It turned out to be a great day for Nashville-related acts as the nominees for the 59th Annual Grammy Awards were announced Tuesday (Dec. 6) morning. While there might have been a few surprises, the dominance of Maren Morris was not one of them. The Texan hit the industry in a big way in 2016, and continued to pick up steam throughout the year. In addition to her nominations for Best Country Solo Performance, Best County Song (“My Church”) and for Best Album (Hero), she also found herself in the running for the overall Best New Artist prize. She wasn’t alone in that distinction, as fellow country newcomer Kelsea Ballerini finds herself up for that award. Sturgill Simpson also had a huge day, with a nomination for Album of the Year as well as Country Album. A look at the nominations reflect a nice mix of trend-setters current and legendary.
In a year that saw the resurgence of the female vocalist in country music, it should come as no surprise that four of the five nominees in this category are women. Clark, Lambert, and Morris have all been huge critical favorites this year, and their inclusion here is expected. Expect Morris to take this category.
Best Country Duo / Group Performance: “Different For Girls,” Dierks Bentley and Elle King; “21 Summer,” Brothers Osborne; “Setting The World On Fire,” Kenny Chesney and Pink; “Jolene,” Pentatonix featuring Dolly Parton; “Think Of You,” Chris Young and Cassadee Pope.
A nice mix of the past and the present. Collaborations that crossed genre lines are best represented (with three noms), then there’s one of the format’s rising musical duos (Brothers Osbourne) and two of the format’s top young talents in Young and Pope. But the prize will probably go to Kenny and Pink.
Best Country Song: “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” Clint Lagerberg, Hillary Lindsey, and Steven Lee Olsen; “Die A Happy Man,” Sean Douglas, Thomas Rhett, and Joe Spargur; “Humble and Kind,” Lori McKenna; “My Church,” Maren Morris and busbee; “Vice,” Miranda Lambert, Shane McAnally, and Josh Osborne.
A very competitive field that should come down to the biggest love song of the year (“Die A Happy Man”) and the winner of the CMA prize (Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind”). My early money is on the McGraw hit.
Best Country Album: Big Day In A Small Town, Brandy Clark; Full Circle, Loretta Lynn, Hero; Maren Morris; A Sailor’s Guide To Earth, Sturgill Simpson; Ripcord, Keith Urban.
One of the most musically diverse slate of nominees in this category in quite some time — two of the most critically acclaimed acts in Morris and Clark, an Americana darling in Simpson, one of the most genre-bending albums of the year in Urban, and the first album in more than a decade from the 84-year-old Lynn (proving that quality need not have an expiration date). Who will win? It’s a tough category, but think Morris’ Hero.
In other country-related nominations, Hillary Scott and The Scott Family rang up a pair of mentions in the Contemporary Christian field, while Willie Nelson earned a nod for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for his Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin disc.