Yet another country music awards show looms. On Sunday, the 51st Academy of Country Music awards goes down in the capitol of country music, Las Vegas (just kidding, although don't tell that to Brooks & Dunn, Reba and Garth).
So with that in mind, here are a few thoughts...
Might as well start right at the top with Entertainer of the Year. My hunch is that it's either Eric Church or Miranda Lambert win. I don't see Brooks (that's Garth, not Kix) taking it. He's been touring - and putting on real good shows on this marathon - but it's not like he's dominating the country scene. He's not and hasn't since his comeback. Jason Aldean doesn't seem to have done enough either although he continues doing well in a commercial sense. Luke Bryan certainly could win. His material has always left me flat and getting flatter by the release, but he obviously has a lot of popularity. Lambert also could win it - her last album ("Platinum," although that's getting close to two years old at this point) was super, but I think Church has been on the edgier side. His career has mushroomed, and he has seems to have a personal compass.
Chris Stapleton will continue his winning ways for Male Vocalist of the Year. In the preliminary run-up to the ACMs, he won the Best New Male Artist honor. How Brett Eldredge got nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year is beyond me. No diss intended, but there are far more worthy singers than he - Brad Paisley (what's going on with him with these award shows? He doesn't seem to engender much respect), Alan Jackson (okay, I know he's not going to get nominated, but his last disc was excellent), Keith Urban. Dierks Bentley, Church and Aldean all were nominated. Any one of them could take it, but Stapleton clearly has enjoyed a hot hand since November. For some reason, he keeps winning even if his music is so different from the Aldeans of the world. And Bentley strikes me as more caving to the mainstream than he used to. This should go to Stapleton.
The female side is an interesting one with possible winners in Lambert and Carrie Underwood. Kacey Musgraves also is nominated along with Jana Kramer and Kelsea Ballerini. Like Eldredge, Kramer's nomination is a mystery, except maybe that shows how few females there are out there. I will say that I did like her sophomore release. Ballerini already won best new female. That's about as far as she'll get. Musgraves is like Stapleton - edgy, left of center for sure for what's commercially popular, but she put out a great album in "Pageant Material" and has done well at other award shows. I'd be quite happy for her to win because she's got a batch of excellent songs, attitude, vocal chops and separates herself from the pack.
However, I see Lambert taking this one. She seems to have a leg up on Underwood at these kinds of events. But if Musgraves wins, I will be a happy man.
Vocal Duo of the Year will go to Joey + Rory. This is a sentimental award, of course, given the unfortunate passing of Joey Feek in February from cancer. All things being equal, however, I'd be keen on Maddie & Tae or Brothers Osborne winning. Maddie & Tae are fresh and way different from the others out there. They sing well together and had an enjoyable debut. There's far more to them that "Girl in a Country Song." Brothers Osborne finally put out there debut in January, and it was a worthy disc. T.J. Osborne is one great singer with a big big voice. I saw them in concert, and he amply demonstrated that. Other nominees were Dan + Shay and Florida Georgia Line. Not fans of either of them, although FGL would win if not for Joey's passing. This is a nice, fitting way to honor her memory.
For Vocal Group of the Year, it would be surprising if it didn't go to Little Big Town. They've taken their career to the next level; having a song like "Girl Crush" will do that for you. Zac Brown Band's last disc, "Jekyll + Hyde" wasn't exactly country oriented. I'm not sure what Rascal Flatts has done to deserve being nominated except that this tends to be a category lacking in candidates. Ditto for Eli Young Band, except even more so. Old Dominion also was nominated. Not a bad album if looking for catchy songs and not very adventurous either. In concert, I found them a bit flat.
Album of the Year should go to Stapleton for the very fine "Traveller." It's the only overtly country disc even nominated, which in and of itself doesn't mean it should win, but it is of high quality. I liked Thomas Rhett's "Tangled Up." He has a good vibe going and warm, soulful vocals on his sophomore effort, but not even he would readily admit to be a "real" country artist. Ditto for Sam Hunt and "Montevallo" and the country quotient. Church is nominated for "Mr. Misunderstood." That could provide competition for Stapleton and is a very good material wise and left of center as well, no surprise coming from Church. Chris Young was somehow nominated for "I'm Comin' Over," a dull, unexciting release.
Little Big Town ought to win Song of the Year for "Girl Crush," especially since it dominated radio. The award goes to the songwriter, artist and publisher. However, Cam's haunting "Burning House" could give LBT a run for their money, but "Girl Crush" was too huge a song. Stapleton ("Nobody to Blame"), Keith Urban featuring Church ("Raise 'Em Up") and surprisingly Eric Paslay ("She Don't Love You") were nominated as well. I do not seeing them having any chance.
Single Record of the Year goes to the artist. Cam and LBT are up against each other again along with Rhett ("Die a Happy Man"), Chris Janson ("Buy Me a Boat"), Young (I'm Comin' Over") and Hunt ("Take Your Time"). This is a tough one as LBT and Rhett enjoyed huge airplay for each of their megahits. For no particular reason, I'll go with Rhett since that was most recently the hit, and maybe voters have short-term memories. His vocals were super on that song.
There you have the predictions of one person. Stay tuned for Sunday's extravaganza. Wouldn't it be nice if some overtly country artists picked off some wins?