rest were predictable.

Musical Event

  • “Building Bridges” – Brooks & Dunn with Vince Gill and Sheryl Crow
  • “Like We Never Loved At All” – Faith Hill featuring Tim McGraw
  • “Politically Uncorrect” – Gretchen Wilson with Merle Haggard
  • “When I Get Where I’m Going” – Brad Paisley featuring Dolly Parton
  • “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” – Bon Jovi with Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland

Am I the only one who notices a parallel between Sugarland and Jefferson Airplane? First it was Jefferson Airplane, then Jefferson Starship, then just Starship. Sugarland has now become Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland with the partner absent more often than not (including GMA this morning). How long till it’s just Nettles?

Music Video

  • “8th of November” – Big & Rich
  • “Believe” – Brooks & Dunn
  • “Jesus, Take the Wheel” – Carrie Underwood
  • “Kerosene” – Miranda Lambert
  • “When I Get Where I’m Going” – Brad Paisley featuring Dolly Parton

I’m disappointed that Chesney’s “Who You’d Be Today” was omitted from the list, given the fairly pedestrian nature of some of these clips. The CMA continues to have trouble distinguishing between great audio and great video, with overlap between this and the Single/Song categories continuing against all logic and reason.


  • Eddie Bayers — Drums
  • Jerry Douglas — Dobro
  • Paul Franklin — Steel Guitar
  • Dann Huff — Guitar
  • Brent Mason — Guitar, Electric Guitar
  • Randy Scruggs — Guitar

Six great players compete. Wonder who will win?

Closing Thoughts

The biggest disappointment for me is a complete shutout for Gary Allan. He made a brilliant album under the most miserable circumstances, and was overlooked completely.

Nashville politics may have kept some artists from dominating this ballot, but I suspect it’s not of the Democrat vs. Republican kind. Notice how many of the big artists who don’t record in Nashville got the shaft this year? Toby Keith, Dixie Chicks, Tim McGraw. Lord knows Shania Twain can’t get arrested at the CMA’s – she had to sell 30 million copies of one album to get a trophy. Garth Brooks went the Wal-Mart route. He was ignored, along with his wife – their duet didn’t even make the cut. (To be fair, this was a very competitive year in the Musical Event category.)

I expected the Chicks snub, but ignoring Tim McGraw and Toby Keith in the Entertainer and Male races stuns me. They’re huge on the concert trail, at radio and at retail. Keith lost the DreamWorks votes this time around, but he should’ve been able to get in on merit. Same goes for McGraw, who has the double handicap of recording with his band and singing for a small label. Those little labels must be finding it hard to compete lately. What chance do they have in a truly competitive race?

Speaking of labels, the Sony BMG behemoth seems to be dominating these awards too much, and when they’re scoring Single nominations for froth like “Summertime”, it’s starting to look like block voting. I’ll add that the votes tend to favor the original BMG roster, with not much love thrown Sony’s way, but combine them you have 3/5 of Entertainer, 3/5 of Male Vocalist, 4/5 of Female Vocalist, 4/5 of Album and 4/5 of Single. That’s a lot of domination of what should be the five most competitive categories. This could be one more downside of record industry consolidation, as if we needed that list to get longer.

Don’t even get me started on the Hall of Fame, but I will note for reference that the 2006 Inductees are: George Strait, Sonny James & Harold Bradley. When the montage was playing for Bradley, I had the T.V. on mute. When I looked up, Jeannie C. Riley was on the screen. For a brief, glorious moment, I thought she was one of the inductees. It was nice while it lasted.

Okay, so I got started. James and Bradley, of course, are Hall-worthy. So is Strait, but it seems silly to put him in now. The trend is starting to frustrate me. First Alabama, who debuted in 1980, then Strait, who surfaced in 1981. With only one slot going to the years 1945-1975, and the temptation to give the 1975-present slot to superstars from the 80’s, I fear the Hall of Fame will include Reba McEntire and Vince Gill before Emmylou Harris and Hank Williams Jr. Not a good thing, in my opinion. Let them wait another ten years.


  1. I think Toby Keith was victim to some of the same fallout that has affected the Dixie Chix. The CMA tends to shy away from controversy, and rightly or wrongly, Keith is viewed currently as controversial. As for Strait’s omission, I have long contended that Strait is at an age where if back-to- back singles stiff, he will be history as far as radio is concerned. “The Seashores of Old Mexico” was a video hit, but didn’t fare that well on Country radio. TIME WELL WASTED was probably the best album put out by a major label artist this year, although I’ve purchased several Indy label albums that were better

  2. It’s about time for Sonny James to get into the CMHOF – he was #3 on my list of worthies (see WHO BELONGS IN THE HALL OF FAME feature) so I have no complaint there – in his time he was as big as Alabama or George Strait in their times.

    George Strait is arguably the biggest star of the last 25 years so I really can’t quibble with his induction – once the created a post-1975 category he HAD to be one of the first two or three inducted. I assume Reba will go in next year. I must admit that Harold Bradley hadn’t occurred to me, although thinking about it, he is a worthwhile choice

    I think Tim and Faith were hit by some of the tarnish that affected Toby Keith and the Dixie Chix – the CMA tends to avoid controversy and Tim & Faith opened their mouths (very selectively) on the post-Katrina situation, leveling criticism at Bush while conveniently ignoring the complete ineptitude of New Orleans Mayor Nagin (Nagin, of course is a Democrat). The Female category is less competitve than the male vocal category so Faith did receive a nod there.

    I think that the biggest omission in the awards (other than leaving out George Jones, who truly is the leading male vocalist EVERY year)was that of Gary Allan. Part of the problem is that his latest CD , while a brilliant effort, is a real downer – rewarding listening, but also tough to listen to due to its intensity , especially if you’re already a bit down.

  3. Being a big Toby Keith fan, I was seriously disappointed by that obvious snub. The man is a workhorse! Four of the five male vocalists on the list don’t do much for me, and Dierks isn’t one of them. I think Brad and Keith and Kenny are overrated. I really mean that. Man, what a list. My favorite selection was the delightful Miranda Lambert. She’s got a sunny future ahead of her.

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