August 30, 2006

Country music awards set for three-way showdown

By Claudia Parsons

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Country Music Association awards
are a three-way showdown between Brad Paisley, Keith Urban and
Kenny Chesney, while the Dixie Chicks were snubbed again with
not a single nomination on Wednesday.

The country-pop trio have been boycotted by many radio
stations since lead singer Natalie Maines said during a London
concert in March 2003 that the band was "ashamed" to come from
the same state -- Texas -- as President George W. Bush.

Despite the fact that "Taking the Long Way Round," their
first studio album since the controversy, quickly went
platinum, the Dixie Chicks were ignored when the CMA announced
the shortlists for its awards, to be held in Nashville on
November 6.

Paisley led the field with six nominations, including best
album, male vocalist and entertainer of the year, a tally
matched by veteran duo Brooks & Dunn, whose nominations
included best album, vocal duo and entertainer.

Chesney and Urban, last year's entertainer of the year,
were close behind with four nominations each. Both were among
the five contenders for entertainer of the year, considered the
top award, along with the band Rascal Flatts, whose tally of
three nominations was matched by Dolly Parton.

Newcomer Carrie Underwood, who shot to fame after winning
the television talent show "American Idol" in 2005, scored four
nominations, including female vocalist of the year.


One name that seemed out of place was the rock band Bon
Jovi, nominated for "Musical Event of the Year" for the duet
with Jennifer Nettles "Who Says You Can't Go Home."

Peter Cooper, senior music writer at The Tennessean, said
there were not many surprises, though a nod for Alan Jackson's
"Precious Memories" for album of the year, for what he called a
"stripped down gospel" record, was a little unexpected.

Cooper said Paisley had six nods last year but won no
awards and that he was surprised Toby Keith received no

He said that while the Dixie Chicks were among the country
acts best known to a wider audience, the lack of radio play for
their new album meant it was no surprise the CMA snubbed them.

"They sing great, they play great and they're still drawing
loads of people to their shows, but apparently there's been a
complete divorce from the country community," Cooper said.

The Dixie Chicks won 10 CMA awards between 1998 and 2002.
In 2003 they were nominated for vocal group and album of the
year but did not win.

Australian-born Keith Urban, who married actress Nicole
Kidman earlier this year, has won male vocalist of the year for
the past two years, and was nominated again in that category,
along with Chesney, Paisley, Jackson and Dierks Bentley.

Chesney, who was briefly married to actress Renee
Zellweger, was already named entertainer of the year at the
Academy of Country Music Awards in May.

Underwood is up against Sara Evans, Faith Hill, Martina
McBride and Gretchen Wilson for female vocalist of the year.

The nominations are drawn up by around 5,000 professionals
in the country music business, from producers to artists to
radio station people.