George Strait led the nominees announced Monday for the Academy of Country Music Awards with eight nominations, including entertainer of the year and top male vocalist.
Vocal duo Brooks & Dunn got seven nominations and Rascal Flatts earned six.
Nominees were introduced by Kenny Chesney — the reigning ACM entertainer of the year — and the duo Sugarland. The announcement was made at the Country Music Hall of Fame and aired live on CBS’ “The Early Show.”
“Whenever you get nominated, it’s a reflection of a lot of people’s hard work,” said Chesney, who is nominated again for entertainer of the year as well as male vocalist.
Carrie Underwood received five nominations and Big & Rich got four.
“I feel like I’m still in a dream,” said Underwood, the former “American Idol” champ whose debut album, “Some Hearts,” has sold 5 million copies. “My life has been such a whirlwind in the past two years, so please don’t wake me up.”
The 42nd Annual Academy of Country Music Awards will be presented May 15 in Las Vegas.
Strait, who has previously won 15 ACM awards, also was nominated as artist and producer for the album “It Just Comes Natural” and the single “Give it Away,” which also was nominated for song of the year.
Brooks & Dunn were honored in the entertainer of the year and the top vocal duo categories, and their “Hillbilly Deluxe” was nominated for album of the year.
“The longer that I survive in this business the more I appreciate the fans, and the people within the business that make it possible for me to do what I love to do,” said Ronnie Dunn, who also picked up a solo nomination for vocal event of the year for “I Don’t Want to” with Ashley Monroe.
Rascal Flatts’ nominations include entertainer of the year, top vocal group, best album for “Me and My Gang” and best single for “What Hurts the Most.”
“We are grateful that we continue to be recognized,” said singer Gary LeVox. “This will never, ever get old.”
Josh Turner and Gretchen Wilson earned three nominations each.
“I’m as thrilled as I can be,” said Turner, whose nods include single of the year for the bluegrass-flavored “Would You Go With Me.” “I usually consider myself lucky when I get just one. ... This is three times the fun.”
Wilson’s nominations include vocal event of the year for “Politically Uncorrect,” a duet with legend Merle Haggard.
“What I love about ’Politically Uncorrect’ is that when I listened to it the first time, I got the sense that it’s just like the perfect political stance for a musical artist,” Wilson said. “I can tell you the day I heard it on the radio was one of the highest points of my life. It’s unbelievable, just the feeling that overcomes me as soon as Merle’s vocal kicks in on that, it’s like ‘Oh, my God, I can’t believe that’s him.”’