The one thing that I have consistently liked about the CMA Awards, is that they often nominate, if not award, country artists who not only put out great commercial material via radio but also smaller, independent artists. The Jason Isbell nomination last year for album of the year is a perfect example. Even when a mainstream artist puts out a project that isn't racing up the charts, the CMA will give them a nod. Based on this year's nominations that were released yesterday, that has apparently changed.

This year's list of nominees read like a who's who of artists who've had radio success. And don't get me wrong, those artists deserve the recognition. They truly are some of the biggest names in our business. But what happened to recognizing artistic efforts that might not be recognized as mainstream? I want to look at the Album of the Year category specifically. Three of the five albums they got spot on. 'Golden Hour' by Kacey Musgraves, 'From A Room: Volume 2' by Chris Stapleton and 'The Mountain' by Dierks Bentley all belong. But in my opinion, you can take out albums by Keith Urban and Thomas Rhett and replace them with two much more deserving entries.

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I had written off Kenny Chesney in recent years. He was country's new Jimmy Buffett island artist. Many of his releases failed to connect with me personally. That all changed with his latest album 'Songs for the Saints'. Yes, the album is filled with island-themed songs, but the album is also a love letter to Kenny's part-time home in The Virgin Islands. Those islands were devasted by Hurricane Irma. The proceeds from Kenny's album go to hurricane relief for residents of those islands. Kenny sings with heightened urgency and feeling. Songs like Every Heart, Gulf Moon, and Better Boat are all gorgeous tributes and deserve to be recognized.

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The other album that should be nominated is 'Port St. Joe' by Brothers Osborne. This album flows seamlessly from track to track. From the uptempo 'Shoot Me Straight' to the subdued 'Weed, Whiskey, and Willie' Brothers Osborne knock it out of the park. It's another great country album that needs to be heard and recognized.

One thing I always loved about the CMAs was finding out about artists that I might not have heard about before. There aren't many hidden gems in this year's list. That might not bother some people. But I expect more from the CMA.