Monthly Archives: September 2011

"Shut Up Train," Little Big Town

There has been a recent trend in country music when it comes to nearly acoustic singles. In 2007 Sugarland gave us “Stay” while 2010 was all about Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me.” This year we’ve already seen Kenny Chesney score a hit with the fantastic “You and Tequila” which features Grace Potter and a very toned down production. Thanks to Little Big Town, I think we’ve found a song that possibly eclipses them all.

“Shut Up Train” is pure brilliance from start to finish. Written by Hillary Lindsey, Chris Tompkins, and Luke Laird, the song tells the story of a woman who is reminded of her heartache each time a train passes by during the night. “Shut up train I’m trying to sleep, can’t you show me a little sympathy, this is the only time I can get any peace, so shut up train,” pleads the narrator as she achingly begs the passing train to just “shut up.” After a few failed attempts at begging and pleading for the train to stop, she sadly stops fighting and simply tells the train: “you win.”

When it comes to singles, Karen Fairchild hasn’t been given the same amount of opportunities to take the lead vocals, but when she does there’s a good chance the song will be an artistic peak for the group (“Little White Church,” “Fine Line”). “Shut Up Train” is no different. Fairchild delivers the heart breaker of a song with such emotion and sincerity by leaving behind any vocal tricks in favor of a more raw, simple performance. As is the case with any LBT song, the lead vocal is always backed up by a trio of brilliant harmonies that never overshadow the lead track. In this case it’s Jimi Westbrook, Phillip Sweet, and Kimberly Schlapman who deliver those pure and understated harmonies to perfection.

Normally I’m not a big fan of electric guitars intruding on a nearly all-acoustic production, but here the guitars enhance the song and help to make the song more radio friendly, which hopefully means this song will have a chance at country radio. Whether or not radio will warm up to “Shut Up Train” like it has to other songs performed in the same vein has yet to be seen. But, nevertheless, “Shut Up Train” is, in my opinion, the best single of 2011.


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Who Done It Better: "A Showman’s Life"

Lately it seems like artists are recording their own versions of songs that have either been previously released or have appeared on another artist’s album. So, as a fun new feature on ATC, I’ve decided to bring you our Who Done It Better reviews where I’ll compare two artists’ versions of the same song. I’ve decided to kick off our new feature by comparing the George Strait and Gary Allan versions of the Jesse Winchester song, “A Showman’s Life.”

“A Showman’s Life” is a superbly written song about the struggles of life on the road as a musician.

     A showman’s life 
     is a smoky bar
     and the fevered chase of a tiny star
     it’s a hotel room
     a lonely wife
     from what I’ve seen
     of a showman’s life

The first verse alone paints a harsh, gloomy picture of the lifestyle that is often perceived as a glamorous one. Meanwhile the chorus finds the narrator almost regretting his choice to pursue his dream which was supposed to include pretty women, money, and good times but instead is having to deal with the “wear and tear” the lifestyle has taken on a “honky tonker’s heart.” This heartbreaking depiction of the lifestyle’s reality has been delivered in two different styles by George Strait and Gary Allan.

Gary Allan’s version was included on his 2003 album, See If I Care as a duet which featured country legend Willie Nelson. The production on this version is more traditional than that of Strait’s version as it contains plenty of steel guitar, fiddle, mandolin, acoustic guitar, and even a little electric guitar to give the song its throwback country feel. The nearly acapella introduction sets the haunting tone as Allan delivers a raw, emotional vocal performance that remains consistent throughout the entire song. As the song reaches its second verse, you hear the familiar voice of Willie’s as he delivers his usual vocal styling which consists of half singing and half speaking. Unfortunately the inclusion of Nelson as a duet partner is the song’s biggest flaw. His unusual vocal phrasing doesn’t compliment the fantastic vocals delivered by Allan and causes the song to almost sound like two different versions in one. However, Gary’s portion of the song is fantastic and one of my favorite vocal performances of his.

