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The 2016 Grammy Awards (Country) Nominees

The 2016 Grammy Awards (Country) Nominees: A Breakdown

There’s a slim chance that you looked at the country nominees for the Grammy awards and though ‘Who?’ Or you realised you hadn’t heard the song or album in question. Here is your guide to the nominees.

Sam Hunt / ‘Montevallo’

Best New Artist / Best Country Album

Sam Hunt was the breakout artist of 2014 and he continued to make huge strides this year too, making him an easy pick for Grammy voters to represent county. Although many have criticised his lack of identifiable ‘country’ sound, citing his hip hop-influenced talk-singing and R&B beats as factors, he has many believers which have led him to two New Artist of the Year awards (ACMs and AMAs) and three #1 hits. Not only was his debut record ‘Montevallo’ nominated for Best Country Album, the Grammys also picked him as a nominee for Best New Artist, across all genres.

Chris Stapleton ‘Traveller’

Album of the Year / Best Country Album / Best Country Solo Performance / Best Country Song

Chris Stapleton is leading the country nominees with selections in four categories, and pundits are expecting him to sweep the awards in February. Both his debut solo album and its title track are nominated twice over, with his solo songwriting credit on the song itself making him eligible for receiving Best Country Song where often artists aren’t (the award goes to the songwriters). Chris cleaned up at the CMA Awards in November, picking up all three trophies he was up for, and sent the world into a Stapleton frenzy as they bought 150,000 copies of his record in just 28 hours. Since Grammy voters tend to go for critical darlings, Chris is likely to do well here too. His soulful mix of roots genres (blues, southern rock, country, folk) has been a sure-fire winner for many, and on vocals alone he can blow everyone else out of the water.

Lee Ann Womack ‘Chances Are’

Best Country Solo Performance / Best Country Song

‘Chances Are’ was a single for Lee Ann earlier this year, although you’d be forgiven if you hadn’t realised it was ever released. Country radio doesn’t play her anymore, but that doesn’t seem to affect her stellar career, which is now being awarded once more (last year she was nominated for Best Country Album). The track’s sole writer, Hayes Carll, is the honouree for Best Country Song, and deservedly so. Both are very talented artists who live outside of the mainstream.

Little Big Town ‘Girl Crush’ / ‘Pain Killer’

Song of the Year / Best Country Duo/Group Performance / Best Country Song / Best Country Album

After the little controversy that could, Little Big Town’s ‘Girl Crush’ was sure to be a song that went down in history. The stripped-back ballad about jealousy won both Single and Song of the Year at November’s CMA Awards, and has been nominated in three separate categories at the Grammys, including the coveted Song of the Year. Both ‘song’ categories go to the writers Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose (otherwise known as the Love Junkies). Still, Little Big Town themselves still pick up one nomination for their recording of the track, plus a nod for their genre-defying 2014 album ‘Pain Killer’. Are they unstoppable? Probably.

Cam ‘Burning House’

Best Country Solo Performance

Cam hasn’t even released her debut album yet, and she already has a Grammy nomination for her buzzy track ‘Burning House’. The song is currently on its way to the top spot on country radio, and is responsible for launching Cam’s career when it turned heads back in the summer. A stripped-back, folky, haunting song, ‘Burning House’ poetically recounts a dream about an ex-lover founded through guilt about the way it ended. It’s powerful, and clearly Grammy voters thought so too.

Carrie Underwood ‘Little Toy Guns’

Best Country Solo Performance

Carrie is known for being ignored by the CMAs and ACMs and for being celebrated by the CMTs and the Grammys, and once again the academy lives up to this sentiment. Last year her ‘Something In The Water’ won this award, so I’m sure her fans will have high hopes for its follow-up ‘Little Toy Guns’. It was a dramatic song about a child stuck within its parents’ abusive marriage, and really connected with people.

Keith Urban ‘John Cougar John Deere John 3:16’

Best Country Solo Performance

It may be the wordiest song Keith Urban has ever recorded, but the funky reference-filled tune was his fastest-rising #1 hit and, although somewhat polarizing, it stands out as one of his most identifiable songs to date.

Brothers Osborne ‘Stay A Little Longer’

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

This duo also have a Grammy nomination before they release their debut album, but the guitar-driven slow burning song about longing for commitment set country radio alight and has really put them on the map. Unlike a lot of duos around, they are doing some cool left-of-centre stuff, and are being recognised for it.

Joey + Rory ‘If I Needed You’

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

This track was originally release on the duo’s 2013 album ‘Made To Last’, but is eligible because of its re-release via a more recent ‘Country Classics’ record. No doubt their returning to the public eye via Rory’s intimate documenting of his wife’s cancer swayed the voters to a sentimental nod, or even just reminded them of the duo’s impressive repertoire, but regardless it’s deserved.

Charles Kelley feat. Eric Paslay, Dierks Bentley ‘The Driver’

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

Charles Kelley’s decision to make his first single away from Lady Antebellum, titled ‘The Driver’, a collaborative effort was a good one. It pushed him into the less crowded Duo/Group category, and enabled this great song about the life of a performer to get its due.

Blake Shelton feat. Ashley Monroe ‘Lonely Tonight’

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

Although Ashley never takes the lead on this track, merely providing delicate harmonies, her inclusion makes this a group effort in the eyes of the Grammy voters. ‘Lonely Tonight’ is a passionate pop/rock song between two lovers and is a worthy nominee.

Tim McGraw feat. Catherine Dunn ‘Diamond Rings & Old Barstools’

Best Country Song

Technically this award goes to the songwriters, Barry Dean, Luke Laird and Jonathan Singleton, but props go to Tim McGraw for recording it and releasing it as a single, to enable it to see the light of day. He’s joined by his cousin Catherine Dunn on the recording. The song sees a return to a simpler, rootsier way of writing, using metaphors to describe a regretful man who gave up his one true love for a life of rambling.

Brandy Clark ‘Hold My Hand’

Best Country Song

The songwriters of ‘Hold My Hand’ were Brandy Clark and Mark Stephen Jones, so they will be honoured if this track takes the trophy. It’s a traditional country ballad about the insecurity and envy a woman experiences when she meets the beautiful ex-lover of her new man, grounded in vulnerability rather than fiery jealousy. Unfortunately not played by country radio, but it’s their loss. Worth noting that Brandy performed this with Dwight Yoakam at the 2015 Grammy Awards.

Ashley Monroe ‘The Blade’

Best Country Album

This record is going to top a lot of year-end lists, so it’s no surprise that the Grammys chose to nominate it. It’s the perfect mix of old and new country, with Ashley’s strong heartbreak-orientated songwriting running throughout.

Kacey Musgraves ‘Pageant Material’

Best Country Album

Two years ago Kacey won the awards for Best Country Song (Merry Go Round) and Best Country Album (Same Trailer Different Park), so the odds are in her favour to repeat the album feat. She has less buzz this time around and plenty of deserving competition, but regardless ‘Pageant Material’ was an excellent record steeped in the Nashville sound and well-loved by many.

Annette Gibbons
Hi, I’m Annette, I have been a huge country music fan since the early 90s those were the days we were lucky enough to have CMT in the UK. I enjoy nothing more than listening to country music whilst having a cold beer (or a moonshine) with friends. I try to as many gigs as I can here in the UK and in the USA; I think of Nashville as my second home and I am lucky to have made some amazing friends in Tennessee. Think Country is something I am very proud of, I just want to share my love and passion of all things country music related with you all.
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