For the second year in a row, the same five acts (all men, by the way) were nominated in the top category, entertainer of the year: Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, George Strait and 1996's champs, Brooks & Dunn. In fact, the reigning winners in all three big categories can repeat this year: Brooks & Dunn, female vocalist Patty Loveless and male vocalist George Strait.
Old fave Strait, whose whopping 42 nominations since 1981 rank second only to Merle Haggard's 43, notched five nods. In addition to top entertainer and male vocalist, the Gentleman Cowboy is up for best album (Carrying Your Love with Me) and has two nominations for best single ("Carried Away" and "One Night at a Time").
And country music still can't get enough of little LeAnn Rimes. While the country wunderkind was shut out at last year's festivities (her vocal performances stole the show, however), she continues to rack up nominations for her Blue album. Rimes picked up noms for female vocalist, album and the Horizon award for career development (where she'll compete with the similarly monikered Lee Ann Womack). Her album's mega-selling title track, nominated as best single last year, is nominated as best song (for songwriter Bill Mack) this time around.
The only thing fresh about today's announcement was the inclusion of Deana Carter, who tied Strait as the top nominee with five. Her rookie album, Did I Shave My Legs for This?, is up for best album. Her breakthrough losing-my-virginity hit, "Strawberry Wine," was nominated for both best single and video. She's also competing for female vocalist and the Horizon award.
Christian-music sensation Bob Carlisle and co-author Randy Thomas are nominated for song of the year, a song-writer award, for "Butterfly Kisses." Carlisle's recording of the song was such a monster hit that it inspired three other country versions, including a version with a country arrangement backing Carlisle's original vocal.
The nominees were selected by the CMA, which has a membership of about 7,000 Industry types. They will pick winners in another round of balloting. Prizes will be handed out at the Grand Ole Opry on September 24. CBS handles the live telecast.
The CMA prizes are the third in country's triple crown of awards shows. The Academy of Country Music stages another Industry-voted awards show in California in the spring. The TNN Music City News Awards, chosen by fan vote, come out in the summer.
Here is the complete list of nominees for the 31st Annual Country Music Association Awards:
Entertainer of the Year: Brooks & Dunn, Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, George Strait
Female Vocalist: Deana Carter, Patty Loveless, LeAnn Rimes, Pam Tillis, Trisha Yearwood
Male Vocalist: Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Collin Raye, George Strait, Bryan White
Single (awarded to singer): "All the Good Ones Are Gone," Pam Tillis; "Carried Away," George Strait; "It's Your Love," Tim McGraw (with Faith Hill); "One Night at a Time," George Strait; "Strawberry Wine," Deana Carter
Album: Blue, LeAnn Rimes; Carrying Your Love with Me, George Strait; Did I Shave My Legs for This? Deana Carter; Everybody Knows, Trisha Yearwood; Everything I Love, Alan Jackson
Horizon Award (for career progress): Trace Adkins, Deana Carter, Terri Clark, LeAnn Rimes, Lee Ann Womack
Vocal Group: Alabama, Diamond Rio, The Mavericks, Ricochet, Sawyer Brown
Vocal Duo: Bellamy Brothers, Brooks & Dunn, Raybon Brothers, Thrasher Shiver, John & Audrey Wiggins
Music Video: "455 Rocket," Kathy Mattea; "All the Good Ones Are Gone," Pam Tillis; "Every Light in the House," Trace Adkins; "It's Your Love," Tim McGraw (with Faith Hill), "Strawberry Wine," Deana Carter
Song (awarded to songwriter): "All the Good Ones Are Gone," Dean Dillon and Bob McDill; "Blue," Bill Mack; "Butterfly Kisses," Bob Carlisle and Randy Thomas; "Strawberry Wine," Matraca Berg and Gary Harrison; "Time Marches On," Bobby Braddock
Vocal Event (for special teamings): The Charlie Daniels Band with John Berry & Hal Ketchum, "Long-Haired Country Boy"; Clint Black and Martina McBride, "Still Holding on"; George Jones and Kathy Mattea, "You've Got a Friend in Me", Lee Roy Parnell and the Fairfield Four, "John the Revelator"; Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, "It's Your Love"
Musician (for instrumentalists): Eddie Bayers, Paul Franklin, Brent Mason, Matt Rollings, Brent Rowan