(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/CMT.com Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)
The 48th annual Grammy Awards on Wednesday (Feb. 8) should produce the gala affair’s usual mix of upsets and pleasant surprises. I don’t know anyone who’s ever picked all the winners in the major categories, let alone in all of the 108 categories that now exist (hello, “Surround Sound Album,” category 93). That said, why don’t we take a look at the categories that matter to smart and cultured folks like you and me who love country music, and let’s make some educated guesses.
Country Song (awarded to songwriters): ”Alcohol,” Brad Paisley, (Brad Paisley); ”All Jacked Up,” Vicky McGehee, John Rich and Gretchen Wilson, (Gretchen Wilson); ”Bless the Broken Road,” Bobby Boyd, Jeff Hanna and Marcus Hummon, (Rascal Flatts); ”I Hope,” Keb’ Mo’, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines and Emily Robison, (Dixie Chicks); ”I May Hate Myself in the Morning,” O. Blackmon, (Lee Ann Womack). Should win: “I May Hate Myself in the Morning.” Will win: “I Hope.” The Grammy voting crowd continues to adore the Chicks. (Grammy voting ended before Natalie Maines’ latest “I hate country music” outburst, not that it would have mattered.)
Country Album: Fireflies, Faith Hill; Lonely Runs Both Ways, Alison Krauss & Union Station; Time Well Wasted, Brad Paisley; All Jacked Up, Gretchen Wilson; Jasper County, Trisha Yearwood. Should win: Time Well Wasted Will win: All Jacked Up. Gretchen picked up her first Grammy last year for her performance of “Redneck Woman.” And it won’t be her last.
Female Country Vocal Performance: ”The Connection,” Emmylou Harris; ”Mississippi Girl,” Faith Hill; ”All Jacked Up,” Gretchen Wilson; ”I May Hate Myself in the Morning,” Lee Ann Womack; ”Georgia Rain,” Trisha Yearwood. Should win: “I May Hate Myself in the Morning.” Will win: “I May Hate Myself in the Morning.” Traditional-minded voters remember the still-vibrant glories of trad country.
Male Country Vocal Performance: ”Funny How Time Slips Away,” George Jones; ”As Good As I Once Was,” Toby Keith; ”Midnight Communion,” Delbert McClinton; ”Good Ol’ Boys,” Willie Nelson; ”Alcohol,” Brad Paisley; ”You’ll Think of Me,” Keith Urban. Should win: “Midnight Communion.” Will win: “You’ll Think of Me.” Keith won the crowd and the Grammy voters over with his live performance last year.
Country Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal: “Comin’ to Your City,” Big & Rich; “Play Something Country,” Brooks & Dunn; “I Hope,” Dixie Chicks; ”Restless,” Alison Krauss & Union Station; ”Bless the Broken Road,” Rascal Flatts. Should win: AKUS and “Restless.” Will win: Dixie Chicks and “I Hope.” They won this award last year for “Top of the World.” Grammy loves them.
Country Collaboration With Vocals: ”Building Bridges,” Brooks & Dunn, Sheryl Crow and Vince Gill; ”Shelter From the Storm,” Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris; ”Like We Never Loved at All,” Faith Hill and Tim McGraw; ”Dreams Come True,” Willie Nelson and Norah Jones; ”Politically Uncorrect,” Gretchen Wilson and Merle Haggard. Should win: “Like We Never Loved at All.” Will win: “Like We Never Loved at All.” (Although you should compare its melody sometime to the Bee Gees’ song “Words.”)
Country Instrumental Performance: ”I’ll Fly Away,” Charlie Daniels; ”Who’s Your Uncle?” Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush and Béla Fleck; ”Unionhouse Branch,” Alison Krauss & Union Station; ”Scotch & Chocolate,” Nickel Creek; ”Time Warp,” Brad Paisley. A complete crap shoot. All good stuff. I’ll go with Nickel Creek.
Bluegrass Album: Marbletown, Blue Highway; Cherryholmes, Cherryholmes; The Grascals, the Grascals; The Company We Keep, Del McCoury Band; Ragin’ Live, Rhonda Vincent & the Rage. This is a true horse race. I’ll be happy with whomever wins.
Southern, Country or Bluegrass Album: Live at Brooklyn Tabernacle, the Crabb Family; Sing Their Family Gospel Favorites, Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers; Rock of Ages … Hymns & Faith, Amy Grant; Southern Meets Soul: An American Gospel Jubilee, the Jordanaires, the Light Crust Doughboys, Nokie Edwards and Larry ”T-Byrd” Gordon; Common Thread, the Oak Ridge Boys. Should win: Southern Meets Soul Will win: Southern Meets Soul.
Contemporary Blues Album: Make Do With What You Got, Solomon Burke; Twenty, Robert Cray; Bring ’Em In, Buddy Guy; Cost of Living, Delbert McClinton; Electric Blue Watermelon, North Mississippi Allstars. I love all of these artists. Should win: Solomon or Delbert. Will win: Solomon or Delbert.
Traditional Folk Album: Live From Dublin — A Tribute to Derek Bell, the Chieftains; Come On Back, Jimmie Dale Gilmore; Fiddler’s Green, Tim O’Brien; Live in the UK, Tom Paxton; Cajun Mardi Gras! Jo-el Sonnier. Should win: Fiddler’s Green. Will win: Fiddler’s Green.
Contemporary Folk Album: Chavez Ravine, Ry Cooder; The Outsider, Rodney Crowell; Why Should the Fire Die? Nickel Creek; Fair & Square, John Prine; Devils & Dust, Bruce Springsteen. Should win: The Outsider. Will win: Chavez Ravine> Ry is a Grammy darling, and it’s a great album. This is a category with five albums that are truly equal in quality and appeal.
Song of the Year (awarded to songwriters): “Bless the Broken Road,” Bobby Boyd, Jeff Hanna and Marcus Hummon (Rascal Flatts), “Devils & Dust,” Bruce Springsteen (Bruce Springsteen), “Ordinary People,” William Adams and John Stephens (John Legend); “Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own,” U2 (U2); “We Belong Together,” Johnta Austin, Mariah Carey, Jermaine Dupri and Manuel Seal (Mariah Carey). Should win: Of this group, “Bless the Broken Road” is to me the best song. Will win: On the other hand, most of the Grammy voters never heard it and will vote for “We Belong Together,” thus rewarding Mariah Carey for her comeback.
New Artist: Ciara, Fall Out Boy, Keane, John Legend, Sugarland. Should win: Sugarland. Will win: John Legend. Sugarland have had a phenomenal rise from obscurity. Legend, on the other hand, has the pop establishment solidly behind him.