Dixie Chicks, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill Lead ACM Pack

Performers Announced For The Academy of Country Music's 35th annual "Hat" Awards

The Dixie Chicks are “Ready to Run,” Tim McGraw hopes for A Place in the Sun and Faith Hill can “Breathe” more easily now that final nominations for this year’s Academy of Country Music awards have been revealed.

With five nods apiece, the Chicks, McGraw and Hill lead the pack of nominees for the ACM’s 35th annual “Hat” Awards, to be presented May 3 at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles. Winners in a dozen categories will be announced during a three-hour, prime-time special on CBS TV, produced by dick clark productions.

Martina McBride, Mark Wills, Jessica Andrews, Montgomery Gentry, Brad Paisley and SHeDAISY unveiled the final nominees Wednesday night (March 1) during the annual Country Radio Seminar at the Nashville Convention Center. They made the announcements immediately prior to an ACM-sponsored concert performance by “Hat” award nominee Alan Jackson.

After dominating the ACM Awards with four victories in both 1998 and 1999, Hill vies for Entertainer of the Year, Top Female Vocalist, Album of the Year (Breathe), Song of the Year and Country Video of the Year (both for the title track of Breathe).

Hill competes against McGraw, her husband, in three categories: Entertainer of the Year, Album of the Year (A Place in the Sun) and Song of the Year (“Please Remember Me”). His recording of that song is also up for Single Record of the Year, and McGraw will have the chance to repeat as Top Male Vocalist.

Since Hill and McGraw co-produced their nominated singles and albums, they could win additional trophies as producers.

Just last year the Dixie Chicks were named the ACM’s Top New Vocal Duo or Group. Now the high-flying Texas trio is competing for the biggie, Entertainer of the Year. The group — Natalie Maines, Martie Seidel and Emily Robison — also picked up bids for Top Vocal Duo or Group, Album of the Year (Fly), Single Record of the Year and Country Video of the Year (both for “Ready to Run”).

If the Chicks or McGraw don’t win the album award with their own titles, they still have a shot at walking away with trophies in that field. They are among the guest artists who appear on Ride With Bob, Asleep at the Wheel’s Grammy-winning tribute disc to Bob Wills, which is also up for Album of the Year.

Rounding out the album category is George Jones’ Cold Hard Truth. “Choices,” a single from that album, is in the running for Song of the Year. The Possum, who received the ACM Pioneer Award in 1993, earned a third nomination for his work with Chad Brock and Hank Williams Jr. on “A Country Boy Can Survive (Y2K Version),” which vies for Top Vocal Event of the Year.

The Academy showed its enthusiasm for newcomer Brad Paisley by nominating him in four categories. The singer’s recent No. 1 hit “He Didn’t Have to Be” — a poignant song about a child’s love for a stepparent — earned him citations for top single, song and video. Since Paisley co-wrote the tune, he could win an additional Song of the Year trophy as composer. The first-time nominee also is up for Top New Male Vocalist.

“All these nominations are very flattering,” Paisley told country.com immediately following the announcement. “The most important ones to me are the Song and Single Record of the Year nominations; getting either one of those, alone, would have been a big thrill for me. ’He Didn’t Have To Be’ is so much more a part of my artistry than anything else I’ve ever written. It’s funny, because the song was a fluke. I wasn’t looking for a hit; I just kind of stumbled upon it.

“It’s great that my co-writer, Kelley Lovelace, will be able to fly out to the show and gnash his teeth when they call out the award nominees, just like I’m going to do. The song is his story; he’s my best friend in the world.”

More than just an opportunity to win trophies, the young singer stresses the awards show serves another purpose in bringing country music to a mass audience.

“There are very few [media outlets] that cater to country music right now,” Paisley continues. “So, artists have to grab every chance they can get to play songs for people.”

Shania Twain and Sawyer Brown join the Dixie Chicks, Hill and McGraw in the Entertainer of the Year field. Reigning Entertainer of the Year Garth Brooks, who released a pop album and a Christmas collection in 1999, did not receive any nominations this year.

Like Jones, Lonestar earned three nominations. The group received one for Top Vocal Duo or Group, and its cross-over country and pop smash “Amazed” drew two, for Single and Song of the Year.

Double nominees include Asleep at the Wheel, Chad Brock, Toby Keith, Sawyer Brown, George Strait, Twain and Chely Wright.

A number of acts already have signed on to perform during the ACM awards telecast, including Kenny Chesney, Hill, Jackson, Jones, Lonestar, McBride, McGraw, Strait and Hank Williams Jr.

Following tradition, the nominees for Top New Male Vocalist (Gary Allan, Brock and Paisley), Top New Female Vocalist (Andrews, Julie Reeves and Chalee Tennison) and Top New Vocal Duo or Group (Montgomery Gentry, SHeDAISY and Yankee Grey) will perform on the show. However, this year they will make live appearances with the rest of the performers at the Universal Amphitheatre in L.A. Performances by newcomer nominees in years past have emanated from Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla.

Trace Adkins, Ray Benson (of Asleep at the Wheel), David James Elliot (from the CBS-TV series Jag), Toby Keith, Jo Dee Messina, Marie Osmond, Buck Owens, Mark Wills, Wright and Dwight Yoakam are among the presenters set to hand out awards.

Also presented on the telecast will be the Academy’s Pioneer Award, which is determined by the ACM Board of Directors.

Final nominations in seven Instrumentalist categories will be announced mid-March. The winners of those categories will be revealed about two weeks prior to the telecast.