Many of the faces are the same — such as five-time hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood — but the 46th CMA Awards will this year also spotlight the breakout years achieved by the Band Perry, Love and Theft, the Civil Wars and a few other country acts.
Of course the established star power in the forms of Blake Shelton, Taylor Swift and even Lionel Richie, warmly embraced by the community after this year’s country duets album, “Tuskegee,” will be on sequined display Thursday night from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
Eric Church, whose “Springsteen” is a leading contender, fronts the nominees with five, followed by Shelton and his wife, Miranda Lambert, with four each.
Heading the pack of Georgia nominees is Macon-born Jason Aldean, who is continuing his breakout year into 2013 with a just-announced stadium tour that will play Athens’ Sanford Stadium on April 13 as well as two nights at Fenway Park in Boston (and who said country music is only popular in the South?).
But first, Aldean will compete for the coveted Entertainer of the Year crown, taking on Kenny Chesney, Paisley, Shelton and two-time winner Swift. Considering his sold-out amphitheater tour last summer, his double platinum “My Kinda Party” album (which won the CMA Album of the Year last year) and the No. 1 debut of his latest album, “Night Train,” it wouldn’t be a surprise worthy of one of Swift’s exaggerated expressions if Aldean takes the top honor this year.
Aldean is also up for Male Vocalist of the Year and Single of the Year for “Dirt Road Anthem.”
Aldean’s summer tour mate, Leesburg’s Luke Bryan, and Lady Antebellum, who maintain ties to Georgia, are both up for Album of the Year with “Tailgates and Tanlines” and “Own the Night,” respectively.
Bryan will also battle Aldean for male vocalist honors, while Lady Antebellum is also represented in the Vocal Group of the Year category.
While last year’s ceremony wasn’t fruitful for the Zac Brown Band — five nominations but no wins — the Georgia favorites will have two chances this year. ZBB is up against the Eli Young Band, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town and the Band Perry (who have a history with Atlanta vocal coach Jan Smith) for Vocal Group of the Year.
ZBB and fellow Georgian Alan Jackson also received notice for their collaboration “Dixie Highway,” which will compete for Musical Event of the Year.
Sugarland’s lone nod this year comes in the category it is quite familiar with — Vocal Duo of the Year, which it has won the past five years. This time, Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush will face off with Big and Rich, the Civil Wars, Love and Theft, and Thompson Square.
Also representing Georgia: Brantley Gilbert, from Jefferson, who is up for Best New Artist against Lee Brice, Hunter Hayes, Love and Theft, and Thompson Square.
Among the expected performers during Thursday’s three-hour telecast are Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Bryan, Chesney, Kelly Clarkson, Vince Gill, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban and ZBB.
The 46th CMA Awards air at 8 p.m. Thursday on ABC.