George Strait’s version is included on his newest album Here For A Good Time and features Faith Hill as a “special guest.” Strait and producer Tony Brown stick to their traditional roots as George finds himself accompanied by plenty of fiddle, steel guitar, and acoustic guitar, much like Allan’s version. However, the production on Strait’s delivery is more mainstream and a bit more radio friendly than Gary’s version. Strait’s vocal performance could possibly be one of his finest as his aged voice delivers the somber song with plenty of heartache and pain as if he’s singing about his own three decade career. The song is taken to a whole other level when Faith Hill’s backing vocal joins Strait during the second verse. Hill delivers an emotional vocal performance as her smoky vocal tone blend perfectly with that of Strait. I’ve tried my hardest to find any kind of flaw or dislike with the Strait/Hill version, but after several listens, I can’t.


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Aldean, Paisley, Shelton and Swift Top CMA Nominations

It’s official! The nominations for the 45th Annual CMA Awards have been revealed and I’m proud to say we weren’t crazy wrong in most of the categories we predicted. Jason Aldean, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, and Taylor Swift are all tied as the leading nominees with five nominations a piece, including Entertainer of the Year. This year’s awards will be handed out during the 45th Annual CMA Awards Show on November 9 which will be hosted for a fourth year in a row by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood.

Entertainer of the Year

  • Jason Aldean
  • Brad Paisley
  • Blake Shelton
  • Taylor Swift
  • Keith Urban

We correctly predicted three of the five artists by choosing Aldean, Paisley, and Swift to be nominees but were incorrect with our predictions of Kenny Chesney and Zac Brown Band as they were overlooked for first time nominee Blake Shelton and previous winner Keith Urban. I’m surprised that after all the single and album success as well as a major tour four time winner Kenny Chesney didn’t make the cut again this year. Also it’s a bit surprising to see Blake Shelton in this category but his stint as a judge on The Voice probably helped him secure his first nomination.

Front Runner: Jason Aldean

Female Vocalist of the Year

  • Sara Evans
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Martina McBride
  • Taylor Swift
  • Carrie Underwood

In this category we predicted four of the nominated women, but were incorrect with our prediction of Reba McEntire taking the fifth spot. It’s a little surprising to see Martina McBride in this category once again seeing as she didn’t have a new album released and only charted one single with “Teenage Daughters.”

Front Runner: Taylor Swift

Male Vocalist of the Year

  • Jason Aldean
  • Kenny Chesney
  • Brad Paisley
  • Blake Shelton
  • Keith Urban

This was one of two categories that we predicted all five nominated artists correctly! It’s no surprise to see these five men all land nominations considering they’ve all had huge years in the past year.

Front Runner: Jason Aldean

New Artist of the Year

  • The Band Perry
  • Luke Bryan
  • Eric Church
  • Thompson Square
  • Chris Young

This was the second category we correctly predicted all five of the nominees! When it comes to this year’s new artists, these five all led the pack and experienced breakthrough years, which the CMA has chosen to recognize.

Front Runner: The Band Perry

Vocal Group of the Year

  • The Band Perry
  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town
  • Rascal Flatts
  • Zac Brown Band

This same five groups who were nominated last year return as nominees this year. It’s nice to finally see five groups who have actually experienced some success in the past year.

Front Runner: The Band Perry

Vocal Duo of the Year

  • The Civil Wars
  • Montgomery Gentry
  • Steel Magnolia
  • Sugarland
  • Thompson Square

Three of last year’s nominated duos return this year as the retired Brooks & Dunn and Joey + Rory were replaced with the little known duo The Civil Wars and top contender Thompson Square. This should be an interesting category since Sugarland hasn’t experienced any success at radio since last year’s “Stuck Like Glue” while Thompson Square’s “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?” is one of this year’s most played songs.

Front Runner: Thompson Square

Single of the Year

  • “A Little Bit Stronger” – Sara Evans
  • “Colder Weather” – Zac Brown Band
  • “Don’t You Wanna Stay” – Jason Aldean featuring Kelly Clarkson
  • “Honey Bee” – Blake Shelton
  • “If I Die Young” – The Band Perry

We correctly predicted three of the five nominated songs to compete for this year’s Single of the Year honors. The Zac Brown Band and Blake Shelton songs managed to sneak into the category over our predicted “As She’s Walking Away” and Chris Young’s “Tomorrow.”

