There’s a good chance that history will be made when they announce the winner for Best Country Album at the 61st annual Grammy Awards. Barring an upset, either Chris Stapleton will become the first male artist to take that award three times, or Kacey Musgraves will become the first female solo artist to win it twice.

Stapleton, who is likely to be nominated this year for From A Room: Volume 2, previously won for Traveller and From A Room: Volume 1. Musgraves, a likely nominee for Golden Hour, previously won for Same Trailer Different Park (and was nominated for her follow-up, Pageant Material).

Who else will be nominated this year? Let’s look at the key contenders in various categories in the country field. At the end of each discussion, I’ll tell you who I think the likely nominees will be.

Best Country Album

Keith Urban’s Graffiti U and Dierks Bentley’s The Mountain are both nominated for the CMA award for Album of the Year (as are Stapleton and Musgraves). The two organizations don’t always line up in their nominations and awards, but this is a good place to start. This would be the fourth nom in this Grammy category for both Urban and Bentley. (The fifth CMA nominee is Thomas Rhett’s Life Changes, which was nominated in this Grammy category last year.)

Carrie Underwood’s Cry Pretty was released after the CMA deadline, but in time for Grammy glory. Here’s a weird Grammy fact: Underwood dominates in the vocal performance category at the Grammys, but she has yet to be nominated for Best Country Album. Go figure.

Tim McGraw & Faith Hill’s The Best Years of Our Life is the first full-length collaboration by these stars, who have each been nominated four times in this category.

Jason Aldean’s Rearview Town and Blake Shelton’s Texoma Shore are serious contenders. Both artists have been nominated twice in this category. Rearview Town topped the country chart for six weeks, longer than any other eligible album. (Luke CombsThis One’s for You and Kane Brown’s Kane Brown had even longer runs at #1 this year, but they were entered last year and thus are ineligible.)

Loretta Lynn has also been nominated twice in this category, winning 14 years ago for Van Lear Rose. The country legend has a new album in contention, Wouldn’t It Be Great.

After 20 years of stardom, Kenny Chesney finally received his first nom in this category last year for Cosmic Hallelujah. (Better late than never, right?) Can Chesney make it two noms in a row? He’s a strong contender this year for Songs for the Saints.

Other albums that are sure to get a look include Chris Young’s Losing Sleep, Luke Bryan’s What Makes You Country, Cole Swindell’s All of It, Dan + Shay’s Dan + Shay, LANCO’s Hallelujah Nights, Russell Dickerson’s Yours, Jordan DavisHome State, Darius Rucker’s When Was the Last Time, Kelsea Ballerini’s Unapologetically, Jessie James Decker’s Southern Girl City Lights and Scotty McCreery’s Seasons Change.

The likely nominees, in alphabetical order:

  • Kenny Chesney
    Songs for the Saints
  • Kacey Musgraves
    Golden Hour
  • Chris Stapleton
    From A Room: Volume 2
  • Carrie Underwood
    Cry Pretty
  • Keith Urban
    Graffiti U

Best Country Solo Performance

Never bet against Carrie Underwood in this category. She has been nominated here a record five times and has won it twice. Underwood is a sure bet to be nominated this year for “Cry Pretty,” which received a CMA nom for Music Video of the Year.

Underwood shares the record for most wins in this category with Chris Stapleton. He is also likely to be back in the finals with “Millionaire.”

Miranda Lambert has been nominated in this category the last four years, but her single this year, “Keeper of the Flame,” may not have been a big enough hit to keep her streak alive.

Blake Shelton and Keith Urban have each been nominated three times in this category. Shelton is a contender this year with “I Lived It.” Urban is a contender with “Parallel Line.”

Maren Morris is vying for her third consecutive nom in this category with her version of Elton John’s “Mona Lisa and Mad Hatters” from the tribute album, Restoration. She won two years ago for “My Church” and was nominated last year for “I Could Use a Love Song.” In addition, Morris is very likely to be nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for “The Middle,” her hit collabo with Zedd and Grey. She would be the first artist to be nominated in both of these genres in the same year since Taylor Swift nine years ago.

Eric Church is also vying for his third nom in this category with “Desperate Man.”

Other past nominees in this category who are in the mix this year include Jason Aldean (“You Make It Easy”) and Dierks Bentley (“Woman, Amen”). Both of those songs were #1 Country radio hits.

Thomas Rhett’s “Marry Me” received a CMA nom for Music Video of the Year, one of four noms he received this year. “Marry Me” was a #1 Country radio hit.

Chris Janson and Luke Combs also received multiple CMA noms this year. Janson is nominated for Song and Music Video of the Year for “Drunk Girl.” Combs had several hits during the eligibility year, including “When It Rains It Pours.” and “One Number Away,” both of which are entered here.

