Tapped today (Jan. 3) for a Grammy nomination in the prestigious Best New Artist category, Brad Paisley’s thoughts turned to what the honor could mean for country music.
“I play traditional country music. I’m not a crossover act,” the West Virginia native said after helping announce this year’s nominations at a Nashville news conference. “I’m not somebody who’s out there being played in any other format … and yet, I’m in this category. So that says something about the power of our format.”
Also making a statement about country music’s broad emotional appeal were two nominations for Song of the Year. Faith Hill’s crossover hit, “Breathe,” and Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance” — the Country Music Association’s Song of the Year — will compete for the honor against U2’s “Beautiful Day,” Macy Gray’s “I Try” and Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name.” The award would go to the songwriters: Stephanie Bentley and Holly Lamar for “Breathe” and Mark D. Sanders and Tia Sillers for “I Hope You Dance.”
Paisley, who captured the CMA’s Horizon Award in October, is up for Best New Artist along with country-turned-pop singer Shelby Lynne (who first charted in 1988 but has never had a Grammy nomination), R&B favorites Sisqo and Jill Scott and rock group Papa Roach. LeAnn Rimes is the only country artist to win the award.
The 43rd Annual Grammy Awards will be presented Feb. 21 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Nominations were announced simultaneously at press conferences in New York, Nashville and Los Angeles. Paisley, Trisha Yearwood and Christian artist Rebecca St. James made the Nashville announcements.
Vince Gill is the most-nominated country artist in this year’s voting, with four nods. He’s up for Best Male Country Vocal and Best Country Song (“Feels Like Love”); Best Country Album (Let’s Make Sure We Kiss Goodbye); and Best Country Vocal Collaboration (“When I Look Into Your Eyes” with expectant wife Amy Grant). Gill has won 14 Grammys previously, tying him with Chet Atkins for most wins by a country artist.
“All this, and a baby three weeks later,” Gill said, referring to Grant’s due date in March. “Life is pretty sweet.”
Hill, who has never won a Grammy, has three nominations, for Best Female Country Vocal (“Breathe”); Best Country Album (Breathe); and Best Country Vocal Collaboration (“Let’s Make Love” with husband Tim McGraw).
Ricky Skaggs also boasts three nominations. His Big Mon: The Songs of Bill Monroe is up for Best Bluegrass Album, while a track from the album, “Walk Softly,” featuring Skaggs and the Dixie Chicks, has a nomination for Best Country Collaboration With Vocals. Skaggs also is up for Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album, for his gospel work Soldier of the Cross.
Vying with Gill for Best Male Country Vocal are Johnny Cash (“Solitary Man”); Billy Gilman, (“One Voice”); Tim McGraw (“My Best Friend”); and Dwight Yoakam (for an acoustic version of his 1993 hit, “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere”).
“Breathe,” “I Hope You Dance” and Gill’s “Feels Like Love” are in the running for Best Country Song, along with Billy Gilman’s “One Voice,” written by Don Cook and David Malloy; and Hill’s “The Way You Love Me,” written by Michael Delaney and Keith Follesé.
Country Female Vocal nominees include Hill; Womack for “I Hope You Dance”; Jo Dee Messina for “That’s the Way”; Dolly Parton for “Travelin’ Prayer,” a track from her bluegrass album; and Yearwood for “Real Live Woman.”
Nods for Country Album went to Gill’s Let’s Make Sure We Kiss Goodbye; Hill’s Breathe; Alan Jackson’s Under the Influence; Womack’s I Hope You Dance and Yearwood’s Real Live Woman.
Reached by mobile phone in Miami, where she will sing “I Hope You Dance” during halftime at tonight’s Orange Bowl, Womack said she was most excited about the nod for Best Country Album.
“It recognizes a whole work, not just the hits,” she explained. “When I record, I consider how all the songs work together as a whole, rather than just collecting a bunch of singles in one place to make an album. Plus, I’m a team player. I like to celebrate with others, and for this nomination I get to celebrate with everyone involved with the entire project, including my husband, who was one of the producers.”
The Dixie Chicks are nominated twice for Best Country Vocal Collaboration, for their work with Skaggs and for their pairing with Sheryl Crow on her album Live From Central Park. Also up for vocal collaboration honors are Gill and Grant, Hill and McGraw and George Strait and Alan Jackson for “Murder on Music Row.”
The Chicks are not in the running this year for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal, a category they won last year. This year’s field includes Alabama for “Twentieth Century”; Asleep at the Wheel for “Cherokee Maiden”; Brooks & Dunn for “You’ll Always Be Loved by Me”; Riders in the Sky for “Woody’s Roundup,” a track from the Toy Story 2 soundtrack; and the Wilkinsons for “Jimmy’s Got a Girlfriend.”
Bluegrass Album nominations went to Alison Brown, Fair Weather; Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time, Murder on Music Row; Nickel Creek, Nickel Creek; Dolly Parton, The Grass Is Blue; and Ricky Skaggs & Friends, Big Mon: The Songs of Bill Monroe.
Steve Wariner and his son, Ryan Wariner, share a nomination for Best Country Instrumental Performance, for “Bloodlines,” a track from Wariner’s Faith in You album. Also vying in the instrumental field are Alison Brown with Béla Fleck, “Leaving Cottondale”; Nickel Creek, “Ode to a Butterfly”; Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott, “The Second Mouse”; and Keith Urban, “Rollercoaster.”
Country-related artists also made appearances in other award categories. Johnny Cash, Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris, for instance, have nominations for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Norman Blake and Jo-El Sonnier each earned a nomination for Best Traditional Folk Album. Willie Nelson’s Milk Cow Blues is up for Best Traditional Blues Album, while Nelson’s Teatro is up for Best Long Form Music Video. Ex-New Grass Revival member Béla Fleck and his group, The Flecktones, are nominated for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. Alison Krauss and fellow fiddle ace Mark O’Connor are up for Best Classical Crossover Album. Reba McEntire’s “What Do You Say” clip is up for Best Short Form Music Video; the award also will go to Nashville-based directors Robert Deaton and George Flanigen and to co-producer Steve Lamar.
The 43rd Annual Grammy Awards will be broadcast live by CBS. Performers and presenters will be announced during the coming weeks.
Michael Gray and Lisa Young contributed to this story.