In looking at the country nominees for the upcoming 58th Annual Grammy Awards, there were no major surprises. But, as is often the case, there were a few curveballs that might have thrown some industry insiders for something of a loop — along with two of the format’s most diverse talents figuring into a pair of the all-genre categories. Billboard takes a closer look at the nominations for four of the major country categories.
The best country album category was probably the easiest to predict — at least in terms of nominations. Monroe, Musgraves, and Stapleton will likely be unanimous choices for inclusion on many critics’ year-end lists — and Hunt and Little Big Town (though technically released in 2014) made huge headlines with the music involved on both records. But, ultimately, the winner whill be a little bit tougher to predict. Grammy voters love Musgraves, while Stapleton is the hot flavor right now. Monroe – also a critics’ fave – as a dark horse? Stay tuned!
Womack deservedly grabbed a lot of headlines with her excellent The Way I’m Livin’ disc, and it’s great to see her included here. That being said, nowadays you also need chart success to be a serious contender here. Underwood and Urban — with their mass appeal — shouldn’t be overlooked, but this category likely comes down to Stapleton and newcomer Cam — who turned heads with one of the most stunning vocal showcases of the year.
Best Country Duo/Group Performance
“Stay A Little Longer,” Brothers Osborne
“If I Needed You,” Joey+Rory,
“The Driver,” Charles Kelley, Dierks Bentley, and Eric Paslay
“Girl Crush,” Little Big Town,
“Lonely Tonight,” Blake Shelton and Ashley Monroe
Shelton scored with his power collaboration with one of the format’s finest voices, while Kelley struck with a stunning trio performance that nobody saw coming three months ago. Brothers Osborne has enjoyed a ton of success at radio with their single, and in the most emotional nomination among these five — a nod for Joey+Rory, who are going through wife Joey Martin Feek’s battle with terminal cervical cancer. But, the winner is likely going to be Little Big Town — for the song that created more conversations than any other in the country format over the past twelve months.
Best Country Song
“Chances Are,” Hayes Carll, songwriter (Lee Ann Womack)
“Diamond Rings and Old Barstools,” / Barry Dean, Luke Laird & Jonathan Singleton, songwriters (Tim McGraw)
“Girl Crush,” Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna & Liz Rose, songwriters (Little Big Town)
“Hold My Hand,” Brandy Clark & Mark Stephen Jones, songwriters (Brandy Clark)
“Traveller,” Chris Stapleton (Chris Stapleton)
All five are well-crafted compositions, but Stapleton fever notwithstanding, it seems likely that this award will go to to “Girl Crush” songwriters Lindsey, McKenna, and Rose, who put together a song that is still as intoxicating and emotion-pushing even after the thousandth listen.
In general, it was a big year for country music at the Grammys: Hunt and Stapleton also tallied in the best new artist and album of the year categories, respectively, while the soundtrack album for Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me earned a nod in the best compilation soundtrack for visual media category. Dave Cobb, who oversaw albums from Stapleton, Jason Isbell, and A Thousand Horses, was nominated in the overall producer of the year field.