Front Runner: “If I Die Young” – The Band Perry

Song of the Year

  • “Colder Weather” – Zac Brown Band (written by Zac Brown, Wyatt Durrette, Levi Lowrey, and Coy Bowles)
  • “Dirt Road Anthem” – Jason Aldean (written by Colt Ford and Brantley Gilbert)
  • “If I Die Young” – The Band Perry (written by Kimberly Perry)
  • “Mean” – Taylor Swift (written by Taylor Swift)
  • “You and Tequila” – Kenny Chesney featuring Grace Potter (written by Matraca Berg and Deana Carter)

So we only correctly predicted one song in this category and that was The Band Perry’s smash hit, although we knew songs by Zac Brown Band and Taylor Swift would make an appearance. I’m ecstatic that the CMA nominated “You and Tequila” in this category seeing as its one of Chesney’s finest singles of his career. I’m a little shocked that “Dirt Road Anthem” snagged a nomination over the far more superior “Don’t You Wanna Stay.”

Front Runner: “If I Die Young” – The Band Perry (written by Kimberly Perry)

Album of the Year

  • All About Tonight – Blake Shelton
  • My Kinda Party – Jason Aldean
  • Speak Now – Taylor Swift
  • This Is Country Music – Brad Paisley
  • You Get What You Give – Zac Brown Band

I was pretty confident that this would be one of the categories where we correctly guessed all five nominees, but we were incorrect. Somehow the Blake Shelton “six pack” edged out platinum selling Hemingway’s Whiskey from Kenny Chesney. Apparently the CMAs have taken a liking to Blake Shelton after crowning him last year’s Male Vocalist of the Year.

Front Runner: My Kinda Party – Jason Aldean or Speak Now – Taylor Swift

Musical Event of the Year

  • “As She’s Walking Away” – Zac Brown Band featuring Alan Jackson
  • “Coal Miner’s Daughter” – Lorretta Lynn, Sheryl Crow, and Miranda Lambert
  • “Don’t You Wanna Stay” – Jason Aldean with Kelly Clarkson
  • “Old Alabama” – Brad Paisley featuring Alabama
  • “You and Tequila” – Kenny Chesney featuring Grace Potter

A fantastic lineup of the year’s best collaborations which includes three number songs that topped the charts, a remake of a legendary country classic, and one of the best songs of the year. I happen to be a fan of all five of these songs, but if I was a voting member of the CMA, my vote would go to the fantastic “You and Tequila” to win.

Front Runner: “Don’t You Wanna Stay” – Jason Aldean with Kelly Clarkson

Music Video of the Year

  • “Honey Bee” – Blake Shelton
  • “If I Die Young” – The Band Perry
  • “Mean” – Taylor Swift
  • “Old Alabama” – Brad Paisley featuring Alabama
  • “You and Tequila” – Kenny Chesney featuring Grace Potter

This category is going to be hard to predict as all five videos are fantastic in their own right. My personal favorite would be the “You and Tequila” video, but it is going to be difficult to beat out video king Brad Paisley.

Front Runner: “Old Alabama” – Brad Paisley featuring Alabama

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CMA’s For Your Consideration: Entertainer of the Year

Tomorrow morning nearly every country music artist will be up early to watch the announcement of the 45th Annual CMA Awards nominees. The Band Perry and Jake Owen will appear live on ABC’s Good Morning America to announce the big categories while Thompson Square, The JaneDear Girls, and Jerrod Niemann will announce the remaining categories in Nashville. This past week we’ve been offering our predictions on who we think will land nominations in the major categories, but we’ve saved the biggest award for last…Entertainer of the Year.

Last year’s Entertainer of the Year category turned out to be the most controversial category of the night. After years of including Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, George Strait, Keith Urban, and one lucky nominee, the CMA’s decided to include three first time nominees in Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, and Zac Brown Band as well as veterans Paisley and Urban. After predictions of a Lady A or Lambert upset, it was Brad Paisley who, after six failed attempts, finally took home the night’s biggest prize for the first time in his illustrious career. This year’s race is another wide open year as any of our predicted artists could take home the award. Here are the five artists we think have a shot at landing a nomination tomorrow morning.

