I’m typing this thing on my phone while watching the show. Before we get to the action, though, let’s kick things off with a funny quote from Carrie Underwood:
“It’s definitely interesting to try to sing with a basketball where my lungs and diaphragm used to be. I don’t know where they are now, they’re squished in there somewhere.”
A couple of awards were announced early: Thomas Rhett for video and Kenny Chesney/David Lee Murphy for event. I know that awards are often given out early like this, but it makes the early awards seem less important than the ones that make the broadcast. These are mild, inoffensive, if somewhat uninspiring choices. As I see it, it’s a feel-good story for Murphy to finally win something, and Rhett’s a young, popular act who wasn’t going to win anything else this time. Congratulations to them. Now, on with the show.
Well, I just found that Mac MacAnally won musician of the year. It’s hard to go wrong with any of the musician choices.
Garth Brooks opened the show with a moment of silence for the shooting victims. Luke Bryan led the opening song, and whatever your thoughts about that, he brought along Luke Combs,Jon Pardi,Ashley McBryde, Chris Janson, Lindsey Ell, and Cole Swindell. It was a good vehicle to promo a whole lot of quality young artists early in the show.
Mason Ramsey made a guest appearance in a Brad and Carrie skit.
Chris Stapleton and Mike Henderson won song of the year. It’s so cool to see original SteelDriver and Dead Reckoner Mike Henderson get stage time. Mike has served up great music at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe on Mondays for longer than some of my readers have been alive. It’s a rare treat to see a long-serving, “behind the scenes” guy enjoy a moment in the sun.
Jason Aldean and Miranda Lambert featured pedal steel prominently in their performance.
Luke Combs won New Artist, as everyone expected.
Thomas Rhett’s performance featured a gigantic group of people who would likely be a marching band if they had any room to march.
Dan + Shay performed their big hit. They’re Rascal Flatts 2.0, for good or ill.
Chris Stapleton took Single of the Year. That makes me very happy.
Kelsea Ballerini and Old Dominion delivered pop country performances,as one would expect. Old Dominion won Vocal Group.
Carrie Underwood’s performance of “Love Wins” showed why the rather pithy song, however well intentioned, was a weaker choice for a single than some others on her album.
Brett Young performed “Mercy,” then bragged about his own radio success.
The Ricky Skaggs performance and tribute was epic. Keith Urban and Brothers Osborne and Sierra Hull and Carson Peters and Brad Paisley and Marty Stuart and all manner of others assisted the great CMHOF inductee Ricky Skaggs. I’m happy for Ricky to get the showcase he deserved. Y’all know how much I like bluegrass and Ricky Skaggs, so this was a real treat for me.
Midland kept the classic country hot with a great cover of East Bound And Down. Between the Skaggs medley and Midland,there was a great little run of country music in the middle of the show. Well done, guys.
Kacey Musgraves won album. I figure voters wanted to send a message to radio about her lack of airplay, and radio’s treatment of women in general . The album itself didn’t do that much for me, but awards were dominated for so long by “radio acts” that it’s worth celebrating that so far in the show, we’ve already seen a number of “non radio” acts, like some of the bluegrass people in the Ricky Skaggs deal. Radio stonewalled Chris Stapleton for most of his career. So, whether you like Kacey’s album the best or not, or even at all or not, her win does show that radio doesn’t hold the airtight deathlock on the industry that it once did.
Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha performed.
Luke Combs’ performance was country, complete with pedal steel- a solid effort.
Keith Urban,who did so well in the Skaggs tribute earlier, performed a pop song that seemed out of place.
Garth Brooks performed a solo acoustic song for his wife.
Brothers Osborne won Vocal Duo. Good pick.
The Pistol Annies performed “Got My Name Changed Back,” a song on my YouTube playlist. It’s fun. It’s unquestionably country. Miranda even played a mini-washboard. Well done. Still not on radio airplay charts ?!
Dierks Bentley and Brothers Osborne performed Burning Man. .
Chris Stapleton, Mavis Staples, Maren Morris,and Marty Stuart all together ! I posted yesterday about Marty Stuart’s long-time friendship with Mavis Staples, and this was a fine way to honor her. You can sense Marty’s influence on Chris.
Brad Paisley performed his new song, Bucked Off. It’s definitely country, with both fiddle and steel.
Chris Stapleton won Male Vocalist. Extremely well deserved.
Kacey Musgraves sang the dull song Slow Burn.
Eric Church performed Desperate Man. I’m glad for his cowriter Ray Wylie Hubbard, who lives a town over from me. I hoped Ray would get to perform, but it’s still cool to see his song on the big stage.
Carrie Underwood won Female Vocalist. She is an outstanding singer. You can’t go too far wrong giving a female vocalist award to Carrie Underwood, even if her recent album wasn’t released until after the eligibility period.
Keith Urban won Entertainer. Probably my last choice, based only on the lack of “country” in his recent output (and I’m hardly a purist), but congratulations to him and all winners, nominees, presenters, and performers. Keith is certainly very capable and very well liked.
Overall, there’s still plenty of crap to wade through and complain about, if that’s your thing, but there was also some good country music- much more than most award shows. Ricky Skaggs was given an outstanding showcase, and many of the others were good, too.
And that’s a wrap.