"Here for a Good Time" marks George Strait's fifth nomination for Best Country Album. He won his only honor in 2009 for "Troubadour;" other nominations were for "Twang" (2010), "It Just Comes Natural" (2008) and "Carrying Your Love with Me" (1998). The release reached the summit of the Billboard Top Country Albums chart, but what really helps his chances is track "I'll Always Remember You." It hints at a possible retirement by Strait, meaning this might be among the last chances to honor him.
Though Eric Church's "Chief" is more than deserving of its nomination, Grammy voters aren't likely to embrace him with a Best Country Album victory just yet. His track "Homeboy" was eligible in a few categories, but was overlooked, making this one his sole citation. The album did, however, debut at #1 on the Billboard album charts, so Church's popularity could make him a contender in coming years.
Like fellow nominee Aldean, Blake Shelton really broke through with Grammy voters despite having had popuarlity with country music listeners for ages. "Red River Blue" is his first nomination in this category. He's also up for Best Country Solo Performance on "Honey Bee." Nevertheless, expect a bigger release like those by Swift or Strait to beat him easily.
Just last year, Lady Antebellum won this category for their massive "Need You Now." Sales and reviews have been far more tepid for "Own the Night." They've also lost favor with Grammy voters since Best Country Album is their only nomination; single "Just a Kiss" was completely passed over.
Country superstar Taylor Swift won this award in 2010 for "Fearless." Now she'll probably do it again with "Speak Now." The release topped the Billboard albums chart for more than a month and singles "Mine," "Sparks Fly," "Back to December," and "Mean" all made it to the top 10 on country radio. No album in this category comes close to having made the impact "Speak Now" did.
Jason Aldean had a breakout year with Grammy voters despite being a staple on country radio for years. A big part of the success of "My Kinda Party" involved crossover hit "Don't You Wanna Stay" with Kelly Clarkson. Aldean is also nominated for his "Dirt Road Anthem" in Best Country Solo Performance. He is an outside shot to win either prize.