The CMA awards are always the most anticipated night for the country music community and last night’s show did not disappoint. The theme of the night seemed to be family. Multiple stars agreed that the country world is indeed a family and more than ever they have come together to heal over the past year.
ThunderNation, we had boots on the ground for the award show! Williams Honor, a country duo based out of Asbury Park made up of Gordon Brown and Reagan Richards, were in attendance. Brown agrees that this community has grown into a family. “Being one of the only country acts to ever come from legendary Asbury Park, you wouldn’t believe how kind and gracious everyone is to us. It truly is like a family.”
The show kicked off with Eric Church alone with a guitar for a shortened, beautiful ‘Amazing Grace’ performance. The camera quickly panned to the full stage, which was full of your favorite country stars, like Darius Rucker, Lady A, and Keith Urban performing Hootie & the Blowfish’s ‘Hold My Hand’.
Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley were the perfect hosts for the tenth year in a row. They were witty, charming and captivating. They started the show by honoring those we’ve lost this year. Underwood told Paisley that the Country Music Association gave them guidelines to follow this year; no politics! Paisley followed these guidelines for the most part. But he did perform a quick parody of Underwood’s ‘Before He Cheats’, which was directed towards President Trump. ‘Before He Tweets’ was quick, comical and tasteful.
Dierks Bentley and Rascal Flatts had one of the most anticipated performances of the night. They performed a touching tribute to Troy Gentry, who suddenly passed away just two months ago in a helicopter crash. Gentry’s bandmate, Eddie Montgomery, surprised the audience as he walked on stage halfway through the performance of ‘My Town’ with his signature style and microphone twirl. This was Montgomery’s first public performance since his partner’s death.
Kelsea Ballerini teamed up with the one and only Reba to perform Ballerini’s latest hit, ‘Legends’. The two were a knockout team. They both graced the stage with elegance and their voices paired together perfectly. Ballerini, 24, has taken the country world by storm in the past few years, much like Reba when she was about Ballerini’s age in the late 1970’s.
Jason Ritter and Joanna Garcia-Swisher took the stage to present the award for New Artist Of The Year to Jon Pardi. Ritter is the grandson of Tex Ritter, a country singer and a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Sugarland reunited to present the award for Duo Of The Year. They reminisced about when they won the awards several times and even teased new music before presenting the award to Brothers Osborne. There is no word on whether or not the duo is reuniting, but they captioned pictures on social media with the hashtag, #StillTheSame.
Little Big Town teamed up with Jimmy Webb to honor Glen Campbell with a cover of ‘Wichita Lineman’. It was only one of the very emotional performances of the night. Underwood took the stage and took the breath away from everyone watching as she honored those we lost this year, including those from the music industry and the victims of the Las Vegas shooting.
Miranda Lambert went back to the basics with her performance of ‘To Know Her’, a song off of her double LP, The Weight Of These Wings. As always, she captivated the audience with her voice, which was accompanied by a full band. The steel guitar was an instrument that isn’t seen on stage at these award shows as much as they used to. Lambert brought it back and it’s safe to say folks like Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash would have been proud of her performance.
On top of a breathtaking, classic country performance, Lambert took home the award for Female Vocalist Of The Year for the 7th consecutive year. Chris Stapleton took home the award for Male Vocalist of The Year and Album Of The Year.
Eric Church returned to the stage for a rocking performance of ‘Chattanooga Lucy’. He was, of course, incredible but his backup vocalists certainly deserve a shout out, as well. Church has put together quite an incredible band, some even using what appeared to be bottles of Jack Daniels as a kind of maraca.
Garth Brooks admitted to lip-synching his performance backstage just moments after he performed and minutes before being named Entertainer Of The Year. “We did a game-time call on whether to sing the track or lip-sync, and decided to lip-sync. The voice just isn’t there anymore, and you want to represent country music as best you can,” says Brooks.
The CMA Awards are determined by 7,200 industry professional members of the Country Music Association.