Jason Aldean
After receiving his first ever Entertainer of the Year nomination at this year’s ACM awards, Jason Aldean could enter this year’s CMA’s as the front runner to win the night’s highest honor. The singer has another platinum selling album in My Kinda Party as well as three straight platinum-selling, top two singles. His duet with Kelly Clarkson, “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” helped him crossover onto the Adult Contemporary charts for the first time in his career. His My Kinda Party tour has played to hundreds of thousands of fans over the past year, making him a top concert draw. Along with the album, singles, and touring successes, Aldean has appeared on numerous talk shows as well as American Idol and performed at this year’s MLB All-Star Game. Entertainer of the Year is all about how well an artist represents country music, and no one has done it as well as Jason Aldean this year.

Taylor Swift
After surprisingly being left off the Entertainer list last year, Taylor Swift will no doubt be back among the nominees this year. Her 2010 album, Speak Now, sold over one million copies…in its first week of release! The feat is a rarity in country music considering the last artist to move over a million copies of an album in one week was Garth Brooks when 1998’s Double Live made its way into nearly 1.1 million homes in its first week. The album’s first three singles all peaked within the top 3 on the singles chart and all have been certified with either platinum or gold certifications. The country pop star is currently in the middle of her sold out Speak Now World Tour which is the most attended country concert tour of the past year. After claiming her first ACM Entertainer of the Year trophy this past April, the 21 year old could walk away from this year’s CMA’s with her second Entertainer trophy.

Kenny Chesney
Kenny Chesney has won this award four times in his career, but in 2010 he didn’t have a chance to win his fifth as he was left off the list of nominees. This year, he’ll not only be back on the list of nominees, but he’ll also have a great shot at winning that history making fifth Entertainer title. The singer’s Hemingway’s Whiskey album has been certified platinum for sales of over 1 million copies. The album’s four singles have all peaked inside the top five with “The Boys of Fall,” “Live A Little,” and “Somewhere With You” all hitting number one. After taking a year off from touring, Chesney returned to the road on his Going Coastal tour which has once again played to sold out arenas and stadiums all over the country. Kenny also had a hand in producing and narrating a documentary for ESPN about University of Tennessee quarterback Condredge Holloway. After claiming four wins in the last 7 years, this could possibly be Kenny’s best (and maybe last) chance to win his fifth Entertainer trophy.

Brad Paisley

Brad Paisley has once again delivered a hugely successful year. He released two albums, Hits Alive and This Is Country Music, which have both been certified gold. He’s sent four more singles to the top two of Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart as “Anything Like Me,” “Old Alabama,” and “Remind Me” have all hit number one while “This Is Country Music” peaked at number two. Paisley has continued to be a concert draw as his H20 Frozen Over tour has continued to pack arenas and pavilions across the nation and has even taken him overseas for a series of shows. He’s had a huge hand in globalizing country music along with artists like Lady Antebellum and Taylor Swift. The fact that he’s co-hosted the show for the past three years and is getting ready to share hosting duties with Carrie Underwood for a fourth year in a row isn’t going to hurt his chances at landing another nomination in this category.

Zac Brown Band
The Zac Brown Band have emerged as the new top group in country music. After being overshadowed by Lady Antebellum last year, they’ve broken out this year and are ready to take the next step in becoming country superstars. This year they’ve seen their You Get What You Give album receive a platinum certification after its release last September. The band has also continued their amazing run at radio by adding four more number one singles to the group’s impressive resume with “Free,” “As She’s Walking Away,” “Colder Weather,” and “Knee Deep.” In addition to performing their own series of headlining concerts, the group toured with sure-to-be-fellow Entertainer nominee Kenny Chesney as he invited them to play all his stadium shows this year. ZBB also added a second Grammy award to their mantle as they walked away with the Best Country Collaboration with Vocals award for their duet with Alan Jackson, “As She’s Walking Away.”

Bubbling Under

Keith Urban – Since his win in 2005, Keith has been among the nominees every year. This year could see him off the list as his chart success wasn’t as strong as the five artists mentioned above. However, with a run of top five singles and a new album released within the past year, Urban could bump one of the five artists out of the category.

Carrie Underwood – Her Play On Tour was one of the biggest in terms of audience as well as production as it included one of the most elaborate productions a country concert tour has seen in quite some time. However, with no album or single release this year, the tour alone might not be enough to vault her into this category.

