Tonight's the night for the 50th annual Country Music Association awards and time to offer a few thoughts on the various nominees.
Eric Church deserves to win Album of the Year for "Mr. Misunderstood." He unveiled it exactly one year ago with a great flurry of intrigue - he sent it to fan club members first before releasing it a few days later. It's well done and shows an artistic bent with musical chops and integrity. In fact, not a whole lot was expected commercially from the recording. Oh well. Maren Morris was nominated for her debut, "Hero," but I was less than enthralled with some of the songs ("'80s Mercedes," for example). It just doesn't stand up to Church's effort. And Keith Urban's "Ripcord," Underwood's "Storyteller" and Dierks Bentley's "Black" were not as meritorious.
About the hardest category to pick is Single of the Year with five worthy choices: "Humble and Kind" from Tim McGraw, "My Church" from Morris, "Nobody to Blame" from Stapleton; "Record Year" from Church and "Die a Happy Man" from Thomas Rhett. The latter isn't exactly hard-core country, more like a soulful song with a great delivery. It was also a megahit, and I suspect it'll take the honor. "My Church" boasts an excellent reading from Morris, and Church infuses intensity into "Record Year."
All of them except "Nobody to Blame" were nominated for Song of the Year, a songwriter's award. "Burning House" from Cam also was nominated, and she did a wonderful job of singing that. Another difficult category. Since I like her body of work and she's on a roll, let's go with Lori McKenna, who wrote and already recorded "Humble and Kind." It's a song with a message that matters. But if any of the others win, it'd be hard to complain.
As for Female Vocalist of the Year, that's a tough choice for me between Kacey Musgraves and Miranda Lambert. I like them both a lot, but let's go with Musgraves. She's been consistent, even more left of center than Stapleton and got some personality to boot. Lambert may have to wait a year. Morris is a good singer, and Underwood got pipes, of course. Kelsea Ballerini was nominated and has had a great run, but she's not in the same league as Lambert and Musgraves, or Underwood for that matter.
On the male side, Stapleton deserves it with Church a close second. I could see Bentley actually winning it though as he's more out there commercially.
I'd be surprised if Little Big Town doesn't win Vocal group of the year. The category has tried-and-true nominees with Rascal Flatts, Zac Brown Band and Lady Antebellum, which hasn't done so much this year. New band Old Dominion also was nominated and has enjoyed a good run from its first disc on the songs chart.
Vocal Duo of the Year will be interesting. The sentimental favorite will certainly be Joey + Rory as Rory Feek passed away last year. Florida Georgia Line ought to win it given how well they've done commercially. For my money, give it to Joey + Rory. They were a fine duo and put out worthy material. But if not them, I also am keen on Brothers Osborne who have been too under the radar, and Maddie & Tae. Not a fan of Dan + Shay.
With that said, Brothers Osborne ought to win New Artist of the Year in my book, but they most definitely won't with a crowded field of Morris, Old Dominion, Ballerini and Cole Swindell. This could be a tough one, but Ballerini has scored a bunch of hit singles, sings well enough and might be able to pull it off.
The big one is Entertainer of the Year, a field that sports Luke Bryan, Stapleton, Underwood, Urban and Garth Brooks. For my money, Stapleton deserves it for a great album in "Traveller," his songwriting abilities, and how he is so left of center for what's out there in country today. He's exceedingly low key (if you don't believe me, check him out live), low ego (a great thing), not a rah-rah kind of guy (polar opposite of Brooks) and got a great voice.
Brooks seems to be hankering for the honor with all of his recent activity, but maybe next year as he'll have a new album, "Gunslinger," and a holiday disc out with his wife, Trisha Yearwood. Not to mention a tour that goes on and on and on and is about as good, if not better, than he has ever been.
Who will win the award? I think Stapleton could eke through, but I wouldn't be surprised if Bryan takes it as his popularity continues. Or who knows, maybe a female will take it this year.
These are just one person's thoughts. We'll see tonight what goes down. Congrats to the nominees. Lots of worthy nominees here, even if a chunk of them aren't particularly hard-core country LOL.