As most year-end critics' lists will undoubtedly proclaim, 2013 has been a year where newcomer Kacey Musgraves has dazzled with a sound that is both traditional and irreverent. That being said, it's little surprise that the singer finished prominently in the Grammy nominations announcement Friday night.
The Texas native ended up with four -- Best Country Album ("Same Trailer Different Park"), Best Country Song (two nominations for writing "Merry Go 'Round," her breakthrough hit, as well as Miranda Lambert's "Mama's Broken Heart"), and the overall Best New Artist category. Again, what might be the most surprising thing concerning her nominations tally is the fact that her biggest hit thus far, "Merry Go 'Round," only made it to No. 10 on the Country Airplay chart. Still, Musgraves has been on the lips of every critic in 2013, and her excellence was justly rewarded.
It was also another big night for Taylor Swift, who scored with nominations for "Begin Again" in the Best Country Song category, as well as for Country Album of the Year for Red, which also was included in the overall Album category. Swift also was a key part of Tim McGraw's "Highway Don't Care," which scored a nod for Best Country Duo / Group Performance alongside Keith Urban.
Lee Brice – an artist who has been hard-at-work building his career for quite some time – found himself mentioned for Best Country Solo Performance for his emotional "I Drive Your Truck" single, which also was celebrated in the Song of the Year category for writers Connie Harrington, Jessi Alexander, and Jimmy Yeary. Interestingly enough, Harrington and Alexander gained a pair of nominations in the Song category for co-writing "Mine Would Be You" with Deric Ruttan. That means that four writers (Harrington, Alexander, Musgraves, and Shane McAnally) wound up with multiple nominations for their writing. You might sometimes see one writer with a pair of songs, but four is quite interesting to see.
Several veteran acts also had reason to smile. Tim McGraw notched a pair of nominations – including one for Two Lanes Of Freedom in the Country Album of the Year category. While the singer has never lost his commercial touch, the reviews for his Big Machine debut set were among the strongest of his two-decade career.
Vince Gill – a longtime Grammy favorite with 20 wins during his career, is in the running for Best Country Duo / Group Performance for his participation on "Don't Rush" with Kelly Clarkson, as was Kenny Rogers – who capped off a spectacular year with a nod for "You Can't Make Old Friends," with longtime collaborator Dolly Parton. Rogers was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame this year, and also won the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award at the CMA Awards last month.
The biggest surprise of the evening was the omission of Ashley Monroe among the nominees. Along with Musgraves, the Warner Brothers artist was probably the critical darling of 2013 for her "Like A Rose" set. However, Monroe's lack of radio play combined with the Grammys' decision to scale back on the number of categories in each genre last year likely had a great deal to do with that. It was also surprising -- given their successes this year -- not to see Carrie Underwood or Florida Georgia Line in the announcement list. All in all, an interesting night for some of the format's top stars that makes for some interesting water cooler talk in Music City – and Country fans everywhere through February.