Toby Keith, Brooks & Dunn Top ACM Nominations

They liked him then and they love him now.

Toby Keith , who last year won the Academy of Country Music’s top male vocalist and top album awards, will be holding his breath for six possible wins at this year’s ACM ceremonies. Veteran prize-gatherers Brooks & Dunn are also in the ring for six honors.

Nominations were announced Thursday (March 14) at a press conference in Los Angeles. Final winners will be revealed on the 37th annual ACM awards show, which will be broadcast Wednesday, May 22, on CBS-TV from 8 to 11 p.m., Eastern time.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the seemingly inexhaustible soundtrack album and recent multiple-Grammy winner, netted two nominations: album and vocal event of the year.

Weighing in with four nominations each were Alan Jackson , Travis Tritt and Tim McGraw . Diamond Rio and Tammy Cochran took three nods each and George Jones , Garth Brooks , Trick Pony and Nickel Creek two. Many of these multiple nominations came from the fact that the artists were cited not only for their recording and performing but for songwriting and producing as well.

Keith and Brooks & Dunn will be competing for the high-profile entertainer of the year award against Brooks, Jackson and McGraw. Last year’s winner, the Dixie Chicks , are in consideration this year only for top vocal group.

More surprising than those who were nominated are those who weren’t. Brooks’ heavily promoted Scarecrow did not make the final cut for album of the year. Lonestar ’s “I’m Already There” and Steve Holy’s “Good Morning Beautiful” failed to earn single of the year nominations despite their long residences at the top of the charts.

Neither Brooks nor George Strait was nominated for top male vocalist, leaving that field of battle to Jackson, Keith, McGraw, Tritt and Kenny Chesney . Nor is perennial-favorite Alabama among the candidates for top vocal group, which now consists of Diamond Rio, the Dixie Chicks, Lonestar, Nickel Creek and Trick Pony.

The top female vocalist category — with Sara Evans , Faith Hill , Martina McBride , Lee Ann Womack and Trisha Yearwood — contains no shockers, although Patty Loveless and Jo Dee Messina were strong possibilities.

Chris Cagle , Blake Shelton and Phil Vassar edged out equally credentialed up-and-comers Andy Griggs and Holy to take the new male vocalist ballot. Cochran, Carolyn Dawn Johnson and Cyndi Thomson occupy the new female vocalist slate.

Also missing entirely from this year’s final nominees are last year’s new-artist winners Keith Urban , Jamie O’Neal and Rascal Flatts .

As might be expected, patriotic songs and videos remain in vogue, with Jackson’s “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” Brooks & Dunn’s “Only in America” and Aaron Tippin ’s “Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly” all being spotlighted by one or more nominations. David Ball ’s “Riding With Private Malone,” however, was a voting casualty, squeezed out of the song of the year category.

Complete list of nominees

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