Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw Lead Country Nominees List

Veteran George Jones gets nods in three categories.

The Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw lead this year's list of nominees for the annual Academy of Country Music Awards, which were announced Thursday in Nashville. The multiplatinum acts received five nominations each.

In one of the biggest surprises of this year's nominations, a newcomer, singer/songwriter Brad Paisley, closely follows his big-name counterparts with four nods.

Paisley's debut LP features the folk-tinged "He Didn't Have to Be", which will compete in the Single Record of the Year category with McGraw's "Please Remember Me," Lonestar's "Amazed," country veteran George Strait's "Write This Down" and the Dixie Chicks' "Ready to Run."

The Grammy-winning "Ready to Run" appears on the Dixie Chicks' best-selling album, Fly, which also picked up a Grammy Award last week for Best Country Album. "We went into it thinking that we're just going to make the album we want to make, and if people like it, great," the group's Natalie Maines said in a statement.

Hill's "Breathe" is nominated for Song of the Year, alongside Jones' song "Choices," Paisley's "He Didn't Have to Be," McGraw's "Please Remember Me" and Lonestar's "Amazed."

"My fan support has just been phenomenal, and it blows me away each time I put out a new record," Hill said in a recent America Online chat. "It's exciting for everyone who works with me, because we all work so very, very hard. It's starting to pay off, and it's a wonderful feeling."

In the Entertainer of the Year category, Hill will compete against her husband, McGraw, as well as country-rock group Sawyer Brown, the Dixie Chicks and country-pop singer Shania Twain.

Twain, Hill and singers Jo Dee Messina, Martina McBride and Chely Wright will face off in the Top Female Vocalist category, while McGraw will battle Colin Raye, Strait, Toby Keith and Alan Jackson in the Top Male Vocalist category.

One unexpected name on the list of nominees was that of teen-pop group 'N Sync, nominated for Top Vocal Event of the Year for a duet of their song "God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You," recorded with country war-horses Alabama.

Scott Siman, the Academy of Country Music's chairman of the board, said this year's nominations showcase the diversity of country music, encompassing traditionalists, such as Jones, and more pop-oriented acts, such as the Dixie Chicks and Twain.

"I'm really thankful we have a musical format that's not so limited," Siman said. "Most every other musical format has a lot of boundaries — as country music we don't have that."

This year's Academy of Country Music Awards — which are known informally as the "Hat Awards" — will be held May 3 at the Universal Amphitheatre in Universal City, Calif. The ceremony will be broadcast live on CBS-TV.

Full list of nominees

Entertainer of the Year:

Dixie Chicks,

Faith Hill,

Tim McGraw,

Sawyer Brown,

Shania Twain

Top Male Vocalist:

Alan Jackson,

Toby Keith,

Tim McGraw,

Collin Raye,

George Strait

Top New Male Vocalist:

Gary Allan,

Chad Brock,

Brad Paisley

Top Female Vocalist:

Faith Hill,

Martina McBride,

Jo Dee Messina,

Shania Twain,

Chely Wright

Top New Female Vocalist:

Jessica Andrews,

Julie Reeves,

Chalee Tennison

Top Vocal Duo or Group:

Asleep at the Wheel,

Brooks & Dunn,

Dixie Chicks,

Lonestar,

Sawyer Brown

Top New Duo or Vocal Group:

Montgomery Gentry,

Shedaisy,

Yankee Grey

Single Record of the Year:

Lonestar, "Amazed,"

Brad Paisley, "He Didn't Have to Be,"

Tim McGraw, "Please Remember Me,"

Dixie Chicks, "Ready to Run,"

George Strait, "Write This Down"

Song of the Year:

Lonestar, "Amazed,"

Faith Hill, "Breathe,"

George Jones, "Choices,"

Brad Paisley, "He Didn't Have to Be,"

Tim McGraw, "Please Remember Me"

Country Video of the Year:

Faith Hill, "Breathe,"

Brad Paisley, "He Didn't Have to Be,"

Toby Keith, "How Do You Like Me Now,"

Dixie Chicks, "Ready to Run,"

Chely Wright, "Single White Female"

Top Vocal Event of the Year:

Chad Brock with Hank Williams Jr. and George Jones, "A Country Boy Can Survive (Y2K Version),"

Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt, "After the Gold Rush,"

Alabama and 'N Sync, "God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You,"

Vince Gill and Patty Loveless, "My Kind of Woman,"

Clint Black with Lisa Hartman Black, "When I Said I Do"

Album of the Year:

Tim McGraw, A Place in the Sun,

Faith Hill, Breathe,

George Jones, Cold Hard Truth,

Dixie Chicks, Fly,

Asleep at the Wheel, Ride With Bob