NEW YORK - Brooks & Dunn and Brad Paisley were both nominated for six Country Music Association Awards, but Ronnie Dunn emerged as the leader with seven nominations, including one for the group's inspirational song "Believe."
Both Paisley and Brooks & Dunn were nominated for entertainer of the year, single of the year and album of the year, among other nominations. For Paisley, who was nominated for six Academy of Country Music Awards earlier this year, the CMA nominations underscore his hot streak.
"It has felt like a really good year, and getting these nominations, it feels really good because it feels like (I've) sort of grown into these clothes a little more, and that to me is one of the greatest feelings I've ever had," Paisley said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.
Other multiple nominees included Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban and "American Idol" winner Carrie Underwood, who had four each.
Rascal Flatts and Dolly Parton, who sang with Paisley on his tear-jerker hit "When I Get Where I'm Going," were both nominated for three awards.
Nominees in the first five categories were announced by Paisley and Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland, another CMA nominee, live on ABC's "Good Morning America" in New York on Wednesday. The rest of the nominees were announced later in the morning by Jason Aldean and Little Big Town in Nashville, Tenn.
Both "Believe" and "When I Get Where I'm Going" are tunes that reference the afterlife and a person's waning moments on Earth; both were nominated for single of the year as well.
"I think it's something that really relates to people who have ever lost someone," Paisley said of his song. "It really captures that universal emotion that you're trying to catch, that you really want people to share with people when you are singing it."
Other nominees for single of the year include Underwood's "Jesus Take the Wheel," "Summertime" by Chesney and "Better Life" by Urban.
The nominees for the songwriter's award in the song of the year category are "8th of November," by Big & Rich; "Believe," by Craig Wiseman and Ronnie Dunn; "Jesus Take the Wheel," written by Hillary Lindsey, Brett James and Gordie Sampson; "Tonight I Wanna Cry," written by Urban and Monty Powell; and "When I Get Where I'm Going," by Rivers Rutherford and George Teren.
Nominees for album of the year are Brooks & Dunn for "Hillbilly Deluxe," Rascal Flatts for "Me and My Gang," Alan Jackson for "Precious Memories," Paisley for "Time Well Wasted" and Chesney for "The Road and the Radio."
The male-centric field of nominees for entertainer of the year include Rascal Flatts, Brooks & Dunn, Chesney, Paisley and last year's winner, Urban.
Nominees for female vocalist of the year are Underwood, Gretchen Wilson, Faith Hill, Sara Evans and Martina McBride.
For male vocalist of the year, the nominees are Dierks Bentley, Jackson, Paisley, Urban and Chesney.
Besides Sugarland, nominees for vocal group include Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas, Little Big Town, Lonestar, Rascal Flatts.
Miranda Lambert, nominated for the Horizon Award last year, was again nominated for that award, which celebrates the breakthrough of an emerging artist. Other nominees include Little Big Town, Josh Turner, Sugarland, also nominated last year, and Underwood, who made her triple-platinum debut last year.
Nettles was also nominated for musical event of the year for her duet with Bon Jovi on "Who Says You Can't Go Home," which made Bon Jovi the first rock band to have a No. 1 hit on the country charts.
Nettles said that song boosted the success of Sugarland overall.
"That whole thing was such a gift," she said. "It was a win-win situation, where Bon Jovi fans can become Sugarland fans and Sugarland fans become Bon Jovi fans. ... I think it's a definite testimony to the state of country music, it's just an exciting time to be a part of it."
The CMA also announced Wednesday that veteran session guitarist Harold Bradley, 1960s and '70s hit maker Sonny James and contemporary superstar George Strait will become the newest members of the Country Music Hall of Fame. They will be inducted during the awards show.
Bradley, who has been called the most recorded guitarist in history, playing on records by Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline and many others, said he was honored to join his brother, the late producer Owen Bradley, in the Hall of Fame. Together, they helped create the famed Nashville sound.
"It's very emotional to know I'll be with him," Bradley said. "We worked side by side. It's closure to be closer to him."
The CMA Awards, which were held in New York City for the first time last year, return to their Nashville home Nov. 6 to celebrate their 40th anniversary. The show will air on ABC.