Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the third annual Popblerd Grammy Awards preview. This almost didn’t happen…after the nominees were announced a month or so ago, I felt a strange burst of apathy. However, I’m a glutton for punishment. So although I think these might be the least predictable Grammys in history, I’ll be predicting (obviously) and I will most likely be watching, as well.

For the country installment of this preview, I have decided to call in a reinforcement. Matthew Bjorke has been a friend of mine for about a decade, since our writing days on Epinions. He is now the very successful guy in charge of country site Roughstock.com, and he decided to take the mic away from me for a day and give his picks for Grammy’s country categories.

Best Country Solo Performance

I Drive Your Truck”- Lee Brice

“I Want Crazy”-Hunter Hayes

Mama’s Broken Heart”-Miranda Lambert

“Wagon Wheel”-Darius Rucker

“Mine Would Be You”-Blake Shelton

When looking at this list of nominees, it’s surprising not to find a roots-y or veteran like Kristofferson or Willie Nelson on the list. Guess 2013 was just that weird year where they released projects but not stuff that was eligible for this category. So, that leaves superstar Blake Shelton, his wife Miranda Lambert, Darius Rucker and young upstarts Hunter Hayes and Lee Brice. Given that Hayes was nominated for multiple awards last year and was even in this category (as was Shelton), he may get the nod this time out. As much as that seems possible, really, I think Shelton or Rucker take the award. Shelton because he’s well known, Rucker because he’s the oldest of the nominees, singing a remake of a Bob Dylan-penned, hipster-approved Old Crow Medicine Show’s signature song. So Forced to pick, I’ll go with “Wagon Wheel.”

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

“From This Valley”-The Civil Wars

“Don’t Rush”-Kelly Clarkson/Vince Gill

“Your Side Of The Bed”-Little Big Town

“Highway Don’t Care”-Tim McGraw/Talyor Swift/Keith Urban

“You Can’t Make Old Friends”-Kenny Rogers/Dolly Parton

Oh, this is more like it! The kind Grammy nominee list I am used to, a mix of old and new and perhaps for the first time ever in this category, each of the nominees has won, many of them for this category or a previous version of this category. And, while Grammy loves veterans, they also love young guns like Taylor Swift who has won seven Grammy Awards since 2009. Vince Gill and Kelly Clarkson may have a great shot at this award as Kelly’s a 3-time winner (including 2012 Pop album) while Vince has won 18 Grammy Awards since 1990. The case for anyone here but my Gut says they go for McGraw, Swift and Urban over Clarkson/Gill.

Best Country Song

“Begin Again”

Taylor Swift Writer & Artist

“I Drive Your Truck”

Artist: Lee Brice/Writers: Jessi Alexander, Jimmy Yeary, Connie Harrington

“Mama’s Broken Heart”

Artist: Miranda Lambert/Writers: Kacey Musgraves, Shane McAnally, Brandy Clark

“Merry Go Round”

Artist: Kacey Mugraves/Writer: Musgraves, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne

“Mine Would Be You”

Artist: Blake Shelton/Writers: Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington, Deric Ruttan

Here’s an interesting category where the writers get the award and not the performer. Though most of these songs are also in other categories, there’s also the case where the songs not written by Taylor Swift find repeat co-writers, So Kacey Musgraves and Shane McAnally both are listed twice as are Connie Harrington and Jessi Alexander for their songs. In the end though, these are all very worthy choies with great lyrics. “Begin Again” may be one of Taylor Swift’s most mature and best-written tunes so that certainly helps her case but it’s also easy to make cases for each of the other songs too. And as much as I think Musgraves and her co-writing friends deserve those awards, I think Swift’s name and plethora of awards will be too much to overcome.

Best Country Album

“Night Train”-Jason Aldean

“Two Lanes Of Freedom”-Tim McGraw

“Same Trailer Different Park”-Kacey Musgraves

“Based On A True Story”-Blake Shelton

“RED”-Taylor Swift.

Of these five albums, “RED” is also nominated in the all-genre Album list and stands a great shot at winning that category (It’s the best-selling album on both lists; it’s truly a pop and country mix). That means she’s the one to beat here. This could be the year Shelton marries the CMA Award winning album with a Grammy as well or that another critically-acclaimed upstart like Musgraves takes the award. In the end, though, I think Swift is too much of a Grammy darling already and that means she’ll take the award here if for no other reason that folks not familiar with Musgraves will choose Swift for the all-genre nomination and her previous wins in multiple categories.

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