Picking the winners of the Country Music Association awards is almost foolhardy, but that is no barrier.
So, here goes...
Entertainer of the Year nominees are Garth Brooks, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Chris Stapleton and Keith Urban.
My pick is Stapleton for putting out a top notch CD this year ("From a Room: Volume 1") with another on the way next month. He is the real deal, not necessarily hard-core country as he mines a bluesy sound, but he has a superb voice and is a no frills artist. That can't be said for some of the others. Brooks may have received the honor of being nominated for his long-running world tour and just coming back into action. He is definitely quite the entertainer.
Church seems to fall short against the others in terms of having a chance of winning - not that he wouldn't be deserving as well with much growth as a performer and putting out a series of excellent albums.
Bryan and Urban aren't out of the running, though I can't say that I've ever been a big fan of their brands of country.
For Single of the Year, the competition is among Little Big Man for "Better Man," Urban for "Blue Ain't Your Color," Sam Hunt's "Body Like a Back Rood," Jon Pardi's "Dirt on My Boots" and Miranda Lambert's "Tin Man."
I go with "Tin Man," a most heartfelt song that focuses on Lambert's fine vocal skills and emotion. "Body" isn't exactly a country song - Hunt would even acknowledge that information. Of course, it would be no surprise if the song did win, especially considering its record-setting run at number one. Pardi did well simply to be nominated. Good song from a good album, although it still would be better if Pardi went more country than rock.
Tough race for Album of the Year - Little Big Town for "The Breaker," Stapleton for "From a Room: Volume 1," Lady Antebellum for "Heart Break," Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit for "The Nashville Sound" and Lambert for "The Weight of These Wings."
The most unusual nomination by far was Isbell. He's not even attending the awards and has nothing to do with the rest of country music. Fine album and an excellent artist on CD and live. How he got nominated is a head scratcher, and that has nothing to do with quality. He is not going to win.
Lambert is most deserving for an expansive, diverse, double CD that gets better and better with repeated listen. The CD is evidence of her proclivity to go her own way, calling her own shots. Of course, if Stapleton won, that would be understandable as well. Lady A's album was a good one, though only if considering an expansive definition of country.
And let the Lambert love affair continue as here's hoping she wins Female Vocalist of the Year with Kelsea Ballerini, Reba McEntire, Maren Morris and Carrie Underwood vying for the honor. I just can't say enough about Lambert as a singer and her growth as a performer. She has grown on both counts. I'm not sure how Ballerini was nominated considering her debut came out a few years ago. Morris has done well for herself, even though it didn't quite do it for me based on the quality of the songs.
On the Male Vocalist of the Year side, I'll go with Stapleton, though if Church won, that'd be just fine as well. Urban, Thomas Rhett and Dierks Bentley also were nominated. Stapleton is the best male vocalist out there bar none. No one has his soul and grit, and while not part of the reason for this particular award, he also knows how to write songs.
If Florida Georgia Line or Brothers Osborne won't win the Vocal Duo honor, then it's time to call for a check of the ballots. Maddie & Tae should not have been nominated - I like them, but it's been a few years of no new material. Dan + Shay and LOCASH don't stack up to the others. Let's hope for the Osborne boys as they proved themselves to be excellent live both plying and singing. FGL hasn't necessarily always swept the awards, but they'd be hard to deny on sheer commercial success.
That's the quick rundown and only one person's opinion (yes, opinion!) on what ought to be. What will be...tune in tonight.