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CMA’s For Your Consideration: Female Vocalist of the Year

For the better part of the past decade the Female Vocalist of the Year category has been won by a clear favorite. Last year, Miranda Lambert was the overwhelming favorite and claimed her first win in the category after four nominations. However, this year the race for the trophy isn’t as clear cut. In fact, this year three women have a pretty big shot to take this award home.

Sara Evans
Sara Evans has been nominated in this category five times, but has yet to win. After having a largely successful comeback year, this could be Sara’s year to claim her first Female Vocalist trophy. Her smash hit “A Little Bit Stronger” was the first single by a solo female artist to hit number one in 2011. The song stayed atop the chart for two weeks, and has become the singer’s first platinum selling single. Her comeback album, Stronger, made its debut at number one on the country albums chart and has sold nearly 300,000 copies since its March release. The CMA’s usually loves a comeback story (i.e. Lee Ann Womack owning the night during the 2006 ceremony) and this has been the best of the year.

Taylor Swift
In 2009 Taylor Swift claimed her first Female Vocalist of the Year win (alongside three other wins) and this year she has a shot at claiming her second win. Taylor has sent more singles to the top five of the country singles chart than any other female artist as she’s added three more to her resume. In addition to the successful singles, she’s added another triple platinum album to her credit as her 2010 album, Speak Now, as moved over 3 million copies in less than a year. Not to mention her Speak Now World Tour has quickly become one of the most attended concert tours in any musical genre. After 2010 was the year of Miranda Lambert, 2011 could end up to be the year of Taylor Swift.

Miranda Lambert
The current Female Vocalist of the Year has had another consistent year although it doesn’t measure up to the massive 2010 she experienced. Miranda Lambert’s 2009 Revolution album was certified platinum and added another number one song to her credit with “Heart Like Mine” reaching the summit. Lambert managed to keep her name in the headlines as she married longtime boyfriend Blake Shelton and announced the release date of her fourth album, Four the Record. It’s possible that Lambert could repeat as Female Vocalist this year, but I think it’ll be hard for her to compete with the success Sara and Taylor have experienced.

Reba McEntire
Reba McEntire has once again delivered a solid year. She ended 2010 with a number one single as “Turn on the Radio” shot straight to the top of Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. The two follow up singles from her All the Women I Am album both peaked inside the top 40 on the same chart. The album, the singer’s 26th studio album, made its debut at number three on the country albums chart. Reba doesn’t really have a shot at winning, but she’s done enough to land a nomination.

Carrie Underwood
This past year has been relatively quiet for the three time Female Vocalist of the Year winner, Carrie Underwood. She’s had another consistent year at radio by sending “Undo It” to number one and “Mama’s Song” to number two, and she just recently hit number one as part of Brad Paisley’s song “Remind Me.” Underwood had a successful tour in last year’s Play On Tour which should be enough to get her into the category. But without having released an album since 2009 and a new single since last year, Underwood has little to no chance at pulling off a win.

Bubbling Under

Martina McBride – The singer once again had a tough time regaining any momentum at country radio. Her lone single of the past year, “Teenage Daughters,” peaked at number 17. This year could be the first time since 1997 that McBride isn’t among the Female Vocalist nominees.

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CMA’s For Your Consideration: Male Vocalist of the Year

Last year the CMA’s finally restructured the nominees in this category by adding two new nominees in Dierks Bentley and Blake Shelton. When awards night came is the underdog Shelton who pulled off the upset to win his first CMA Male Vocalist of the Year trophy. This year has seen plenty of male vocalists who have made big enough impacts to land in this category but we could end up with the usual suspects in this year’s nominations.

Jason Aldean
Last year Jason Aldean should have received his first nomination in this category but was once again ignored by the CMAs. This year the singer should not only receive his first nomination, but should receive his first win in this category. Jason has visited the top two on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart three times in the past year and has hit number one twice with “Don’t You Wanna Stay” and “Dirt Road Anthem.” The three singles have all been certified platinum for selling more than one million downloads. His My Kinda Party album has been certified platinum and is nearing the two million copies sold mark since its release last November (the best selling album from a male artist within the past year). If Blake Shelton can nab a win with less success then Jason Aldean should be this year’s Male Vocalist of the Year.

