For the first time in a while, country music doesn’t have an artist representing the genre in any of the big four Grammy categories. In fact, this year heavily features hip hop and R&B, which makes sense given those genres saw tons of big releases and commercial growth.
But that doesn’t mean country music is left out in the cold. The crop of talents representing country at the awards are still some of the most noteworthy from this year.
The 60th Grammy Awards take place in New York City this year after being held in Los Angeles for years. And while the big televised awards dominate Twitter chatter, lots of great awards are actually handed out pre-telecast. Some of those include Best Americana Album and Best American Roots Song.
So what can we expect from country music in the 2018 Grammy Awards, both before and during the big show?
Two critical country darlings just joined the lineup for primetime performances. Chris Stapleton (a three-time nominee this year) and Emmylou Harris (a 13-time winner and recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award) both have performance slots slated for the evening.
Other country singers scheduled to perform include Eric Church, Maren Morris and Brothers Osborne, who will play a tribute to the victims of concert violence last year. The most notable events, of course, include the bombing at an Ariana Grande concert at the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting massacre.
Little Big Town will also perform during the show.
Best Country Solo Performance this year features a little bit of everything. From Sam Hunt‘s record-breaking crossover smash “Body Like A Back Road” to Alison Krauss‘ “Losing You,” there’s something for everyone. Maren Morris joins the list for “I Could Use A Love Song,” while Miranda Lambert earns a nod for “Tin Man” and Chris Stapleton gets his obligatory nomination for “Either Way.”
Who Will Win: It’s a tough one, and as much as Lambert’s “Tin Man” deserves every once of recognition it gets, bet on the hot hand with Chris Stapleton here.
Best Country/Duo Group Performance welcomes Midland with their hit “Drinkin’ Problem.” The other nominees are Little Big Town for “Better Man,” Lady Antebellum for “You Look Good,” Brothers Osborne for “It Ain’t My Fault” and Zac Brown Band for “My Old Man.”
Who Will Win: Grammy voters tend to lean traditional when given the chance. By combining that with the opportunity to do that while supporting something new, all signs point to Midland bringing this one home.
Best Country Song features the return of Taylor Swift (for Little Big Town’s “Better Man”) and then a bunch of familiar faces. “Body Like A Back Road,” “Broken Halos” (another Chris Stapleton song), “Tin Man” and “Drinkin’ Problem” all get the nod.
Who Will Win: As fun as it would be to see Swift get another country award, “Tin Man” could definitely swoop in and take this one, since the focus is lyrics and melody.
Best Country Album features, curiously, Kenny Chesney’s 2016 Cosmic Hallelujah. But it also features more recent records, including Thomas Rhett’s Life Changes, Little Big Town’s The Breaker, Lady Antebellum’s Heart Break and Chris Stapleton’s From A Room: Volume 1.
Who Will Win: The heart says The Breaker, but the head says, well, probably Chris Stapleton again.
American Roots Music
This category basically features a bunch of other genres that don’t really compete commercially with country music. While it’s bizarre to think Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell are in different categories, this is where you’ll find Isbell’s phenomenal album The Nashville Sound.
Best American Roots Performance offers a chance for Glen Campbell to win posthumously with “Arkansas Farmboy.” It also features Alison Krauss on “I Never Cared For You.” And speaking of posthumous nods, Leonard Cohen also competes with “Steer Your Way.” The other two nominees are, interestingly enough, Alabama Shakes and Blind Boys of Alabama.
Who Will Win: It’s a tough one between Leonard Cohen and Glen Campbell. A tossup, even. But hey, this time the coin came down on Campbell.
Best American Roots Song nominees are David Rawlings (“Cumberland Gap”), The Mavericks (“I Wish You Well”), “If We Were Vampires” (Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit), Rodney Crowell with Rosanne Cash and John Paul White (“It Ain’t Over Yet”) and “My Only True Friend” by Gregg Allman.
Who Will Win: Hopefully Jason Isbell, but don’t be surprised if it’s Gregg Allman.
Best Americana Album includes Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit and Brent Cobb. But it also features southern rock legend Gregg Allman, cult classics Iron & Wine and The Mavericks.
Who Will Win: This one should pretty handily go to Isbell.
Watch the 60th Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, January 28 at 7:30 p.m. CST on CBS.