- - Monday, April 23, 2012

With Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift atop the list, look no further than the CMT Music Awards nominations for proof that country music’s new favorite color is blond.

Ms. Underwood earned five nominations, Ms. Lambert has four as a solo artist and as part of her trio Pistol Annies, and Ms. Swift led a contingent of stars earning three nominations apiece for the 11th annual video awards show. Nominations were announced Monday morning on the “Today” show.

Other artists with three nominations include Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts, Blake Shelton, Thompson Square and the Civil Wars.

Ms. Underwood’s “Good Girl” and her “Remind Me” collaboration with Brad Paisley, Ms. Lambert’s “Over You” and Ms. Swift’s collaboration with the Civil Wars on “The Hunger Games” soundtrack entry “Safe & Sound” are among the 10 nominees for top honor video of the year. Ms. Underwood also is up for female video, CMT performance and collaborative video of the year.

Ms. Lambert is up for female video as a solo artist and for group video and breakthrough video for “Hell on Heels” with her friends Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe in Pistol Annies.

Other video of the year nominees include Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem,” Kenny Chesney’s “You and Tequila” with Grace Potter, Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup,” Lady Antebellum's “We Owned the Night,” Rascal Flatts’ “Easy” with Natasha Bedingfield and Mr. Shelton’s “God Gave Me You.”

Fan voting for the awards began Monday on the network’s website and runs through June 4. The show will air live June 6 from Nashville, Tenn.

Statue honoring Willie Nelson unveiled in downtown Austin

Country music legend Willie Nelson helped unveil a statue honoring him in downtown Austin, Texas, by singing his new song “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” on Friday, which happened to be April 20, a date long reserved to celebrate marijuana use.

The faint smell of marijuana smoke wafted through a crowd of about 2,000 people as Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell accepted the privately funded statue as a gift from a private arts group. Organizers said they didn’t intentionally choose April 20 for the event, but once they found out, they scheduled the unveiling at 4:20 p.m. as a tongue-in-cheek reference to Mr. Nelson’s openness about his marijuana use and advocacy for its legalization.

The statute stands in front of the Moody Theater, where the Austin City Limits Studio is now located. Mr. Nelson, a 10-time Grammy Award winner who has sold more than 40 million copies of his 150 albums, appeared on the first episode of the public television show in 1974.

“He is the man who more than other made Austin the live music capital of the world,” Mr. Leffingwell said.

Mr. Nelson, who wore black jeans, a black T-shirt and a black cowboy hat, is notoriously shy about such honors. Before he began performing, with his sister Bobbie Nelson on piano, he thanked the organizers and joked with the people who had gathered to watch the ceremony.

“What time is it?” he joked as the clock approach 4:20 p.m. “I feel it’s getting close to something.”

Mr. Nelson’s career was built on not conforming to country music norms. He fused country music with jazz and rock in the early 1970s to create the “outlaw country” movement in Austin and helped give the city a reputation as a music city. His first major hit came when Patsy Cline recorded his song “Crazy” in 1961.

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