CMAs Back Home In Nashville

The 40th annual Country Music Awards is set to be one giant party of Country Music royalty, with multiple nominee duo Brooks and Dunn emceeing the ceremonies Monday night at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in downtown Nashville.

—Don't miss's LIVE STREAM from the CMA's Red Carpet, beginning at 7pm EST with FOX & Friends' Kiran Chetry and's Mike Straka from Nashville, at

It could be a big night for "American Idol" winner Carrie Underwood. The newcomer has proven herself to her peers and the fans, and insiders say she's the one to beat in both the female vocalist of the year and Horizon award categories.

Underwood's "Before He Cheats" is currently burning up the charts and her video for the hit song is one of the staples of Country Music Television these days.

Our little Carrie is all grown up. She does have some stiff competition in the vocalist category, however.

Sara Evans, Martina McBride, Faith Hill and the "Redneck Woman" Gretchen Wilson are standing in her way. While Underwood may have newcomer status in her favor, Evans could get the sympathy vote surrounding her marital problems and all of the hype around dropping out of "Dancing With The Stars," and Wilson's autobiography "Redneck Woman: Stories From My Life" is headed to a best-seller list near you.

It's hard to find a group of more talented and well-rounded women anywhere else in music, and for those who have not yet given country music a chance, you're missing out on these lovely ladies.

Of course the big one Monday night is Entertainer of the Year, and this time five artists (including one duo and a group) are going head-to-head, and they're all Big Guns.

Kenny Chesney is most likely winner of the three soloists nominated, including Brad Paisley and last year's winner, Keith Urban.

But if voters like the groups better, Rascal Flatts has an edge over Brooks and Dunn. The group has taken the country by storm, especially after covering "Life Is A Highway" for the summer blockbuster animated Pixar flick "Cars."

The Male Vocalist of the Year category looks familiar, as the three soloists nominated for Entertainer of the Year go up against "Precious Memories" Country music vet Alan Jackson, and perrennial under-dog Dierks Bentley.

My money's on Chesney, especially if he loses out to Rascal Flatts in the Entertainer of the Year category.

CMA hosts Brooks and Dunn are up for Vocal Duo of the Year — again — and it's unlikely nominees Big and Rich, The Wreckers (with Michelle Branch and Jessica Harp), Montgomery Gentry and Van Zandt will unseat Kix and Ronnie, who already have 15 CMA awards in their long, successful career.

Newcomers Josh Turner, Sugarland, Little Big Town, "Nashville Star" winner Miranda Lambert all go up against Underwood for the Horizon award, given to the most promising new act in Country Music.

If anyone is going to come close to Underwood, it will most likely be cross-over artists Sugarland. Singer Jennifer Nettles had a hit this year with Jon Bon Jovi with "Who Says You Can't Go Home."

In the Album of the Year category, it looks like Rascal Flatts' "Me And My Gang" is the one to beat, but don't be surprised if Alan Jackson's "Precious Memories" is the spoiler in the category.

The gospel CD was a gift to Jackson's mother, and features his children on vocals. Jackson has said he is pleasantly surprised by the album's success.

Rounding out the category is Kenny Chesney's "The Road and the Radio," Brad Paisley's "Time Well Wasted," and Brooks and Dunn's "Hillbilly Deluxe."

Keith Urban is skipping this year's big night after checking into rehab for alcohol addiction, and appropriately his "Better Life" hit is the favorite in the "Single of the Year" category.

Urban, who married actress Nicole Kidman earlier this year in their native Australia, goes up against Underwood's "Jesus Take The Wheel," Chesney's "Summertime," Paisley's "When I Get Where I'm Going," and "Believe," by Brooks and Dunn.

The Country Music Awards air on ABC Monday night.

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