The Grammy awards are probably the world’s most prestigious cross-genre awards in the word of music, although within country music the CMA and ACM awards hold greater weight. The significance of the Grammies has been further affected this year with the contraction in the number of categories of interest to country fans. But awards shows offer a way of taking stock once every few months regarding the genre as a whole, particularly the more mainstream end. In a few days, we’ll learn who has won this year’s awards. In the meantime, here are our predictions:
Best Country Solo Performance
This new category combines the former nods to performances by male and female vocalists.
‘Dirt Road Anthem’ – Jason Aldean
‘I’m Gonna Love You Through It’ – Martina McBride
‘Honey Bee’ – Blake Shelton
‘Mean’ – Taylor Swift
‘Mama’s Song’ – Carrie Underwood
Razor X: I can’t remember the last time I came across a more underwhelming list of nominees. “Honey Bee” is the only one on the list that I can tolerate, but it doesn’t seem like the sort of song that usually wins Grammys. I think Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood are the two real contenders here; I’ll predict that Underwood will win.
Occasional Hope: A remarkably uninspiring lineup in this category. I suppose by default my vote (if I had one) would have gone to Blake Shelton. Carrie Underwood’s song is well-meaning but bland; Martina McBride’s is the epitome of emotional manipulation; Jason Aldean’s record is horrible; and Taylor Swift’s song has nice production for once, but the lyric collapses into juvenile namecalling (and I’m afraid I’m still unimpressed by her vocal ability). That leaves Blake Shelton with a slight but not unlistenable song, making it my lukewarm favorite by default. Who will actually win it? The Grammy voting pool is a bit different from the specialist country awards shows, so I’m going to predict Taylor Swift as although Aldean has had a big breakthrough over the past couple of years, I think his lack of cross-genre name recognition will limit his appeal to voters. He, Swift and Blake Shelton all have performance slots on the show (Blake as part of a Glen Campbell tribute and Jason Aldean revisitng his duet with Kelly Clarkson), which could be an indication that the battle is between these three.
Jonathan Pappalardo: It seems as though the Grammy organization can’t win. If they go by artistic merits they’re deemed out of touch with reality. If they go with what’s popular, they’re deemed too mainstream. For my tastes these nominees are awful. There isn’t a song here I can get excited about, apart from Taylor Swift’s “Mean.” If she has to win an award this year, let it be this one.
Best Country Duo/Group Performance
This combination of old categories actually makes sense. However, it is notable – and perhaps unfortunate – that groups have been entirely cut out this time, leaving the combined category with two duos, one of them out from left field, and two one-off collaborations involving a non-country artist. Incidentally, The Band Perry is not nominated here, but is up for Best New Artist in the all-genre section of the show.
‘Don’t You Wanna Stay’ – Jason Aldean with Kelly Clarkson
‘You And Tequila’ – Kenny Chesney featuring Grace Potter
‘Barton Hollow’ – The Civil Wars
‘Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?’ – Thompson Square
OH: The Civil Wars seem to be a critical favorite, and this record is very well done. It sounds more Americana/folk than country to me (and their album has been nominated in the folk category) but it’s closer to country than Aldean’s rock ballad. I’d vote for it myself, but I think it may be a bit too obscure to win. I think it will go to Kenny Chesney and Grace Potter, which would not be an unworthy winner.
Razor X: The Grammys are often more inclined than the CMAs or ACMs to award non-commercial acts, so The Civil Wars might have a shot at winning this, but I think it should and probably will go to Chesney and Potter.
JP: All four nominees are deserving of this honor. “Barton Hollow” could sneak in a win, but I see the Grammys going more mainstream this year. While I adore Chesney and Potter, I think the combination of Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson may be too much for voters to ignore.
