The 46th annual Grammy Awards will be handed out on February 8 in Los Angeles. This year's Country nominees include some of today's most popular performers, but also many artists who receive little or no airplay on Country radio.

Martina McBride earned two Grammy nominations, including a mention in the category of Best Female Country Vocal Performance for This One's for the Girls. The Kansas native is no stranger to awards shows. She's a three-time winner of the Country Music Association's Female Vocalist of the Year honor, and was named the Academy of Country Music's Favorite Female Vocalist the past two years.

Joining Martina in this year's Female Country Vocal Performance Grammy race are Dolly Parton, Shania Twain, Patty Loveless and the late June Carter Cash.

Each of the Country categories are represented by an interesting mix of artists. The National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences has always contended that their Grammy is a peer award, not a reflection of record sales or an artist's success on the popularity charts. Ricky Skaggs and his band, Kentucky Thunder, prove that point by leading this year's Country contenders. The group earned five nominations, including Best Bluegrass Album for Live At The Charleston Music Hall. A Simple Life, from the live collection, brought them a nomination for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

Facing Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder in the Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group category are Brooks and Dunn, Lonestar, The Oak Ridge Boys and Diamond Rio.

The Best Country Album category includes Shania Twain's multi-million-selling collection Up and Faith Hill's double-platinum CD, Cry. Also nominated are Lyle Lovett, who won over Grammy voters with his critically-acclaimed album My Baby Don't Tolerate; the multi-artist tribute Livin', Lovin', Losin' Songs of The Louvin Brothers; and Willie Nelson, who's nominated twice in the category for Live And Kickin' and his collaboration with Ray Price, Run That By Me One More Time. Willie earned a total of four nominations this year. Wurlitzer Prize, his duet with last year's five-time Grammy winner Norah Jones, is up for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.

Also vying for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals are sentimental favorites Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, who both died last year; Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett, who had the longest-running Number One Country single of 2003 with It's Five O'Clock Somewhere; Willie Nelson and Toby Keith, for their Number One duet Beer For My Horses; and Alison Krauss and James Taylor's contribution to The Louvin Brothers tribute, How's The World Treating You.

Asleep at the Wheel could win its seventh Best Country Instrumental Performance Grammy. This year, the group earned a nomination for its recording of Ain't Chet Yet. Also mentioned in the instrumental category are Brad Paisley for Spaghetti Western Swing, Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder for Get Up John, Alison Krauss and Union Station for Cluck Old Hen, and Earl Scruggs, Ricky Skaggs and Doc Watson, collectively known as The Three Pickers, for Pick Along. Doc Watson will receive a lifetime achievement Grammy Award at the February 8 ceremony.

One of the most competitive Country categories this year is Best Male Country Vocal Performance. The nominees are Ray Benson, Vince Gill, Tim McGraw, Randy Travis and newcomer Joe Nichols, who was a multiple nominee last year for his debut album Man With A Memory. The CD includes a recent Number One single that brings him his latest Grammy nomination, Brokenheartsville.