One can't blame the casual country music fan for looking at the nomination leaders for the 2013 CMA Awards and asking, "Who?"

Kacey Musgraves is a talented rising star, but her two singles ('Merry Go 'Round' and 'Blowin' Smoke') didn't exactly saturate radio. Other songs she's written have, however, meaning no matter how many of the six nods she wins, expect the 25-year-old to get a lot of screen time on Nov. 6.

Taylor Swift also scored six nominations -- no surprise there. She's a perennial Entertainer of the Year nominee, but voters seem hesitant to allow more than one woman into this exclusive group. Carrie Underwood's fans are boiling mad following the 2013 CMA Awards nominees announcement, and with good reason. A case could be made that the 'Blown Away' singer could replace any of the five, although there isn't one that stands out as particularly vulnerable. It'd have been nice to see this category expanded to include six artists (like was done for Vocal Duo of the Year), but it seems the votes from Round 2 of balloting didn't necessitate it. More on that in a bit.

George Strait is a pleasant surprise in the Entertainer of the Year category in 2013. The King of Country hasn't been as omnipresent as the other four he's facing for the honor, but few who wonder if his recent touring announcements helped his cause will stand up to object his inclusion. Luke Bryan is a new EOY nominee. After a big win at the ACM Awards in April, that is not surprising or unmerited.

The biggest shock on this year's list may be the lack of turnover in the artist-based categories. "Round up the usual suspects," the voters have shouted -- although once again, it's difficult to argue any aren't deserving. That's the thing fans often forget. There can only be five in each category (usually), so who are you going to omit?

The Male Vocalist and Vocal Group categories are exactly the same as they were in 2012. Vocal Duo is the same, with Florida Georgia Line added to make six. Swap Musgraves for Martina McBride and you have 2012's cast of Female Vocalist nominees.

Not nominated for any awards: Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney and Toby Keith. Country music's next generation of men truly has arrived, as only George Strait and Keith Urban were up for the same awards five years ago. The superstars have turned over, with bright young stars like Chris Young, Jake Owen and Hunter Hayes (who also has zero nominations) ready to step up over the next half decade.

As for the women, it's not clear who will be included in the next batch of superstars. This is what Luke Bryan was talking about when he lamented how difficult it is for women in country music. Superstars are superstars, but the lesser-known female artists have a much steeper climb ahead of them than their male counterparts.

All of this makes Musgraves' potential haul even more surprising. Voters have embraced her quickly, and they've done it for her music, because she's not yet "everywhere." Even those who know who she is have to listen to 'Same Trailer Different Park' to find out who she is. In unison, voters have broken away from old habits, leaving McBride, Sara Evans and Kellie Pickler on the outside looking in.

One final point: Often a fan wonders why their favorite song wasn't included in the CMA Awards nominations, or how a seemingly dated song like 'Cruise' can be included. Lee Brice is up for the New Artist of the Year award again, which seems preposterous. Jog over to the CMA Awards website for detailed criteria for each award. It's wonderfully descriptive -- albeit a bit convoluted for anyone not in the business of making music. Indeed, Brice is eligible, even though he's on his ninth single.

It's not clear why six nominees were allowed in the Vocal Duo and Music Video of the Year categories in 2013. There must have been a tie.