Last night's 38th Annual Country Music Association (CMA) Awards offered up three hours of music, Nashville style and a few surprise winners.
Tim McGraw kicked off the show with a rousing rendition of "How Bad Do You Want It," and ended up winning "Single of the Year" and "Song of the Year" for his inspirational #1 hit ballad, "Live Like You Were Dying," a song inspired by his father's battle with cancer.
"The song came to me around Thanksgiving," McGraw said backstage. "That's when we sort of learned that Tug didn't have a chance. We cut the song three weeks later and it wasn't sad. It was something special." Was he nervous about his chances of winning? "Win or lose, Faith and I are going to the Waffle House after the show," he calmly explained to Entertainment Tonight host Maria Menounos' question.
The evening was big on musical performances -- so many that some performers actually read the "We'll be right back" announcements as their song faded to commercial. But every performance was a gem, including "Mockingbird" (the 1974 hit for James Taylor and Carly Simon), sung by Toby Keith with his 17-year-old daughter Krystal, and "Rollin' (The Ballad of Big & Rich)" by Big & Rich, who lived up to their motto "Country Music Without Prejudice" by performing with 6'5" rapper Cowboy Troy and Two-Foot Fred.
The hauntingly beautiful "Whiskey Lullaby," performed by Brad Paisley and Alison Kraus, was another two-time winner of the evening, The duet won for "Musical Event of the Year" (an award given to songs with guest performances) and "Music Video of the Year," an award shared with the video's director, actor Rick Schroeder (of Silver Spoons and NYPD Blue fame).
"I want to thank Country radio for playing this song," said Paisley. "It says a lot about our format when they'll take a chance on a double-suicide drinking song."
Gretchen Wilson gave a "hell yeah" to the announcement that she had won this year's Horizon Award (for best new artist). "I came here last year and sat way back there in the back and dreamed of standing up here one day," said an emotional Wilson. "I never dreamed it would have happened this soon."
And while some wins weren't all that surprising -- was there any doubt that show hosts Brooks & Dunn would win their twelfth "Vocal Duo of the Year"? -- two categories yielded some surprise winners.
Considered the underdog in a category that included Toby Keith, Alan Jackson, George Strait and Kenny Chesney, Australian Keith Urban walked away with the "Male Vocalist of the Year" award last night. The audience weren't the only ones stunned.
"I am so dumbfounded, I don't know what to say," a shocked Urban said. "I am so glad my mom and dad are here tonight. I thank Nashville for letting me come and make music because it's all I ever wanted to do anyway."
And in the big category of the evening, "Entertainer of the Year," Kenny Chesney may have been the new kid on the list that featured previous winners McGraw, Alan Jackson and Brooks & Dunn, but he snuck the win out from under them anyways.
"I am so proud to be in Country Music," Chesney enthused. "I love it with all my heart. I stay up at night thinking about how to make my show better. Thank y'all very much."
Overall, the show was well-produced and on schedule (a rarity for most award shows nowadays). The only criticism I really have is directed towards some of the male artists in attendance. I realize it's a "country" show, but showing up looking like they just stepped off a hard day at the farm is a little too stereotypical for my taste. Even just throwing on a jacket over the t-shirt and jeans would have been a big improvement. Kudos to men like McGraw, Brooks & Dunn and Chesney for at least showing a little class for the night. The ladies, however, were resplendent in everything from a black suit with matching Stetson (Terri Clark) to designer gowns (Julie Roberts, Faith Hill).
Here is a recap of the winners for the evening:
|Entertainer of the Year|
Male Vocalist of the Year
Female Vocalist of the Year
Vocal Group of the Year
Vocal Duo of the Year
Single of the Year
Album of the Year
Song of the Year
Music Video of the Year
Musical Event of the Year
Musician of the Year