Kenny Chesney leads ACM Awards nominations with 9

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“It’s nice to move past that and be given recognition for this new record and `Just a Kiss,’” Kelley said from Tulsa, Okla., where the band is preparing to launch its spring tour. “For us this means a lot, too. There was a lot of pressure going into this third record and to see that we still can carry some of that momentum over on this record … is kind of an affirmation of that.”

Along with his fifth straight entertainer nomination, Paisley will be going for another win in the male vocalist category. He’s won it five times in a row. He also scored a double nomination in the vocal event category for “Old Alabama” with Alabama and “Remind Me” with Carrie Underwood.

Eric Church’s “CHIEF” and Miranda Lambert’s “Four the Record” round out the album of the year category. Lady A won last year for its breakthrough “Need You Now.”

Nominees for the new artist of the year will be announced after the close of online voting Jan. 30. Fans are currently picking the nominees in that category from a list of eight semifinalists.

Fans can begin voting at the ACM website for entertainer and new artist nominees on March 19. The other award winners are picked by the academy’s membership.

It’s Shelton’s first nomination for the academy’s top award. The news comes the week after Shelton’s father, Dick, passed away.

“The support I have felt this week is overwhelming,” Shelton said in a statement. “Thank you everyone for this honor.”

“The Voice” coach isn’t the only rising star reaching new heights at the ACMs. Chris Young took a large step into the spotlight, earning nominations in the male vocalist and single record of the year categories.

He said during a call from his stop in Baltimore on the Miranda Lambert tour that 2011 was a whirlwind of highlights. He was recently talking with friends about all the great things that happened, from the success of his album, his tour with Aldean to the response to his nominated song “Tomorrow.”

“We were sitting there going, `I don’t know how you can top this,’” Young said. “And it looks just into January we’ve at least got a good shot at trying.”

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