The Grammys have presented the award for Best Country Duo/Group for decades, but in 2011 the award was merged with Best Country Collaboration, so now it pits established groups against one-off collaborations between solo artists. In the four years since the merger, groups have won every time: the Civil Wars in 2011 ("Barton Hollow") and 2013 ("From This Valley"), Little Big Town in 2012 ("Pontoon") and The Band Perry ("Gentle on My Mind").
That might be good news for Little Big Town; they're nominated for the fourth year in a row, this time for "Girl Crush," which also contends for Song of the Year, suggesting strong academy support for the tune. They've been nominated in this contest six times overall, and they also contended once for Best Country Collaboration.
There are two more groups nominated, but neither boasts a track record as strong as Little Big Town's. Brothers Osborne contend for the first time for "Stay a Little Longer." The newcomers have no other nominations this year.
The husband-and-wife duo Joey+Rory are also nominated for the first time, for their song "If I Needed You," though they've already released six studio albums since 2008. Like the Brothers Osborne, this is their only bid this year.
The last two nominees are collaborations between artists who have extensive Grammy track records. Perhaps the more formidable of the two is "The Driver," which features the most awarded artist in this category: Charles Kelley. He's never been awarded on his own, but he has won a whopping seven Grammys with the group Lady Antebellum, including Record and Song of the Year for "Need You Now" in 2010.
And don't count out "Lonely Tonight" by Blake Shelton and Ashley Monroe. Like Bentley, Shelton is aiming for his first Grammy win, having lost all six of his previous bids. Monroe is nominated for the first time, but don't underestimate the recording academy's affection for her: they also nominated her for Best Country Album ("The Blade").
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Charles Kelley photo credit: Ken McKay/ITV/REX
Dierks Bentley photo credit: Jim Smeal/BEI/REX
Eric Paslay photo credit: Amy Harris/REX