Well, they’re almost here folks — the 2017 Grammy Awards are upon us. Most people come for the performances and stay for the awards. I love all of it.
And yes, I know it’s inherently odd for the industry to get in a big room and pat each other on the back with award shows. But we do it all the time. The Grammy Awards just happen to be the ones with the most clout, the most artists and the most performances.
Sure, not everybody deserving gets a nomination. And not every winner may be the artist you preferred. But it’s all a lot of fun, and they always change lives. Because for the rest of their careers, these artists now get to say “Grammy-winning” before their name. And that’s just cool.
So here are the artists I voted for in country-related categories, along with the artist I think will win. If I’m right, “I told you so.” But if I’m wrong, well, really — it’s anybody’s guess!
Best Country Solo Performance
The Nominees: Brandy Clark (“Love Can Go To Hell”), Miranda Lambert (“Vice”), Maren Morris (“My Church”), Carrie Underwood (“Church Bells”), Keith Urban (“Blue Ain’t Your Color”)
Who I Voted For: Miranda Lambert (“Vice”)
Who I Think Will Win: Miranda Lambert. This is a tough category, and one that is awesomely stacked with females. But Lambert only appears because her song “Vice” came out before the Sept. 30 cut-off. That’s why you don’t see more of The Weight Of These Wings up here. She’s a great mix of critically acclaimed and commercially successful, and she’s due for another Grammy.
Best Country Duo/Group Performance
The Nominees: Dierks Bentley & Elle King (“Different For Girls”), Brothers Osborne (“21 Summer”), Kenny Chesney & Pink (“Setting The World On Fire”), Pentatonix & Dolly Parton (“Jolene”), Chris Young & Cassaddee Pope (“Think Of You”)
Who I Voted For: Brothers Osborne (“21 Summer”)
Who I Think Will Win: Pentatonix & Dolly Parton (“Jolene”). Again, this category is anybody’s guess. But it’s moreso because none of the songs really stands out as an absolute runaway. I tend to vote for actual groups or duos in this category, which is why I went with a deserving Brothers Osborne. But the Pentatonix get lots of Grammy love, and Dolly Parton is a legend. Plus, even though “Jolene” is an old tune, this category is about who performed it best — it’s hard to argue with that combination.
Best Country Song
The Nominees: “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” “Die A Happy Man,” “Humble and Kind,” “My Church,” “Vice”
Who I Voted For: “Vice”
Who I Think Will Win: “Humble and Kind.” Though technically the Tim McGraw version is nominated, in my head it’s still just Lori McKenna. I still think “Vice” is probably the best-written country single on radio this year, but honestly any of these tunes deserves the love. Seeing McKenna snag a Grammy for a song so near and dear to her would be special, though.
Best Country Album
The Nominees: Big Day In A Small Town (Brandy Clark), Full Circle (Loretta Lynn), Hero (Maren Morris), A Sailor’s Guide To Earth (Sturgill Simpson), Ripcord (Keith Urban)
Who I Voted For: Hero (Maren Morris)
Who I Think Will Win: A Sailor’s Guide To Earth (Sturgill Simpson). Honestly, if an album is nominated for Album of the Year, it’s a pretty good sign that album should also win its genre-specific category. But this is the kind of album Grammy voters love. Conceptual, daunting, memorable. Honestly, this category has the full spread. The critical songwriter (Clark), the legend (Lynn), the newcomer (Morris), the pop star (Urban) and the buzziest name in town (Simpson).
Best American Roots Performance
The Nominees: Avett Brothers (“Ain’t No Man”), Blind Boys of Alabama (“Mother’s Children Have A Hard Time”), Rhiannon Giddens (“Factory Girl”), Sarah Jarosz (“House of Mercy”), Lori McKenna (“Wreck You”)
Who I Voted For: Lori McKenna (“Wreck You”)
Who I Think Will Win: Lori McKenna (“Wreck You”). If my fellow voters took the time to really listen to all five nominees, they’d find some truly great tunes. But McKenna, hands down, wrecks me with her performance of “Wreck You.” But Sarah Jarosz and Rhiannon Giddens sure look good on this list, too.
Best American Roots Song
The Nominees: “Alabama At Night” (Robbie Folks), “City Lights” (Jack White), “Gulfstream” (Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars), “Kid Sister” (Vince Gill), “Wreck You” (Lori McKenna)
Who I Voted For: “Wreck You”
Who I Think Will Win: “Wreck You.” No diversity in my picks here. Call it wishful thinking, but I’ll go down with this ship. Vince Gill had a great tune as well. And Jack White always captures Grammy love. But darn it, “Wreck You” is my pony in this race.
Best Americana Album
The Nominees: True Sadness (The Avett Brothers), This Is Where I Live (William Bell), The Cedar Creek Sessions (Kris Kristofferson), The Bird & The Rifle (Lori McKenna), Kid Sister (The Time Jumpers/Vince Gill)
Who I Voted For: The Bird & The Rifle
Who I Think Will Win: The Bird & The Rifle. Come on, don’t be so surprised. Though if I’m wrong and voters give it to Kristofferson, I’ll call that a huge win too. Because it’s just real nice to see him back in the Grammy picture. But seriously, The Bird & The Rifle is every bit as deserving an album.
Best New Artist
The Nominees: Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini, Chance The Rapper, The Chainsmokers, Anderson .Paak
Who I Voted For: Maren Morris
Who I Think Will Win: Chance The Rapper. As much as I want Morris to win here, I’m not sure both her and Ballerini being in the same field does either any favors. Morris gets the leg up because she’s received a lot of love in Billboard, which is a well-respected publication that covers all genres. But honestly, voters do tend to stick to what they know (myself included), and country voters likely split between Morris and Ballerini. Meanwhile, what Chance The Rapper has done as an independent artist is nothing short of incredible. He snagged seven nominations, the most ever by an artist with no record label.
Album of the Year
The Nominees: 25 (Adele), Lemonade (Beyonce), Purpose (Justin Bieber), Views (Drake), A Sailor’s Guide To Earth (Sturgill Simpson)
Who I Voted For: A Sailor’s Guide To Earth (Sturgill Simpson)
Who I Think Will Win: Lemonade (Beyonce). You’re probably saying, “Wait, you didn’t vote for Sturgill in Best Country Album, but you picked him for Album of the Year?” Yes. Partially in solidarity, and partially so my editor Matt doesn’t give me a hard time (just kidding). But seriously, he’s every bit as deserving as the rest of these folks. And yes, even Bieber stepped up his game considerably. But something tells me this is Beyonce’s year.