Brad Paisley and Brooks & Dunn head into this year's Country Music Association Awards show with six nominations apiece, but Carrie Underwood could be belle of the ball once all the trophies are handed out -- and not because she's wearing an $850,000 outfit.
When the red carpet rolls out Monday night, Underwood will be sparkling in a diamond-studded, David Rodriguez gown that'll be auctioned off for charity.
Let's just hope those 800 Kwiati diamonds don't clash with all the gold she's likely to collect. Behind her powerhouse hit, "Jesus Take the Wheel," the former "American Idol" star is up for four awards, and can be expected to be called to the podium, perhaps several times.
But the evening should hold many surprises, with Sara Evans making her first public appearance since her highly publicized divorce filing and subsequent withdrawal from "Dancing With the Stars." She'll be singing her hit, "Real Fine Place to Start"
Not expected at this year's festivities -- which air live at 8 p.m. ET on ABC TV -- is Keith Urban, who entered a substance treatment facility a few weeks ago. But, certainly, the lineup of performers -- with Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill, Rascal Flatts and Alan Jackson, among many others -- would be hard to top.
Hosts Brooks & Dunn will open the show with "Building Bridges," with Sheryl Crow and Vince Gill joining them on stage. And, certainly, one of the highlights of the evening will be the tribute to George Strait, who will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Strait, who charted his first hit in 1981, has won 16 CMA awards over his amazing career, and he'll be performing, "Give It Away."
Here's a look at some of the most closely watched categories and predictions of who should win, and who (most likely) will.
The Nominees: Brooks & Dunn; Kenny Chesney; Brad Paisley; Rascal Flatts; Keith Urban.
Who Will Win/Who Should Win: No one has worked harder and more successfully to take country music to the masses this year than Kenny Chesney, who's well past the mini-scandal of 2005's quickie marriage and divorce to Renee Zellweger. Chesney has reached new heights in 2006, selling out stadiums from Seattle to Nashville, where a good portion of CMA voters live. Add on a pair of No. 1 hits and another chart topping live album this year, and Kenny should walk away with the top prize.
The Nominees: Dierks Bentley; Kenny Chesney; Alan Jackson; Brad Paisley; Keith Urban.
Who Will Win: Keith Urban has won this category for the last two years, and he stands a good chance of taking it again on the strength of his mega hit "Tonight I Wanna Cry."
Who Should Win: Brad Paisley has delivered a diverse offering of hits this year including the tune "Alcohol," written from the perspective of the mind-altering substance, to the gospel number "When I Get Where I'm Going," with Dolly Parton. A CMA favorite with 33 career nominations, Brad deserves to take the Male Vocalist trophy this year.
The Nominees: Sara Evans; Faith Hill; Martina McBride; Carrie Underwood; Gretchen Wilson.
Who Will Win: Faith Hill made a big return with her recent album, "Fireflies," scoring several top 10 hits and a No. 1 single, "Mississippi Girl," last year, so the voters could decide to reward her with second career win in this category.