Say Their Names, Say Their Names

How Will Nominees Fare at 43rd Grammy Awards?

LOS ANGELES — What’s the big deal about

Last year’s Grammy Awards show included a
performance of a song about spousal abuse and
murder and nobody got very bent out of shape.

The difference, of course, is that the Dixie Chicks
performed “Goodbye Earl” with tongues in cheek,
simultaneously debuting a comic video starring
Dennis Franz. Eminem, who will appear with Elton
John during this year’s show, spews hate broadly,
and with vulgarity thick enough to make a sailor

Honestly, there won’t be as much for country fans to love this year when the 43rd
Annual Grammy Awards
are handed out beginning at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday,
during a live CBS broadcast from the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.
Faith Hill, who appeared last year, is coming back to sing “Breathe,” nominated
for Song of the Year, and Dolly Parton and Brad Paisley, both nominated for
Grammys, will share a brief moment in the spotlight.

Paisley is up for one of the big awards of the night — Best New Artist. If he wins,
expect him to say something about how much he loves traditional country music.
And expect many of the folks in the Staples Center to scratch their heads,
wondering just who the polite guy in the western-cut suit is. The only country
artist ever to win the new artist trophy was LeAnn Rimes in 1997.

Herewith, a few predictions — not personal favorites, predictions. Feel free, in
water-cooler debates, to counter with your own:

Record of the Year

  • Say My Name – Destiny’s Child
  • I Try – Macy Gray
  • Music – Madonna
  • Bye Bye Bye – NSync
  • Beautiful Day – U2

Reports say that Madonna has agreed to open the show Wednesday night with
“Music.” Though she has won five Grammys, none were in the prestigious
general categories. She breaks through this year.

Album of the Year

  • Midnite Vultures – Beck
  • The Marshall Mathers LP – Eminem
  • Kid A – Radiohead
  • You’re The One – Paul Simon
  • Two Against Nature – Steely Dan

Ignored by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences when they
were doing their best work in the early ’70s, Steely Dan gets the Academy’s
better-late-than-never treatment, in recent years afforded artists such as Eric
Clapton and Santana. And when Walter Becker and Donald Fagen take the
trophy, they put to rest — more or less — all the furor over Eminem’s nomination
in this category. Oh, Eminem will win two Grammys, for Best Rap Solo and Best
Rap Album, categories he won awards for last year.

Song of the Year

  • “Beautiful Day” – U2
  • “Breathe” – Stephanie Bentley & Holly Lamar
  • “I Hope You Dance” – Mark D. Sanders & Tia Sillers
  • “I Try” – Macy Gray, Jinsoo Lim, Jeremy Ruzumna & David Wilder
  • “Say My Name” – LaShawn Daniels, Fred Jerkins III, Rodney Jerkins,
    Beyoncé Knowles, LeToya Luckett, LaTavia Roberson & Kelendria Rowland

Having two songs from Music City in the running speaks well for Nashville’s
creative community, but it also splits the vote. “I Hope You Dance” is superior to
anything on the list, but Macy Gray’s “I Try,” with its old-school groove, wins

Best New Artist

  • Shelby Lynne
  • Brad Paisley
  • Papa Roach
  • Jill Scott
  • Sisqó

Lynne hardly seems like a new artist to country fans, and Sisqo has been around
awhile as a founding member of the group Dru Hill. Country audiences will pull for
Brad Paisley, the CMA’s Horizon Award winner and newly inducted member of
the Grand Ole Opry, but his problem is name recognition outside the field. Since
none of the other candidates had a more successful — or silly — song than
Sisqo’s “Thong Song,” he should win.

Best Female Country Vocal

  • “Breathe” – Faith Hill
  • “That’s The Way ” – Jo Dee Messina
  • “Travelin’ Prayer ” – Dolly Parton
  • “I Hope You Dance” – Lee Ann Womack
  • “Real Live Woman” – Trisha Yearwood

Faith Hill wins here. While I don’t think “Breathe” is strong enough to win the
all-genre Song of the Year prize, its crossover success gives Hill a high profile,
which counts when Grammy voters — many less familiar with country artists —
begin filling out their ballots. Womack’s recording is the class of the bunch,

Best Male Country Vocal

  • “Solitary Man” – Johnny Cash
  • “Feels Like Love ” – Vince Gill
  • “One Voice” – Billy Gilman
  • “My Best Friend” – Tim McGraw
  • “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere” – Dwight Yoakam

Three years ago, when Johnny Cash won Country Album of the Year, someone
at his record company took out a Billboard ad with a photo of a younger Cash in
which he appeared to flip the bird at Music Row. Better dust off the ad. Cash’s
cover of Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man” is the most substantive offering here. Only
perennial Grammy favorite Gill could challenge him.