Kenny Chesney
After taking a little time away from the road and the business Kenny Chesney came back better than ever. He released Hemingway’s Whiskey last September and it has since been certified platinum. Three of the album’s singles went straight to the top of the charts with the fourth single currently in the top five. He returned to the road with his largely attended Goin’ Coastal tour which featured acts like the Zac Brown Band and Billy Currington as supporting acts. Chesney has won four Entertainer of the Year awards, but has yet to win a male vocalist trophy. I think this year could be his best (and possibly his last) shot to claim a victory in this category.

Blake Shelton
The current Male Vocalist of the Year is more than likely going to get a shot at another win this year. This year, Shelton has continued to build on the momentum that began with last year’s “Hillbilly Bone.” He’s charted three more number one songs with “All About Tonight,” “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking,” and “Honey Bee.” His Red River Blue album debuted at number one back in July and has continued to be a top seller since its release.

Brad Paisley
A Male Vocalist category wouldn’t be complete without Brad Paisley’s name in the list of nominations. Paisley has charted five singles from July of 2010 til now and four of them have hit number one. “Water,” “Anything Like Me,” “Old Alabama,” and “Remind Me” have helped Paisley amass 18 number one singles. His 2011 album, This is Country Music, has been certified gold since its May release and debuted at number one on the country albums chart. The current Entertainer of the Year is once again a popular touring artist and is currently touring in Europe. 

Keith Urban
Last year Urban barely snuck into this category, but this year he would have earned a nomination. The singer has hit the top two on the singles chart three times this year with “I’m In,” “Put You In A Song,” and “Without You” (which hit number one). He released his Get Closer album back in November and has seen it receive a gold certification since its release. A fourth Grammy award win is only going to help his chances at squeezing by artists like Chris Young and Luke Bryan for the fifth spot in this year’s race.

Bubbling Under

Chris Young – Chris is currently on a run of four straight number one singles and could snag a nomination in the Single of the Year category for his smash hit, “Tomorrow.” His Neon album sold nearly 100,000 copies in its first week of release (it has since passed that mark since July).

Luke Bryan – Luke has snagged three consecutive top five singles with “Rain Is A Good Thing,” “Someone Else Calling You Baby,” and “Country Girl (Shake It For Me).” His Tailgates and Tanlines album debuted at number one on the country albums chart and he’s readying his first headlining tour.

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CMA’s For Your Consideration: Single and Song of the Year

The CMA Single and Song of the Year categories have honored some fantastic songs throughout the awards show’s 44 year history. Last year Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” took home Single of the Year honors while Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me” was named Song of the Year. This year has seen plenty of well written songs and massively successful singles. Here are the five songs we think will secure nominations in these two categories.

“If I Die Young” – The Band Perry (Single of the Year, Song of the Year)
If you had to pick one single that defined the past year, it probably has to be this massive crossover hit from The Band Perry. “If I Die Young” became the group’s first number one single and has been certified double platinum for over two million downloads. The beautifully crafted lyrics helped songwriter Kimberly Perry receive her first Grammy nomination for Best Country Song. If it secures a nomination, I’m considering this song the front runner for Single of the Year honors and it could very well be crowned Song of the Year.

“A Little Bit Stronger” – Sara Evans (Single of the Year, Song of the Year)
This year there have only been two solo female artists to send songs to number one. Sara Evans’ comeback hit “A Little Bit Stronger” is not only one of those songs (Miranda Lambert’s “Heart Like Mine” is the other) but it is the only song by a female artist to spend more than one week atop the singles chart. The single has become Sara’s first platinum selling single of her career and helped her latest album, Stronger, debut at number one on the country albums chart in March. This is one of Sara’s finest singles and it could pose a threat to The Band Perry’s single.

“As She’s Walking Away” – Zac Brown Band featuring Alan Jackson (Single of the Year, Song of the Year)
This year could possibly be the Zac Brown Band’s year to shine at the CMA awards. After winning New Artist of the Year last year, the group could find themselves as this year’s leading nominee. For sure they’ll secure nominations in both these categories for any of their singles, but I think it’ll be “As She’s Walking Away” that will nab the nods. The fantastic collaboration became the group’s fifth number one single and earned the group their second Grammy. Had The Band Perry and Sara Evans not had stronger success on the charts, this song would be a lock to claim both awards.

