Maren Morris‘ GIRL, Eric Church‘s Desperate Man and Thomas Rhett’s Center Point Road are no-brainer picks as likely Grammy nominees for best country album. All three albums are nominated for album of the year at the CMA Awards on Nov. 13. All three reached No. 1 on Billboard‘s Top Country Albums chart.
This would be Church’s third album to be nominated in this category; the second in a row for Morris and Rhett.
The other two nominees for the CMA’s top album award — Dan + Shay‘s Dan + Shay and Carrie Underwood’s Cry Pretty — were eligible (but not nominated) in this Grammy category last year. That opens up two slots. Here are 10 leading candidates to take those two slots (and more, if one or more of the front-runners falters).
Tanya Tucker‘s While I’m Livin. Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings co-produced Tucker’s comeback album, which reached No. 8 on Top Country Albums. It’s Tucker’s first studio album in a decade; her first album of original material since 2002’s Tanya. Tucker has yet to win a Grammy despite 10 noms over the years.
Kane Brown‘s Experiment. Brown’s album, which reached No. 1 on Top Country Albums, is probably the highest-profile work that was passed over for a CMA nom for album of the year. That could work in its favor here, if the committee that determines the final nominees in this category sees that as an oversight or snub on the CMA’s part. Brown has yet to be nominated for a Grammy.
Luke Combs‘ The Prequel. Combs’ debut album, This One’s for You, wasn’t nominated in this category when it was eligible two years ago. It has gone on to log a near-record 48 weeks at No. 1 on Top Country Albums. The committee may seek to make amends by nominating this EP, which also reached No. 1 on Top Country Albums. Combs was nominated for best new artist earlier this year, his only Grammy nom to date.
Vince Gill‘s Okie. Gill is a 21-time Grammy winner; a four-time nominee in this category. This album reached No. 10 on Top Country Albums.
Pistol Annies‘ Interstate Gospel. This album reached No. 1 on Top Country Albums. The trio consists of Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe, both of whom are past nominees or winners in this category, and Angaleena Presley. Pistol Annies have yet to receive a Grammy nom.
Brooks & Dunn‘s Reboot. The album, which features the duo teaming with such stars as Combs and Kacey Musgraves, reached No. 1 on Top Country Albums. Brooks & Dunn, who have won two Grammys, were nominated in this category with Borderline (1996).
Willie Nelson‘s Ride Me Back Home. Nelson is a nine-time Grammy winner; a five-time nominee in this category. He won a Grammy in February for best traditional pop vocal album for My Way, his tribute to Frank Sinatra. He hasn’t won a Grammy in the country field in 12 years. This album reached No. 2 on Top Country Albums.
Trisha Yearwood‘s Every Girl. Yearwood has received eight noms in this category, more than any other artist since the category was reintroduced in 1994 after a 29-year absence. Yearwood is also entered for best traditional pop vocal album this year for Let’s Be Frank, her tribute to Sinatra. Every Girl reached No. 5 on Top Country Albums. Yearwood is a three-time Grammy winner.
George Strait‘s Honky Tonk Time Machine. Strait is a five-time nominee in this category. He has won only one Grammy in his long career. He got it in this category with Troubadour (2008). Honky Tonk Time Machine reached No. 1 on Top Country Albums.
Reba McEntire‘s Stronger Than the Truth. McEntire won best roots gospel album two years ago for Sing It Now: Songs of Faith & Hope, but she hasn’t won in the country field since 1993 when she won for “Does He Love You,” a collab with Linda Davis. McEntire, a three-time Grammy winner, was nominated in this category with Read My Mind (1994). Stronger than the Truth reached No. 4 on Top Country Albums.
Other eligible albums that reached No. 1 on Top Country Albums are Tyler Childers‘ Country Squire, Florida Georgia Line‘s Can’t Say I Ain’t Country, Cody Johnson‘s Ain’t Nothin’ to It, Midland‘s Let It Roll and Brett Young‘s Ticket to L.A.
Other eligible albums that reached the top 10 on Top Country Albums are Aaron Lewis‘ State I’m In, Justin Moore‘s Late Nights and Longnecks, Jake Owen‘s Greetings from…Jake, Dylan Scott‘s Nothing to Do Town EP, Mitchell Tenpenny‘s Telling All My Secrets and Aaron Watson‘s Red Bandana.
Morgan Evans is entered with his first U.S. album, Things That We Drink To, which reached No. 9 on Top Country Albums. Evans’ wife, Kelsea Ballerini, was nominated in this category last year with Unapologetically.
Actress Rita Wilson is entered with Halfway to Home, her fourth album.
Note: The eligibility period closed Aug. 31, a month earlier than usual, which explains the absence from this discussion of such albums as The Highwomen’s The Highwomen and Zac Brown Band‘s The Owl.
A total of 60 albums are entered this year, down from 78 last year. This is the lowest number of entries in this category since 2009, when there were 57. One reason for the drop is that this year’s eligibility period covers just 11 months. (2009 was also an 11-month eligibility year.)