Country pickin’: Trying to predict the CMA Awards winners

[7 November 2007]

By Jon Bream

Star Tribune (Minneapolis) (MCT)

Jamie Foxx, Kid Rock and Jewel are all part of country music’s biggest night. Go figure. An Oscar-winning actor who also makes R&B recordings, a Yankee redneck rappin’ rocker and a folkie whose previous album was dance rock.

Country’s boundaries may have broadened—or maybe it’s just about what makes good TV. Whatever it is, we asked two people who know country to help make sense of the Country Music Association Awards being broadcast Wednesday on ABC (8 p.m. EST).

Jay DeMarcus not only plays bass for Rascal Flatts but he’s a CMA board member. Even though Rascal Flatts has won the Horizon Award and best vocal group, the trio hasn’t been a CMA favorite in major categories. “There have been disappointing moments at the CMA Awards; at times, we felt we deserved to win album of the year or whatever, but people vote their hearts,” DeMarcus said, sounding magnanimous. “At the end of the day, you have to accept that.”

Chris Carr will come home from Nashville with a CMA trophy. Afternoon-drive DJ for Minneapolis-St. Paul country station K102, Carr has been named major-market radio personality of the year.

Here are our predictions:

ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR

Nominees: Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, George Strait, Keith Urban.

DeMarcus thinks Chesney will win “based on the sheer number of tickets he’s sold and what he’s been able to do in stadiums this year. He’s really kicked a—this year.” Carr agrees: “Chesney works for this.”

I’d vote for Paisley, who had the best all-around country show I saw in the past year. I haven’t seen Urban’s, but I think the trophy will go to last year’s winner, Chesney.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Nominees: “Long Night Alone,” Dierks Bentley; “These Days,” Vince Gill; “5th Gear,” Brad Paisley; “It Just Comes Natural,” George Strait; “Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing,” Keith Urban.

“I’m going to go with `Me and My Gang,’ Rascal Flatts,” DeMarcus said without hesitation. What? That’s not even nominated. “I know,” he said. “It’s ridiculous. I can’t even vote in that category. That’s a tough one.”

Indeed, it is a tough category. Carr’s take is that Paisley’s disc is too recent to gain widespread support, Strait’s has received the most radio play but he guesses Urban will win.

Gill would get my vote for the most ambitious country album ever by a single artist—four discs of new material and not one bad song—but he’s kind of passe. Look for the versatile and widely admired Paisley to snare this for the second straight year.

SINGLE OF THE YEAR

Nominees: “Lost in This Moment,” Big & Rich; “Anyway,” Martina McBride; “Ticks,” Brad Paisley; “Wrapped,” George Strait; “Before He Cheats,” Carrie Underwood.

“You can’t vote against George Strait,” DeMarcus said. “He’s been so good for so long that it seems like a no-brainer.”

Carr and I must be brainless then: We both go with Underwood’s “Before He Cheats,” which is the “American Idol” winner’s biggest—and best—single yet. “It has to be the most requested song on any country station,” Carr said. “Carrie Underwood is on a roll.”

HORIZON AWARD

Nominees: Jason Aldean, Rodney Atkins, Little Big Town, Kellie Pickler, Taylor Swift.

DeMarcus picks Aldean as the CMA’s rookie of the year “because he’s been on the road with us—and he’s really good, too; he’s been really consistent.”

Carr and I feel strongly about Swift, the teen newcomer whose self-titled CD spent more time at No. 1 this year than any other country album. “She’s awesome,” Carr said. “You’re 16, 17, and you’re writing music that charts that well. What better award for her?”

CMA AWARDS

Performers: the Eagles, Rascal Flatts with Jamie Foxx, Rodney Atkins, Big & Rich, Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire with LeAnn Rimes, Brad Paisley, George Strait, Sugarland, Taylor Swift, Josh Turner, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban.

When: 8 p.m. EST Wed., ABC

Web: www.cmaawards.com

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/article/country-pickin-trying-to-predict-the-cma-awards-winners/