“Tomorrow” – Chris Young (Single of the Year, Song of the Year)
This year’s Single and Song categories could shape up to be the five nomination artists’ career-defining singles. That criteria alone is a reason why I think Chris Young’s number one smash has a chance of securing one of the five slots in both categories. The single was Young’s fastest rising single and has been certified gold for more than 500,000 downloads. The song is one of the most well-written songs of the past year and Young’s delivery could be one of the best we’ve seen in country music this year. The song, should it land a nomination, will be an underdog, but it has the potential to be a spoiler.

“Don’t You Wanna Stay” – Jason Aldean featuring Kelly Clarkson (Single of the Year)
Just like every other song I’m predicting to land in these categories, “Don’t You Wanna Stay” could probably be considered Jason Aldean’s career-defining smash hit. The fantastic collaboration with Kelly Clarkson has helped Aldean reach the ranks of a country superstar. The platinum selling single became the singer’s fifth number one smash single and his fourth single to receive the platinum certification.

Back to December” – Taylor Swift (Song of the Year)
Out of all the singles Taylor Swift has released in her career, “Back to December” could possibly be the most well written of the bunch. The breakup song has one of the most beautiful melodic structures country radio has seen this year and the lyrics are some of the most emotional to come from Swift as a songwriter.


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CMA’s For Your Consideration: Album of the Year

Last year’s Album of the Year category had five outstanding nominees, but it was essentially a two horse race between Lady Antebellum’s massive selling Need You Now and Miranda Lambert’s brilliant Revolution. As we all know it was Lambert’s project that claimed the title that night becoming 2010’s ACM and CMA Album of the Year recipient. This year, the Album race is seemingly wide open considering there isn’t a clear favorite, but ATC is going to try our best to predict this year’s five nominees.

You Get What You Give – Zac Brown Band
If we are to crown a front runner for this year’s Album of the Year category, we’re going with the most recent release from the Zac Brown Band. You Get What You Give has been one of country’s top selling albums since its release in September of 2010. The album has been certified platinum and is nearing 1.2 million copies in sales. The album has yielded three straight number one singles (“As She’s Walking Away,” “Colder Weather,” and “Knee Deep”) and earned the group their second Best Country Album Grammy nomination. In terms of sales, this album isn’t on par with other country albums, but its quality makes it one of the best of the past year.

My Kinda Party – Jason Aldean
The Zac Brown Band album is the front runner in terms of “quality,” but Jason Aldean’s My Kinda Party is the front runner in terms of sales and success. Since its release in November of last year, the album has sold over 1.7 million copies, becoming the singer’s third platinum selling record. The album was also recently crowned as the highest selling country album for the first half of 2011. Party has produced three platinum selling singles in the title track, “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” and “Dirt Road Anthem,” with the latter two also hitting number one on the singles chart. Come November this album could spoil the Zac Brown Band’s party and pull off the upset.

Speak Now – Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift continues to rewrite the history books of country music. Her third studio album, Speak Now, sold over 1 million copies in its first week of release last November. Since then the album’s total has increased to over 3.6 million copies becoming the singer’s third album to be certified at least triple platinum. The album has yielded three top five singles with “Mine,” “Back to December,” and “Mean,” but has yet to produce a number one hit, which could hurt its chances at winning. After going home empty handed during last year’s ceremony, she may find herself in the winner’s circle again this year.

Hemingway’s Whiskey – Kenny Chesney
I think it’s safe to say that after a quiet 2009 and 2010, Kenny Chesney is back and probably better than ever. The singer’s Hemingway’s Whiskey album is one of his best artistic albums he’s released since the CMA winning When the Sun Goes Down. Since its release in September of 2010, Whiskey has sold close to one million copies and has spawned three consecutive number one singles (“The Boys of Fall,” “Somewhere With You,” and “Live a Little”) and a top five (“You and Tequila” featuring Grace Potter). Expect to see Kenny Chesney’s name multiple times next Tuesday when the nominations are announced.

This Is Country Music – Brad Paisley
I think the first four albums on the list are locks to be included in this category but the fifth and final slot is tough to predict. However, I think Paisley’s This Is Country Music has made the most impact out of the albums I think have a chance to round out this category. The album has moved over 400,000 copies since its May release and has given the singer three consecutive top 2 singles (“Old Alabama” and “Remind Me” hit number one while “This Is Country Music” peaked at number 2). Considering Paisley is the reigning Entertainer of the Year, I think that will give him enough clout to sneak into this category this year.

