Little Big Town, Chris Stapleton and Brothers Osborne were among the big winners at last night’s (8 November) 51st annual Country Music Association (CMA) Awards, which also hosted posthumous recognition for Glen Campbell.
Held at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena and again hosted by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood, the evening featured many poignant and emotional moments and some memorable musical collaborations. Garth Brooks, who won the coveted Entertainer of the Year title for the sixth time, performed ‘Ask Me How I Know’ and told the fans in the audience: “The most important thing — other than God himself — is you.”
Campbell’s duet recording of ‘Funny How Time Slips Away’ featuring Willie Nelson, from Glen’s farewell album Adiós, won Musical Event of the Year, and there was the further tribute of a widely-admired version of Campbell’s signature ‘Wichita Lineman,’ featuring keyboards by the song’s writer, Jimmy Webb.
Little Big Town themselves won Vocal Group of the Year for the sixth year in a row, and their hit ‘Better Man’ won the Song of the Year trophy for Swift, who wrote it. Stapleton’s From A Room: Volume 1 was Album of the Year, and he also took home the Male Vocalist title for the third year in a row, as Jon Pardi was named New Artist of the Year.
Miranda Lambert reclaimed the Female Vocalist honours after Underwood took that award in 2016, and there were wins for Brothers Osborne in both the Vocal Duo and Music Video categories, the latter for ‘It Ain’t My Fault.’
Keith Urban’s ‘Blue Ain’t Your Colour,’ written by Steven Lee Olsen, Hillary Lindsey and Clint Lagerberg, was Single of the Year, and Urban also performed his lyrically pertinent new single ‘Female.’ There was a record-equalling ninth victory as Musician of the Year for Mac McAnally, who thus tied Chet Atkins in that category.
Nashville’s community spirit in honouring those lost to the country community and to the wider world over the past year was palpable throughout the evening. Eric Church started proceedings with an acappella verse of ‘Amazing Grace,’ before Urban, Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum led a rendition of Rucker’s anthem from his days with Hootie and the Blowfish, ‘Hold My Hand.’
Other standout performances included Carrie Underwood’s emotional ‘Softly and Tenderly,’ which remembered the victims of the 1 October shootings at a Las Vegas country festival. There were tributes to the late Don Williams, whose ‘Tulsa Time’ was perfomed by Brothers Osborne, and Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry, whose ‘My Town’ was covered for the occasion by Dierks Bentley and Rascal Flatts. Eddie Montgomery was at the ceremony, making his first public appearance since his musical partner’s death; there were also cameo performances by Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire and, from beyond the country world, by Pink and Niall Horan.