Best Country Song
‘Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not’ – Jim Collins & David Lee Murphy, songwriters (Thompson Square)
God Gave Me You – Dave Barnes, songwriter (Blake Shelton)
‘Just Fishin” – Casey Beathard, Monty Criswell & Ed Hill, songwriters (Trace Adkins)
‘Mean’ – Taylor Swift, songwriter (Taylor Swift)
‘Threaten Me With Heaven’ – Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Will Owsley & Dillon O’Brian, songwriters (Vince Gill)
‘You And Tequila’ – Matraca Berg & Deana Carter, songwriters (Kenny Chesney Featuring Grace Potter)
Razor X: Finally, a category with more than one choice that I like. I actually like them all except for the Thompson Square and Taylor Swift entries. “Threaten Me With Heaven” is my favorite, though, and since the Grammys have often shown a lot of love for Vince Gill, I predict that he should and will win.
JP: I agree with Razor, here. Finally, a good and substantive category. Vince Gill is a Grammy favorite so I’m inclined to say he’ll walk away with this one, but they may go with a more mainstream choice. I wouldn’t be surprised if Taylor Swift takes this home, but I’m betting on Vince Gill for the win.
OH: The charming ‘Just Fishin’ would be my choice, although I could also live with wins for ‘Threaten Me With Heaven’ or ‘You And Tequila’. Sadly, I feel the childish ‘Mean‘ will be rewarded so the Academy can pat themsleves on the back for not being “mean”.
Best Country Album
My Kinda Party – Jason Aldean
Chief – Eric Church
Own The Night – Lady Antebellum
Red River Blue – Blake Shelton
Here For A Good Time – George Strait
Speak Now – Taylor Swift
OH: George Strait is the only worthy nominee, with his best album in years up against two rock wannabes, the blandness personified that is Lady A, an okay but sub-par effort from Shelton, and pop princess Swift. Regrettably I think he is the least likely winner, but I think the prize is up for grabs by any one of the others.
Razor X: The George Strait album is the best and deserves to win. The Lady Antebellum album is a rather lifeless affair so they are probably the dark horse this time around. I wouldn’t mind a Blake Shelton win, but I just have a feeling that this one’s going to go to Taylor Swift.
JP: Any of these nominees could sneak in a win although George Strait is likely out as he doesn’t have the momentum of the other artists. I can’t see this going to Shelton either. I’m predicting a three way race between Aldean, Swift, and Lady A. I think Aldean may win this one as he won the CMA award. But I would love to see Eric Church take it home for his most consistent effort yet.
Best Americana Album
Linda Chorney, Emotional Jukebox
Ry Cooder, Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down
Emmylou Harris, Hard Bargain
Levon Helm, Ramble At The Ryman
Lucinda Williams, Blessed
Razor X: The Emmylou Harris album is the only one in this group that I’ve heard, so I’ll go with that one.
JP: No clue who’ll win here. Something tells me Levon Helm may take this home but like Razor, I’ve only heard the Emmylou Harris album. I’ll be different and pick Helm.
OH: I’m not sure about this one either, because Americana can be such an amorphous term, it’s hard to know exactly what the voters are looking for. I’m leaning towards Ry Cooder, because his record seems to have the most general acclaim.
Best Bluegrass Album
Alison Krauss and Union Station, Paper Airplane
Jim Lauderdale, Reason And Rhyme: Bluegrass Songs By Robert Hunter & Jim Lauderdale
Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, Rare Bird Alert
The Del McCoury Band, Old Memories: The Songs of Bill Monroe
Ralph Stanley, A Mother’s Prayer
Chris Thile & Michael Daves, ‘Sleep With One Eye Open’
Razor X: I thought the AKUS album was rather dull and haven’t heard the others, so I’ll just take another shot in the dark and predict that AKUS will win.
OH: I too was bored by the latest Alison Krauss effort – impeccably performed though it is. I’m going to plump for Del McCoury‘s tribute to the father of bluegrass, with youngsters Thile and Daves as the dark horse candidates.
JP: AKUS are Grammy favorites like Gill. They have a legitimate shot of winning this. But I’ll pick Steve Martin since his last album also won in this category. It’s a two way race between these two nominees.