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CMAs vs. Grammys

Our Country

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It's a safe bet that Rascal Flatts and Martina McBride prefer the CMA Awards to the Grammys. Rascal Flatts won six consecutive CMA awards as Vocal Group of the Year, but has yet to win a Grammy. McBride has been named Female Vocalist of the Year at the CMAs four times, which puts her in a tie with Reba McEntire for the most awards in the category in the show's history. She, too, has yet to win a Grammy.

George Strait and Diamond Rio also probably prefer the CMAs to the Grammys. Strait has been named Male Vocalist of the Year at the CMAs five times, which puts him in a tie with Vince Gill for the most wins in the category in the show's history. But he has yet to win a Grammy in the equivalent category—Best Male Country Vocal Performance (now Best Country Solo Performance). (He did win a Grammy for Best Country Album for 2008's Troubadour.)

Diamond Rio has won four CMA Awards for Vocal Group of the Year, but has yet to win a Grammy for Best Country Duo/Group Performance. (The group did win a Grammy for Best Southern, Country, Or Bluegrass Gospel Album for 2010's The Reason).

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On the other hand, Anne Murray and Shania Twain may well prefer the Grammys to the CMAs. Murray has won three Grammys for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, but never won a CMA award for Female Vocalist of the Year. Twain has won two Grammys in that category, but has also been shut out in the CMA female vocalist category.

Alison Krauss & Union Station has also done better at the Grammys than at the CMAs. The ensemble has won for Best Country Duo/Group Performance three times, but has yet to be named Vocal Group of the Year at the CMAs.

Why do the results of the two shows differ to such a degree? People who vote for the CMAs are all country fans and followers. Any Grammy voter can vote in the country field, whether they're a country expert or not. (Grammy voters are asked to vote only in fields in which they're knowledgeable, but it's up to the voter to decide if they're qualified.)

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That explains why some non-country artists have won Grammys in the country field over the years. Kris Kristofferson & Rita Coolidge won two awards for Best Country Duo/Group Performance. (The duo placed three songs on Hot Country Songs in 1973-1974, but none climbed above #87.) The Pointer Sisters won one, for 1974's "Fairytale." (The song reached #37 on the country chart.)

The roster of Grammy winners for Best Female and Male Country Vocal Performance includes several crossover artists who are more pop than country. Among them: Linda Ronstadt (who won for 1975's "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You)," Juice Newton (who won for 1982's "Break It To Me Gently," k.d. lang (who won for 1989's Absolute Torch And Twang) and Lyle Lovett (who won for 1989's Lyle Lovett And His Large Band).

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Garth Brooks never won a CMA award for Male Vocalist of the Year. This probably reflects a view that his main strength is as a live performer (he was the first person to be voted Entertainer of the Year four times). But I'm mystified why Willie Nelson never won a CMA award for Male Vocalist of the Year. (He won three Grammys for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.) Nelson is one of the greatest male country vocalists of all time.

Of course, some artists have been big winners at both shows. Among them: Vince Gill, Ronnie Milsap, Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Tammy Wynette, Dixie Chicks, The Judds, Alabama, Lady Antebellum, Dolly Parton, Mary Chapin Carpenter, George Jones and Randy Travis.

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Three albums have won both the CMA award for Album of the Year and the Grammy for Best Country Album (the Grammy category was introduced in 1994): Dixie Chicks' Fly, George Strait's Troubadour and Taylor Swift's Fearless.

Strait has won the CMA award for Album of the Year five times, more than any other artist. He won for 1985's Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind, 1996's Blue Clear Sky, 1997's Carrying Your Love With Me,  2007's It Just Comes Natural and 2008's Troubadour. Ronnie Milsap won CMA's Album of the Year four times. Johnny Cash won it three times.

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Dixie Chicks has won the Grammy for Best Country Album four times, more than any other artist. The trio won for 1998's Wide Open Spaces, 1999's Fly, 2002's Home and 2006's Taking The Long Way. Lady Antebellum and Roger Miller both won Best Country Album twice. (Miller won in 1964-1965, before the category was discontinued for nearly three decades.)

Eleven songs have won both Song of the Year at the CMAs and Best Country Song at the Grammys. Vince Gill wrote and recorded two of them: "I Still Believe In You" (which he co-wrote with John Jarvis) and "Go Rest High On That Mountain."

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The other  songs to pick up both awards (and the winning songwriters) are: Charlie Rich's "Behind Closed Doors" (Kenny O'Dell), Crystal Gayle's "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" (Richard Leigh), Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler" (Don Schlitz), Willie Nelson's "Always On My Mind" (Wayne Carson, Johnny Christopher and Mark James), Randy Travis' "Forever And Ever, Amen" (Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz), Kathy Mattea's "Where've You Been" (Don Henry and Jon Vezner), Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance" (Mark D. Sanders and Tia Sillers), Alan Jackson's "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)" (Alan Jackson), and Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying" (Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman).

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