Will it be a big night again for Miranda Lambert? Or perhaps Eric Church? Or will Garth Brooks swoop in and snatch the CMA Award big kahuna, Entertainer of the Year? Or maybe it will be Little Big Town lugging home the honors.
In truth, chances are no one will entirely dominate. There are too many close races for that to happen.
Let's get right to the big one - Entertainer of the Year. Garth Brooks, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Eric Church and Lambert all were nominated. Brooks is not going to take it. He's toured well, but his album didn't burn it up either artistically or commercially. I say it goes to Church, although I wouldn't be shocked if Lambert cried her way to the stage either. Bryan won it last year and could be so honored again as he's been consistent on the charts and has done quite well touring, of course.
Church is my prediction simply because he's a newer face in getting his name called. He has developed a lot when it comes to putting on concerts as his were some of the best of the past year.
Lambert, who has enjoyed her share of trophies, is doubtlessly at least as deserving. Personally, I'd vote for her since she represents more of the kind of country that I like - the traditional side.
Kacey Musgraves somehow has done well for herself at these awards even if she doesn't get radio play or sales. To me, there's no doubt about it that "Pageant Material" is the Album of the Year." Great stuff with lots of traditional country, excellent writing and singing. She ought to win this over Jason Aldean's "Old Boots, New Dirt," Little Big Town's "Pain Killer," Kenny Chesney's "The Big Revival" and Chris Stapleton's very fine "Traveller." Stapleton is one person who doesn't need to worry about making a speech, but if I eat my words, I won't complain. I just think he's the darkest of dark horses.
I'm expecting a double for "Girl Crush." Little Big Town will take Single of the Year for "Girl Crush" and its writers Song of the Year.
The song was the big hit single this year and better than "Talladega" by Eric Church. Sam Hunt's enjoyed a super run here, but "Take Your Time" just doesn't strike it as a country song (it's blue-eyed soul really) and isn't as good as "Girl Crush' or Lee Brice's "I Don't Dance." Kenny Chesney's bouncy "American Kids" was a bit different for him and a good hit single.
"Girl Crush," with Karen Fairchild on lead vocals, was a slowed down number, unusual for this day of revved up, rocking country and ruled the charts for months. The singing is top shelf. Brice gives LBT a run for his money in the heartfelt category at least, but it's going to be about impossible to beat out "Girl Crush."
If you're going to give "Girl Crush" Single of the Year, then I will be surprised if Song of the Year doesn't go to "Girl Crush," penned by Liz Rose, Hillary Lindsey and Lori McKenna. The song was a surprise, out of left field hit with some false controversy (that wasn't their or LBT's fault). Different for sure.
"Take Your Time" from Hunt, Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne isn't exactly my kind of country. Then again, not sure Hunt would define it that way either. "American Kids" and "Like a Wrecking Ball" are worthy, very different from each other. "Like a Cowboy" from Randy Houser and Brice Long also was nominated, but, well, hey, it's nice to be nominated, right?
And if you're going to give "Girl Crush" those honors, how about Little Big Town for Vocal Group of the Year. I'd suspect the main competition would come from Lady Antebellum, but LBT had a bigger year. Zac Brown Band has never been all that popular in these awards ceremonies, and I don't see The Band Perry or Rascal Flatts coming through either.
Male Vocalist of the Year is a tough one between Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, Shelton and Stapleton. Shelton has won it since 2010, but I'm thinking they're thinking it's time for a change.
I'll go with Church, who vaulted into the arena circuit this year and proved to be worthy of it with a great concert show behind "The Outsiders," a muscular work that veers more to southern rock than country. Bentley, Bryan or Shelton could take it, but not Stapleton, in another category where there is no sure thing.
On the female side, it'll come down to Miranda Lambert or Musgraves, I say. Lee Ann Womack and Ballerini have no chance, and I'm not so sure that Carrie Underwood does either. If this were a year from now with her new disc well under her belt, then maybe. I'm fine with either Lambert or Musgraves winning. Both have had excellent albums, put on strong shows and have an edge to them.
But lest I be accused of punting, I'll vote for Musgraves.
I don't envy the voters for New Artist of the Year. I suspect it's either going to Hunt or Thomas Rhett, who's also on a roll, not exactly hard core country either. Kelsea Ballerini, Maddie & Tae and Stapleton also were nominated.
If it were up to me, I'm going with Maddie & Tae. They're fresh, harmonize well and have a bunch of quality songs on their debut. They are far more than "Girl in a Country Song." The Dixie Chicks influence is definitely there, and that's a good thing.
I don't see Ballerini, based on one hit single (okay, she has "Dibs" on the charts now) or Stapleton hoisting the trophy. If considering the commercial aspect, Hunt ought to win as he rules with his singles and his disc, "Montevallo." But Rhett has not done too shabby. Tough prediction, but I go with Rhett in an upset.
Vocal Duo of the Year will go to Florida Georgia Line unless voters are real down on the duo. Brothers Osborne, Dan + Shay and Thompson Square have no chance. Maddie & Tae do, and as you can tell, I'm keen on them. But it's hard top think that FGL won't win.
Here's something novel for Musician of the Year. How about giving all five of them the award? I mean how do you decide between Sam Bush on mandolin, Jerry Douglas on Dobro, Paul Franklin on Steel Guitar, Dann Huff on Guitar and Mac McAnally on guitar?
Okay, enough prognosticating. Remember folks. This is only one person's opinion. Bring on the awards.