Kane Brown, whose smash debut album was released at the end of 2016, has yet to receive a Grammy nom, but “Heaven” was a #1 Country airplay hit. Since he was ruled ineligible for Best New Artist, and can’t compete for Best Country Album, this may be his best shot at a nom this year.

Luke Bryan’s “Most People Are Good” and Brett Young’s “Like I Loved You” each topped the Country airplay chart for three weeks, longer than any other eligible recordings this year. Both artists later returned to #1, Bryan with “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset”; Young with “Mercy” (which is his entry in the Grammy process).

Other candidates include Kacey Musgraves’ “Butterflies,” Kenny Chesney’s “Better Boat,” Russell Dickerson’s “Blue Tacoma,” Cole Swindell’s “Break Up in the End,” Chris Young’s “Hangin’ On,” Morgan Evans’ “Kiss Somebody,” Brett Eldredge’s “The Long Way” and Devin Dawson’s “All on Me.”

The likely nominees, in alphabetical order:

  • Dierks Bentley
    “Woman, Amen”
  • Kane Brown
  • Thomas Rhett
    “Marry Me”
  • Chris Stapleton
  • Carrie Underwood
    “Cry Pretty”

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

This one category does the work of three CMA categories—Vocal Group of the Year, Vocal Duo of the Year and Musical Event of the Year. That’s efficiency for you.

Bebe Rexha & Florida Georgia Line’s “Meant to Be” was both a pop and country smash. It was a #1 Country radio hit and got some love at the CMAs, where it is nominated for Single and Musical Event of the Year. But don’t bet the farm on this being nominated: For all their hits, Florida Georgia Line has yet to be nominated for a Grammy in any category.

Two other pairings of pop and country stars became Top 10 Country radio hits—Chris Lane featuring Tori Kelly’s “Take Back Home Girl” and Keith Urban featuring Julia Michaels’ “Coming Home.” The latter collabo is entered here, as are such other genre-bending pairings as Joe Bonamassa & Jamey Johnson’s “The Ghost of Macon Jones,” Luke Combs featuring Leon Bridges’ “Beautiful Crazy (Live),” Brad Paisley featuring Mick Jagger’s “Drive of Shame” and LeAnn Rimes & Stevie Nicks’ “Borrowed (Re-Imagined).”

Yet another pop/country pairing is in the mix—Dolly Parton and Sia’s remake of “Here I Am,” which Parton wrote and originally recorded for her 1971 album, Coat of Many Colors. The two stars recorded the song for the soundtrack of the forthcoming film Dumplin’, which stars Jennifer Aniston. Parton won in this category two years ago for another remake of one of her classic hits, “Jolene,” recorded with another pop powerhouse, Pentatonix. Parton is this year’s MusiCares Person of the Year recipient. As such, she’ll be performing on the Grammys. It would be a natural for her to perform this song.

Six collaborations by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill have received Grammy noms, with two (“Let’s Make Love” and “Like We Never Loved At All”) winning. This bodes well for their latest duet, “The Rest of Our Life.”

Jason Aldean featuring Miranda Lambert’s “Drowns the Whiskey” wasn’t entered, which is hard to fathom. The smash received CMA noms for Single, Song and Musical Event of the Year. The song spent two weeks at #1 on the Country airplay chart.

Dan + Shay’s “Tequila” received CMA noms for Single, Song and Music Video of the Year. The song also spent two weeks at #1 on the Country airplay chart.

Old Dominion’s “Hotel Key” also spent two weeks at #1 on the Country airplay chart. It was the group’s second #1 of the year, following “Written in the Sand.” A live version of the latter song is entered.

Brothers Osborne has been nominated in this category the last three years running. They could return to the finals this year with their hit “Shoot Me Straight” or as a featured artist on Dierks Bentley’s “Burning Man.” The latter track received a CMA nom for Musical Event of the Year.

Other CMA finalists for Musical Event of the Year include Maren Morris featuring Vince Gill’s “Dear Hate” and David Lee Murphy and Kenny Chesney’s “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.”

Sugarland featuring Taylor Swift’s “Babe” received a CMA nom for Music Video of the Year. The busy Swift was nominated for a country Grammy last year for writing the Little Big Town smash, “Better Man.”

Other key contenders include Midland’s “Burn Out,” Lady Antebellum’s “Heart Break,” Little Big Town’s “When Someone Stops Loving You” and Margo Price featuring Willie Nelson’s “Learning to Lose.”

The likely nominees, in alphabetical order:

  • Dierks Bentley f/Brothers Osborne
    “Burning Man”
  • Dan + Shay
  • Tim McGraw & Faith Hill
    “The Rest of Our Life”
  • Dolly Parton & Sia
    “Here I Am”
  • Bebe Rexha & Florida Georgia Line
    “Meant to Be”


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