CMA Preview: What to Expect on Awards Night

The question is not whether Alan Jackson will win any CMA awards, but simply a matter of how many. The country superstar earned a record 10 nominations for Wednesday’s (Nov. 6) ceremony.

During last year’s telecast, Jackson premiered the song “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” and the success of his corresponding album Drive parked him in seven categories this year: Entertainer, male vocalist, album, music video, single (two nods), song (two nods) and vocal event (with George Strait ).

Other entertainer nominees are Brooks & Dunn , Kenny Chesney , Toby Keith and Strait. Jackson won it in 1995; Strait in 1989 and 1990. Tim McGraw , who won the award in 2001, only scored one nomination this year, for vocal event, which he shares with Jo Dee Messina .

By removing Brooks & Dunn from the entertainer list and adding Brad Paisley , you’ll have the male vocalist nominees. Paisley earned three additional nominations for music video, song and single — all for the silly hit “I’m Gonna Miss Her (The Fishing Song).” He’ll be performing the song during the broadcast.

As heard on their current single, Brooks & Dunn’s performance of “Every River” will feature background vocals from Kim Richey , who wrote the song and included it on her 1997 album, Bitter Sweet. Bekka Bramlett will also harmonize on “Every River,” as well as on “My Town,” from Brooks & Dunn’s main competitor in the vocal duo category, Montgomery Gentry . Jeffrey Steele, who co-wrote “My Town” and sang back-up vocals (with Bramlett) on the single, joins them on stage, too. Whew!

On a simpler note, Kenny Chesney impressed the industry with his nominated album No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems. Well, now that you mention it, there is one problem: Chesney faces Jackson, Keith and Strait in every category that he’s nominated. Surprisingly, neither of his two biggest hits from that album, “Young” and “The Good Stuff,” received nominations for single, song or video.

But don’t think it’s a boys club this year. As soon as the curtain rises, Shania Twain is gonna getcha good in her first televised performance in three years. Dolly Parton will sing “Hello God” and also induct Porter Wagoner and Bill Carlisle into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Despite a whirlwind worldwide promotional tour behind her new album Cry, expect an appearance from Faith Hill , too.

Reigning CMA female vocalist Lee Ann Womack will sing “He’ll Be Back”; meanwhile, fellow 2002 female vocalist nominees Alison Krauss and Martina McBride are scheduled to sing as well. (Sara Evans and Trisha Yearwood round out the category.) Elsewhere on the ballot, Krauss’ New Favorite earned an album nomination, and McBride’s “Blessed” is up for single. Krauss and Womack also compete separately for vocal event, facing Jackson and Strait, as well as Garth Brooks and George Jones ‘ “Beer Run.”

In perhaps the tightest race, Diamond Rio , the Dixie Chicks , Lonestar , Nickel Creek and Rascal Flatts contend for vocal group. Willie Nelson may harvest two awards (for album and vocal event), while Travis Tritt (who will perform) snagged a nod for his music video “Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde.”

The Horizon award goes to the new artist who has shown the most career development. All five nominees — Carolyn Dawn Johnson , Nickel Creek, Rascal Flatts, Phil Vassar and Darryl Worley — will perform. Last year’s winner, Keith Urban , will likely show off his No. 1 smash hit, “Somebody Like You.” Finally, Kellie Coffey and Joe Nichols will sing leading into commercial breaks.

Presenters on the show include Trace Adkins , Jessica Andrews , Steve Azar, Clint Black and Lisa Hartman Black, Tracy Byrd , Deana Carter , Terri Clark , Tammy Cochran, George Jones, Loretta Lynn , Blake Shelton, Mark Wills , Trick Pony, Lonestar’s Richie McDonald and Diamond Rio’s Marty Roe. John Michael Montgomery and Chris Cagle will present awards for musician of the year and vocal event of the year, as well as the CMA broadcast awards, just prior to the start of the telecast.

Taking place at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, the 36th annual CMA Awards show will be broadcast live on CBS at 8 p.m. ET. Vince Gill , who has won more CMA awards than anyone, hosts the ceremony for the 11th consecutive year.

Craig Shelburne has been writing for CMT.com since 2002. He is also a producer for CMT Edge, Concrete Country and Live @ CMT.