Bluegrass, folk, and Americana artists no longer compete here as they know have their own field: “American roots”. The result is a group of nominees that are strictly country, though some of them do have pop, rock, or blues influences.
Chris Stapleton dominates the field with three nods. Ashley Monroe and Little Big Town are in twice. The rest of the nominees only appear once.
Let’s take a look at the odds foreach category:
- Chris Stapleton — Traveller
- Carrie Underwood — Little Toy Guns
- Cam — Burning House
- Keith Urban — John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16
- LeeAnn Womack — Chances Are
Album of the Year (AOTY)-nominee Chris Stapleton surprisingly swept the Country Music Association Awards (CMA) last November and is currently up for four awards at the Academy of Country Music Awards (ACM). Everybody in Nashville is crazy about him and contrary to what many people think, he is not a new artist. Stapleton is like “the Sia of country” having written songs for Luke Bryan, Tim McGraw and Patty Loveless, to name a few.
But competing against him is 7-time winner Carrie Underwood with the hit “Little Toy Guns”. In this four year-old category, Underwood has won twice but this could be the first time she’s beaten here.
Emerging artist Cam has been acclaimed for “Burning House” but she might be considered too pop for a win. Keith Urban was a regular in the Male Country Performance category and won four times but hasn’t got anything since his last award in 2011. LeeAnn Womack had been a constant nominee but her first and so far only award came from a collaboration with Willie Nelson in 2003.
Best Country Duo/Group Performance
- Little Big Town — Girl Crush
- Joey + Rory — If I Needed You
- Blake Shelton and Ashley Monroe — Lonely Tonight
- Charles Kelley, Dierks Bentley and Eric Paslay — The Driver
- Brothers Osborne — Stay A Little Longer
Unlike in its pop counterpart where collaborations have prevailed, all the winners of this category had been groups and that does not seem to be changing this year.
The front-runners are Little Big Town. This trio already won this category in 2014 for their smash hit “Pontoon”. “Girl Crush” was one of the best-selling country singles of the year and is also in the running for Song of the Year (SOTY). Despite this, there could be a different outcome.
Academy members may give the award to the husband/wife duo Joey + Rory because of all the struggle they’ve been going to this last year due to Joey’s terminal cancer. They also had one of the most acclaimed country albums of the year.
Furthermore, if a collaboration wins it will be “Lonely Tonight” by Blake Shelton and Ashley Monroe. This song was also a big country hit and was nominated for “Musical/Vocal Event of the Year” at the CMAs and ACMs last year losing both. Shelton had been nominated every year since 2011 but is yet to win. This is Monroe’s first appearance in the awards.
The other two nominees have very slim chances. Dierks Bentley had been in the GRAMMYs radar for years without luck. Brothers Osborne received major airplay in country stations but they are still too new and this is their first nomination.
Best Country Song
- Girl Crush — Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose (Little Big Town)
- Traveller — Chris Stapleton
- Hold My Hand — Brandy Clark and Mark Stephen Jones (Brandy Clark)
- Diamond Rings and Old Barstools — Barry Dean, Luke Laird and Jonathan Singleton (Tim McGraw)
- Chances Are — Hayes Carll (LeeAnn Womack)
The absolute winner here has to be “Girl Crush”. Basically being nominated for SOTY guarantees a win here. And not only that, songwriters Hilary Lindsey and Liz Rose are the only former winners competing this year. Lindsey won for “Jesus, Take the Wheel” in 2007 which was also up for SOTY. Rose won for co-writing Taylor Swift’s “White Horse” in 2010. “Girl Crush” also won the CMA for Song of the Year.
The only other song that could upset is “Traveller” if Chris Stapleton gets enough support and ends up sweeping the country field.
Brandy Clark (“Hold My Hand”) and Luke Laird (for Tim McGrawn’s “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools) are nominated in this category for the third year in a row with no luck. Hayes Carll, the writer for LeeAnn Womack’s “Chances Are” is a first-time Grammy nominee. Womack’s songs are quite common in this category but her last win dates back to 2001 for the unforgettable hit “I Hope You Dance”.
Best Country Album
- Chris Stapleton — Traveller
- Kacey Musgraves — Pageant Material
- Little Big Town — Pain Killer
- Ashley Monroe — The Blade
- Sam Hunt — Montevallo
Stapleton may lose Best Country Song and his chances at solo performance are not the greatest but Country Album is a shoo-in, mainly because it is nominated for AOTY. The only two Country/AOTY-nods that failed to win this category were Shania Twain’s Come On Over and Taylor Swift’s Red and both of them lose because they were not country enough, they had pop songs. Voters in this field are very protective of the traditional country sounds and Stapleton’s Traveller is a very traditional, old-school country album.
Kacey Musgraves is the only former winner (and nominee) in Country Album. She won two years ago for her debut LP and though Pageant Material is also among the best albums of the year, it is nearly impossible she could beat Stapleton. And if she does, she’ll become the artist who managed to beat two AOTY-nominees in the country field.
Sam Hunt is ranked last because of the reasons mentioned above. This new style of country music (bro-country) that blends rock and hip-hop hadn’t fit well among the more conservative voters, and that is the reason why bigger stars like Florida Georgia Line or Luke Bryan are still GRAMMY-less. Hunt’s nomination for his debut album Montevallo was actually very surprising.
What do you think? Who are going to be the winners in the country field?