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Published: Saturday, 9/29/2012

Church, Shelton showdown brewing

BY BRIAN DUGGER
BLADE COLUMNIST

Back in the spring, Eric Church made quite a stir in a Rolling Stone interview.

Among other things, he took a shot at reality TV singing programs, and an indirect poke at Blake Shelton, one of the hosts of The Voice.

"Honestly, if Blake Shelton and Cee Lo Green … turn around in a red chair, you get a deal? That's crazy. I don't know what would make an artist do that. You're not an artist," he said in the article.

Well … those comments didn't sit too well with a lot of people, most notably Miranda Lambert, Shelton's wife, former reality TV contestant, and a headliner who gave Church one of his first opening spots on a major tour in 2010.

"Thanks Eric Church for saying I'm not a real artist," Lambert tweeted.

There were immediately posts of gloom and doom about Church's career on country music message boards across the Internet. I received a couple messages from outraged readers.

So, it was interesting when the final nominees for the Country Music Association awards were announced recently. Church leads the way with five nominations, including his first nomination for Male Vocalist, where, interestingly enough, he'll square off against two-time winner Shelton. Lambert and Shelton each were nominated four times.

Artists may say all the right things before and after the awards show about how they are happy just to be nominated, but for many, winning a CMA is a major deal. The winners are voted on by people who make their living within the industry. It's the ultimate sign of respect from your peers.

For years, Kenny Chesney was selling out arenas, and was undoubtedly one of the genre's most popular artists among fans. But he was continually overlooked in the Entertainer of the Year category, which was a constant source of frustration to him and which led to an emotional acceptance speech when he finally won in 2004.

Rascal Flatts has won plenty of CMAs, including Vocal Group of the Year from 2003-2008, but they've never been nominated for Entertainer.

"It'd be nice to somehow crack into the Entertainer of the Year category at the CMAs at some point," Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts told me recently. "We're still trying to figure that puzzle out."

Eric Church burned some bridges with his comments, but he, more than likely, made a lot of friends too. And I've got to believe collecting some hardware Nov. 1 at the CMAs would be sweet vindication, indeed.

***

It's a big month in October for country music fans in the area. Rascal Flatts will be in town Thursday, along with Little Big Town and the Eli Young Band. And on Oct. 27, Martina McBride will be in concert at the Stranahan Theater.

But I've got to admit, I'm really looking forward to the Oct. 10 premiere of Nashville on ABC. The drama, starring Connie Britton, promises to take a look at the inner workings of Music City. I guess we'll see how realistic it is.

Brian Dugger's column on country music appears the last Saturday of every month in The Blade. Contact him at bdugger@theblade.com or on Twitter @DuggerCountry.



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