Amid mostly business-as-usual country nominations, one name towers above the rest: Johnny Cash--whose harrowing "Unchained" album demonstrated his career-regenerating comeback in 1994 was no fluke. Cash is up for two Grammys: country album and male vocal.
Cash won his eighth Grammy three years ago for his "American Recordings" album, but it was in a folk category. By placing him this time in country, Grammy voters give welcome recognition to the vital, non-mainstream brand of country largely shunned by radio.
A win may be viewed as a sympathy vote in light of Cash's current battle with Parkinson's disease, yet his nominated performances are so clearly superior to the other nominees that nonmusical considerations are irrelevant.
For country song, Garth Brooks, John Peppard and Bobby Wood's "In Another's Eyes" deserves to win for capturing two would-be cheaters' struggles to remain faithful with shadings too often missing in today's simplistic radio-friendly fare. Brooks' duet with Trisha Yearwood also should win for collaboration by artists who do not normally perform together.
Yearwood and LeAnn Rimes are dramatically squared off in the female vocal category for their versions of the same song, "How Do I Live." The award, however, belongs to newcomer Deana Carter for her wry, pouty performance on the witty "Did I Shave My Legs for This?"