Is That a Grammy in Your Pocket …

Or Are You Just Excited to Be Nominated?

Ah, the symptoms of success!

Trisha Yearwood was “honored,” Diamond Rio “knock[ed] out,” Freddy Fender “blown away,” Tim McGraw “grateful” and Ralph Stanley “tickled to death.”

Within nanoseconds after the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) announced Grammy nominations Friday (Jan. 4), publicists were on their cell phones, frantically soliciting quotable reactions from the lucky artists who’d made the final cut.

Always modesty incarnate, Garth Brooks was quick to shift the spotlight when he heard that “Beer Run” had earned him and duet-partner George Jones a nomination for best country vocal collaboration. “Hats off to NARAS,” Brooks said, “for recognizing George Jones, who for me is the King of Country Music and who, at 70, sounds as good as he ever has.”

Yearwood, who also duets with Brooks from time to time, had three nominations to be excited about — best female country performance for “I Would Have Loved You Anyway,” best country vocal collaboration for “Inside Out” (with Don Henley) and best country album for Inside Out. “NARAS has been so kind to me over the past 10 years,” Yearwood reflected. “I am honored to receive the nominations this year. It is always a thrill!”

Speaking as one voice, Lonestar gave thanks for being nominated for best country vocal performance by a duo or group and for the fact that “I’m Already There,” their big hit of 2001, is up for best country song. “To this point,” they chorused, “our greatest reward has been the letters and e-mails that we have received expressing the impact that ‘I’m Already There’ has had on so many. To be given multiple Grammy nominations and to be recognized by our peers is an unbelievable start to the new year.” (Since the best country song Grammy is presented to the songwriters alone, lead singer Richie McDonald is the only member of Lonestar eligible to win the award. He co-wrote “I’m Already There” with Gary Baker and Frank Myers.)

Ailing Fender, scheduled for a kidney transplant Jan. 24, pepped up considerably when he learned that his La Musica de Baldemar Huerta was in the running for best Latin pop album. (Baldemar Huerta was Fender’s original name.) “Man, I’m blown away,” he said. “Getting to do the album with Ron and Michael Morales and all the other talented people involved was a real kick for me. And, now, the nomination — I couldn’t be happier.”

Patty Loveless reveled in the fact that Mountain Soul, her major recording in the genre, had been picked in the best bluegrass album category. “There’s just something about the Grammy awards,” she observed, noting that the nominations are made by “people from all the different kinds of music. When you hear your music has been nominated, it makes you feel like it’s being heard by the people whose lives are all about music.”

In response to Brooks & Dunn ’s “Ain’t Nothing ‘Bout You” being nominated for best country vocal performance by a duo or group, Ronnie Dunn remarked, “The Grammys are one of those mysteries where … you really never know which way they’re gonna go. You don’t even think about it. You pretend it’s not the [nominations announcement] day, so if the phone doesn’t ring, you’re not bummed out. But when it does, well, it’s pretty exciting.”

Kix Brooks agreed that the Grammy show has an allure that sets it apart. “Maybe it’s because it’s one of those shows everybody’s grown up watching on TV. Or maybe it’s because it’s all the different kinds of music. Or perhaps it’s just that you know it’s [voted on by] your peers, the people who make the records. But it is pretty cool stuff to hear you’ve been nominated.”

Up for best country album (Set This Circus Down), best male country vocal performance (“Grown Men Don’t Cry”) and best country vocal collaboration (“Bring on the Rain” with Jo Dee Messina ), Tim McGraw was thankful. “I am very grateful to the people that have made these Grammy nominations possible,” he said. “To everyone that has supported me over the course of the past year, including all of the songwriters, producers and musicians, radio, retail and, especially, our fans, thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Stanley, who is contending with McGraw in the best male country vocal performance category (“O Death”), exclaimed, “I’m tickled to death to hear this. It really surprises me. I really want to thank everybody who made all this possible.” Stanley is also in the running for best bluegrass album (Clinch Mountain Sweethearts), as well as for best album and best compilation soundtrack album as part of the musical cast of O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Asleep at the Wheel earned nominations for best country instrumental performance (“Sugar Foot Rag” with Brad Paisley ) and best country performance by a duo or group (“Ain’t Nobody Here but Us Chickens”); and Asleep leader Ray Benson pulled down another nod in the best contemporary folk album division for his part in Poet: A Tribute to Townes Van Zandt. “You know,” Benson mused, “it just seems like the more we make the music we want to and not think so much about it, the more people seem to recognize it. We’ve been very lucky over the last several years to be involved in some cool projects and with some amazing people. And from there, we’ve seen some almost unthinkable response.”

Some nominees were on hand for the announcements and afterward shared their feelings with’s Michael Gray.

Nominated for best country instrumental performance for his part in Earl Scruggs’ all-star jam, “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” Marty Stuart was humorously philosophical. “I like what [mandolinist] Sam Bush said about winning [an IBMA award] with [fellow mandolinist Ronnie McCoury] — ‘If you can’t beat a McCoury, join ‘em.’ Every time you put Earl on a record, you get nominated. But this is really as much [Earl’s son and producer] Randy’s award as anybody. Randy worked so hard to put a great album together. It’s a great song, great cast. ‘Foggy Mountain Breakdown’ shows itself as one of the most enduring and timeless hit songs in this town. It’s the national anthem of banjo songs. It first hit in ’49. It hit again in the Bonnie and Clyde movie [in 1967], won itself a Grammy [in 1969] and here we go again. It’s an oil well.”

Messina, who was nominated with McGraw in the best country vocal collaboration slot for “Bring on the Rain,” was enthusiastic. “I haven’t been involved in a lot of award shows. … So when I say it’s an honor to be nominated, it truly is an honor. I mean it from the depths of my soul. We’re out there working hard, and we’re giving it the best we can. To be nominated is a pat on the back from the industry, and that truly helps to keep you going. … This song is the most precious song I’ve recorded because of what it says and because — for the first time in three records — Tim McGraw doesn’t just produce it but performs on it as well. It has a lot of meaning to me.”

Diamond Rio scored a nomination for best country album (One More Day) and for best country performance by a duo or group with vocal, for their performance of “One More Day.” The song’s writers also drew a nod for best country song. Speaking for the group, bassist and vocalist Dana Williams proclaimed, “Getting nominated for album of the year just knocks me out. That’s a big deal. Boy, to be able to bring one of those home would tickle me to death. Maybe this is our year. … [“One More Day”] is one of those career records that you hope to have. We had one with ‘Meet in the Middle’ and a couple of others, but nothing like ‘One More Day.’ It wouldn’t hurt my feelings for it to become a standard. This song has spoken to so many people in so many different ways. It’s been able to help people get through so many situations — bad and good. Just to have our name attached to it forever is absolutely incredible. It’s like having ‘Rocky Top,’ I guess.”

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to