The Grammy nominations have gotten far less commercial in recent years - that's not necessarily in the country category. There have been lots of surprises in recent years where the statuettes have been handed out to worthy Artists with a capitol A, and that's not because they went Platinum.
The upcoming 2016 Grammy nominations for Best Country Album proved to be a mixture.
Nominees were Sam Hunt for "Montevallo," Little Big Town for "Painkiller," Ashley Monroe for "The Blade," Kacey Musgraves for "Pageant Material" and Chris Stapleton for "Traveller."
This is definitely divided into edgy country (Monroe, Musgraves and Stapleton) versus the rest (Hunt, LBT).
By edgy, I mean the traditional side. Monroe and Musgraves are of the dyed in the wool variety, while Stapleton adds his ultra soulful voice to the country mix. I have been a huge fan of all three albums. Stapleton was a total out of left field hit at the CMAs with three awards. Monroe definitely hasn't gotten the acclaim she deserves. She's a fine singer and has put out a few strong albums. Musgraves avoided the soph slump with "Pageant Material," a smart, muscular work where she sings with a lot of confidence. Now, she's off on a headlining tour soon even though country radio has all but eschewed her along with Stapleton and Monroe.
The same can't be said for Hunt and Little Big Town. Radio has been all over both of them - Hunt for whatever he puts out as a single and LBT certainly for "Girl Crush" after a supposed brouhaha over its supposed gay themes.
I acknowledge obviously that Hunt has done quite well commercially on the country charts. His songs actually are pretty good, and he has that soulful vibe going.
But he himself has been hesitant to call his music country. I just don't hear it at all that way, but somehow he's marketed that way. And now he has Grammy nominations to boot.
LBT occupies the Fleetwood Mac end of country. Good band. Fine live, and "Girl Crush," well, crushed it big time at least as a single. I found the album less exciting.
I'll throw out a few CDs that were certainly worthy of being nominated: George Strait's "Cold Beer Conversation," Maddie & Tae's "Start Here," Alan Jackson's "Angels and Alcohol," maybe Dwight Yoakam's "Second Hand Heart," The Mavericks' "Mono," Angaleena Presley's very fine "American Middle Class" (she would have gone done quite well with Monroe and Musgraves. After all, she also has been in a side project band with Miranda Lambert and Monroe, Pistol Annies).
Just remember that the Grammys aren't the be all and end all and final arbiter of who's the best. That may be left in the ears of the listener.