REUTERS - Country singers Miranda Lambert and Tim McGraw led the nominations for the Academy of Country Music Awards on Wednesday with seven nods apiece, and Australian singer Keith Urban followed with six nominations.
Lambert joins her husband Blake Shelton, George Strait, country-pop starlet Taylor Swift and last year's winner Luke Bryan for the entertainer of the year award, the most coveted honor at the annual ACM ceremony, scheduled to be held this year on April 6 in Las Vegas.
Strait, 61, who has said he will retire from touring after this year, won the entertainer of the year prize at the Country Music Association (CMA) awards in November. He released his 27th album, "Love Is Everything," last year.
The Academy of Country Music, which honors the genre's big stars as well as small market radio DJs and concert promoters, televises its eight top awards along with the fan-voted new artist of the year honor. Final nominees for the newcomer award will be announced after voting ends on February 4.
McGraw's song "Highway Don't Care" featuring Swift and Urban earned nods for single of the year, video of the year, vocal event of the year. He earned two nominations in the single, vocal event and best album categories each, which honor both producers and artists.
Lambert, 30, also earned nominations for top female vocalist, while her hit "Mama's Broken Heart," penned in part by newcomer Kacey Musgraves, picked up nods for single of the year, songwriter's award song of the year and best music video.
Swift, 24, received five nominations for the second consecutive year, including female vocalist of the year.
The "I Know You Were Trouble" singer went home empty handed from the ACM awards in 2013, but this year picked up three of her nominations for being a featured artist along with Urban on McGraw's hit song "Highway Don't Care."
Swift also received her fifth consecutive nomination for the fan-voted entertainer of the year award. She has won the top prize twice before.
Musgraves, 25, who picked up two Grammy awards on Sunday and best new artist at November's CMA awards, also earned five nods along with Shelton and Lee Brice.
Brice's hit song "I Drive Your Truck" earned him nominations for best song, single and video as well as male vocalist of the year.
Florida Georgia Line, a duo comprised of Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard, picked up four nominations along with country-pop trio Lady Antebellum.
Bryan, who will co-host the show with Shelton for a second consecutive year, earned three nominations, including male vocalist of the year and album of the year.
Former Hootie and the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker also scored three nods, including single of the year and song of the year for "Wagon Wheel," which features Lady Antebellum.
(Reporting by Eric Kelsey; editing by Patricia Reaney and Nick Zieminski)