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ACM awards: safe nominations lead to surprises

Country Standard Time Editorial, November 1995

Just when it seemed hard to believe that anyone else existed in country music besides the likes of Garth, Reba, Brooks & Dunn and Shania Twain, up to the plate steps Alison Krauss.

And Krauss belted a grand slam at the recent Country Music Association awards held in Nashville.

Krauss' showing along with a few others were most welcome for a number of reasons. Krauss is really known as a bluegrass performer, which she has done since a young teen. The Illinois native was quit content to stick to her bluegrass roots.

But now she has hit country big time with the four awards for female vocalist of the year, the horizon award, single of the year and event of the year.

Besides the awards going to a performer who deserves it - Krauss is one mean fiddler and has the sweetest of voices - these awards are refreshing for a number of reasons.

The performance of Krauss was indicative that this was not the typical awards show where the tried and true always seem to win.

And that's certainly refreshing for country music where it is increasingly hard for artists such as Krauss to make a dent. Too often, the commercially-oriented artists capture the market in airplay and awards.

Besting the likes of Reba, Pam Tillis and Mary-Chapin Carpenter for female vocalist of the year were a pleasant indication that maybe, just maybe, the powers that be in country are willing to listen to something a little bit out of the ordinary.

The Mavericks may have done well this year commercially and critically, but The Mavs are not your typical country act. They don't play by the numbers with their retro-, Roy Orbison-sounding country sound. For those interested in paint-by-the numbers music, skip The Mavs. They beat such mainstream acts as Diamond Rio and BlackHawk for vocal group of the year.

Patty Loveless mines the more traditional, ballad side of country. She received album of the year for her efforts, knocking off such heavyweights as George Strait, Vince Gill and Alan Jackson. Loveless certainly deserved the recognition.

One final kudo goes to Gretchen Peters' "Independence Day" for song of the year. Country isn't supposed to - by tradition anyway - deal with such weighty topics as domestic abuse. It's glad to see that such efforts can receive the proper recognition.

One point raised by the CMAs was the lack of vocal duos. Brooks & Dunn have the category to themselves with the Wiggins and Sweethearts of the Rodeo offering little real competition. Brother Phelps received a nod even though they are now label-less.

While the nominations raised some questions for the failure to advance beyond the safety zone, the CMA certainly did not make safe choices when it came to doling out the awards. Congratulations to not only the winners, but the CMA as well.