Best Country Performance by a Vocal Duo or Group

  • “Twentieth Century” – Alabama
  • “Cherokee Maiden” – Asleep at the Wheel
  • “You’ll Always Be Loved By Me” – Brooks & Dunn
  • “Woody’s Roundup” – Riders in the Sky
  • “Jimmy’s Got a Girlfriend” – The Wilkinsons

By virtue of its appearance in Toy Story 2, “Woody’s Roundup” will be familiar to
many Grammy voters, even if Riders in the Sky are not. This is a toss-up
between Ranger Doug’s boys and Ray Benson’s Asleep at the Wheel. Benson
stays active in Grammy politics. Give it to Asleep at the Wheel.

Best Country Vocal Collaboration

  • “Strong Enough” – Sheryl Crow & The Dixie Chicks
  • “When I Look Into Your Heart” – Vince Gill & Amy Grant
  • “Let’s Make Love” – Faith Hill & Tim McGraw
  • “Walk Softly” – Ricky Skaggs & The Dixie Chicks
  • “Murder on Music Row” – George Strait & Alan Jackson

Because Grammy voters tend to favor a more middle-of-the-road brand of
country, Strait and Jackson are a long shot to repeat their CMA victory for
collaboration. With two nominations, the Dixie Chicks could split their votes, but
their collaboration on a Bill Monroe tune with Grammy favorite Skaggs should
make for the most powerful entry here.

Best Country Instrumental Performance

  • “Leaving Cottondale” – Alison Brown With Béla Fleck
  • “Ode to a Butterfly” – Nickel Creek
  • “The Second Mouse” – Tim O’Brien & Darrell Scott
  • “Rollercoaster” – Keith Urban
  • “Bloodlines” – Steve Wariner & Ryan Wariner

Let’s go with the sentimental favorite: Steve Wariner and his son, high school
senior Ryan Wariner. Steve was part of last year’s winning entry in this category
— “Bob’s Breakdowns” from the Asleep at the Wheel tribute to Bob Wills. Nickel
Creek will win Grammys someday, but not yet.

Best Country Song

  • “Breathe” – Stephanie Bentley & Holly Lamar
  • “Feels Like Love” – Vince Gill
  • “I Hope You Dance” – Mark D. Sanders & Tia Sillers
  • “One Voice” – Don Cook & David Malloy
  • “The Way You Love Me” – Michael Delaney & Keith Follesé

The country bloc will be strongly behind “I Hope You Dance.” It wins. Wouldn’t it
be something, though, if Vince Gill were to sneak by “Breathe” and “I Hope You
Dance” — both nominated in the big Song of the Year category?

Best Country Album

  • Let’s Make Sure We Kiss Goodbye – Vince Gill
  • Breathe – Faith Hill
  • Under the Influence – Alan Jackson
  • I Hope You Dance – Lee Ann Womack
  • Real Live Woman – Trisha Yearwood

My head keeps telling me Faith Hill, with all her mainstream popularity, wins
this, but my heart says go with Lee Ann Womack, who made a better album.
Give it to Lee Ann.

Best Bluegrass Album

  • Fair Weather – Alison Brown
  • Murder on Music Row – Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time
  • Nickel Creek – Nickel Creek
  • The Grass Is Blue – Dolly Parton
  • Big Mon – The Songs of Bill Monroe – Ricky Skaggs & Friends

Parton’s album captured top-album honors at this year’s International Bluegrass
Music Association Awards, which suggests that the bluegrass world is solidly
behind her. Skaggs is tough competition — Parton sings “Cry, Cry, Darlin'” on his
album — but Dolly takes the trophy.

Best Contemporary Folk Album

  • Mermaid Avenue Vol. II – Billy Bragg & Wilco
  • American III: Solitary Man – Johnny Cash
  • Transcendental Blues – Steve Earle
  • Red Dirt Girl – Emmylou Harris
  • Crossing Muddy Waters – John Hiatt

Folks in Nashville are proud of this category, stacked as it is with the crème of
local talent: Cash, Earle, Harris and Hiatt. The Bragg/Wilco project is fine,
though the first installment drew more attention than this follow-up. Winner of
nine Grammys, a Lifetime Achievement award and Grammy Hall of Fame Awards
for “I Walk the Line” and “Folsom Prison Blues” (this year), Cash stands on a
mountain by himself. None of his competitors will begrudge him his victory.