Bubbling Under

Stronger – Sara Evans: Sara’s comeback album has sold over 200,000 copies and its lead single, “A Little Bit Stronger,” is the only song by a female artist to spend multiple weeks at number one in 2011.

The Band Perry – The Band Perry: The trio’s debut album has a slight chance at getting a nomination because of the massive success of the single, “If I Die Young.” The album has sold just over 700,000 copies and has spawned 2 top five hits.

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CMA’s For Your Consideration: New Artist of the Year

With the nominees for the 2011 CMA Awards set to be announced on September 6, ATC is going to do our usual predicting of the nominees in the major categories. Last year we saw some major shakeups in a few of the big categories and I have a feeling this year will be the same. One of the categories that will probably see a shakeup is the New Artist of the Year category.

Last year, the Zac Brown Band took home the New Artist of the Year trophy beating out Luke Bryan, Easton Corbin, Jerrod Niemann, and Chris Young. This year has seen three of those four artists continue to have successful years but there are a handful of other artists who could prevent their return to the nominations list this year. Here are the five artists we think will secure a nomination:

The Band Perry
It’s difficult to think about this past year’s new artists without automatically thinking about this trio’s massive success. They’re breakout hit “If I Die Young” has been certified double platinum for more than 2 million digital downloads while the self-titled debut album has been certified gold for over 500,000 copies sold. The group has also had success at radio with two of the album’s singles peaking inside the top 2 (“If I Die Young” hit no. 1 and “You Lie” hit no. 2). Not to mention they just released their own headlining tour and spent most of the year on the road with Tim McGraw. Oh, and they are the current ACM Top New Artist of the Year. This group will be hard to beat come November.

Chris Young

He’s not necessarily “new,” but expect Chris Young to receive his second nomination in this category after having one of the most successful years in country. Young notched two more number one singles with “Voices” and “Tomorrow,” with the latter being certified gold. Since its release in July, his third album Neon has sold over 100,000 copies and gave him his highest album debut of his career. Chris has spent time on the road with Rascal Flatts and Jason Aldean and has been performing headlining shows in between those tours as well.

Luke Bryan
Luke Bryan is becoming one of radio’s favorite male artists. This past year he’s nabbed two consecutive number one singles with “Rain Is a Good Thing” and “Someone Else Calling You Baby” as well as a top five (and platinum selling) single with “Country Girl (Shake it for Me).”  This year Bryan also saw his sophomore album, Doin’ My Thing, be certified gold for selling over 500,000 copies. Just like The Band Perry, Bryan just announced his first headlining tour after spending the summer on the road with Tim McGraw.

Thompson Square
Husband and wife duo Thompson Square has become one of the genre’s most successful duos of the past year. They’re breakout hit, “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?,” has not only become the duo’s first number one single, but it is also their first platinum selling single (over 1 million downloads). The duo’s self-titled debut album made its debut at number 3 back in February and is approaching 200,000 copies sold. Just like Chris Young, Thompson Square is also touring with Jason Aldean as well as hitting up small venues for a series of headline dates.

Eric Church
The fifth and final spot is hard to predict, but I’m going to go with Eric Church. Unlike the other four artists who I think will secure nominations, Church hasn’t had the same success at country radio seeing as he didn’t crack the top 15 with his two singles “Smoke a Little Smoke” and “Homeboy.” However, both those singles have been certified gold, something that the other four artists haven’t achieved. This year also saw his sophomore album Carolina receive a gold certification while his latest album, Chief, has already sold nearly 300,000 copies in just five weeks.

Bubbling Under

Easton Corbin – After bursting out of the gate with two consecutive number one singles, Corbin has somewhat stalled as his third single peaked just inside the top 15 while his album sales have slowed down.

Jerrod Niemann – Much like Easton Corbin, Niemann went straight to the top of the charts with “Lover, Lover,” but has lost some momentum at radio after the follow up, “What Do You Want,” peaked at number 4. However, his album has sold over 300,000 copies since its release last year so that could help him get back onto the nominations list.

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