8 p.m. - Co-hosts Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley engage in banter before Bryan hits the road to sing his current single "Huntin', Fishin' and Lovin' Every Day," another one of his typical good old Southern bro-country songs. That's what a country boy is all about apparently.
8:03 p.m. - Blake Shelton comes out instead of Dierks Bentley. Everybody's getting down with the song (Carrie Underwood among others), but I got to say, I wonder how many of them really like this. Shelton kicks in some lines sharing the stage. Then, the screaming rock guitar takes over.
8:06 p.m. - Shelton says on to sing his current mid-tempo single ""Came Here to Forget." It's a personal song, of course, easy to see the references to his former marriage to Miranda Lambert. The song comes off a bit pensive with not a whole lot of action. Not the typical song for an awards show (uptempo tends to rule), but it's understandable. The song just is not all that exciting, and the keyboard line would sound a lot better with a whiny pedal steel.
8:11 p.m. - Chris Stapleton is getting a lot of love from Bryan, Bentley, Jason Aldean, Thomas Rhett and Charles Kelley from Lady Antebellum. Kelley got bleeped out for a bit until he talked on signing "the most current song" by Stapleton. And then Underwood said she bought "this Chris Stapleton t-shirt in 1978. So I've literally been a walking billboard for him forever." Corny of course.
"Is there anybody out there that wants to take credit for Chris Stapleton's career? If you do then stand up?" Bryan said. The whole crowd stood up. Except the guy who really took control of his career - himself! Corny segment of course. No surprise. That's what these shows are about.
8:15 p.m. - Old Dominion offers its current catchy single "Snap Back." Shortened version of the song. It's catchy. Not sure why it's cut, but I guess face time early on is better than nothing.
8:17 p.m. - Kenny Chesney sings "Noise," his new song. Interesting message about this "Tennessee boy" trying to get through the noise and later singing "can't take the noise." Can't say as that I blame Chesney. He's been doing his own thing for a while, calling it like he sees it. Not exactly a country song either, but not so different from the types of songs Chesney sings either.
8:25 p.m. - Who knew Denver Broncos linebacker was a country music fan? Hey, nice jacket and hat. She's on with Jana Kramer. Man, those boots on him are something too.
8:26 p.m. Song of the Year - Chris Stapleton for "Nobody to Blame." "You got to be kidding me. I thought were going to get girl crushed on this one," Stapleton said. Can't say as that I blame him. I thought he was going to as "Girl Crush" was nominated along with Cam's "Burning House," which got a good amount of attention. I have a feeling it's going to be Stapleton's night, yet again. Odd, too, because the song did not get anywhere near the play of those two.
8:28 p.m. - Chris Young is out with Cassadee Pope to sing "Think of You." He sounds good. Well, they sound good together.
8:31 p.m. - Chris Janson says he's teaming up with Wal-Mart to stop hunger in America. Visit walmart.com/fighthunger for more info.
8:38 p.m. - Eric Church performs in what's billed as a tribute to David Bowie, Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead among others. Church is out with his trademark shades, black leather jacket and acoustic guitar singing before a DJ starts spinning Bowie, Stone Temple Pilots (for the death of Scott Weiland), Motorhead's "Ace of Spades (trust me, they were not country. This was for the death of lead singer Lemmy Kilmister)), The Eagles for the death of Glen Frey ("Already Gone"). Nicely done.
Church has attitude and a point of view. Got to love that especially where he also seems to do things his own way.
8:42 p.m. - Bentley sings his new commercial single, "Somebody on the Beach," on the floor. Great lyrics "Drink all day and party all night." Bentley can do better, and he knows it. Of course, sexism prevails as he's surrounded by females.
8:44 p.m. - Cam is out to sing her first single "Burnin' House." Does a nice job with the haunting song that digs deep. Not sure why she doesn't sing her current single, though, "Mayday"? That probably needs more help than "Burnin' House." Nice use of strings as well. Of course, she's wearing yellow.
8:50 p.m. - Single Record of the Year:Thomas Rhett for "Die a Happy Man." Not a huge surprise though he did have "Girl Crush" to contend with . "Holy crap," said Rhett. "My heart is beating 90 miles a minute." he said the song was written for his wife (the camera, of course, turned right to her) "This song was totally written for you baby. I love you so much," he said to his wife. He went on for a more thanks, including "Holy crap, God. That's a bad sentence." He's right. Kind of weird, of course. I suspect Rhett wishes he had those words back. Rhett did sing the song quite well, and it's a winner. Guess the steam has gone out of "Girl Crush" though at this point.
8:57 p.m. - Aldean rocks on his new single "Lights Come On." Lots of heavy-handed drumming and guitars at the outset.
9:01 p.m. - Garth Brooks is part of the show from Ottawa, Canada to present Album of the Year, "the best award to take home tonight." Of course, Stapleton wins it for "Traveller." No surprise at all. It is going to be his night. "Unbelievable, Garth Brooks just gave me an award from Iowa, I think," he said jokingly. He thanked his wife, Morgan, and "everyone who worked on this record...Everybody worked so hard." Producer Dave Cobb also thanked everybody "who bought the record."
9:04 p.m. - Cole Swindell follows with "You Should Be Here." He does not sound so good, a bit flat. He's accompanied by an acoustic guitar. Just off vocally.
9:07 p.m. - Brett Eldredge walks the aisle singing "Drunk on Your Love." He hands our flowers, but only to the women he passes, even though a few guys were looking for some as well. It may be a hit, but it's also a faceless, generic song. The confetti pours down as he sings it.
9:15 p.m. - Keith Urban sings "Wasted Time," his new single after a lame intro from Bryan about having so many awards, a metal detector would stop him at the airport. It didn't elicit much laughter, fortunately. Urban's on banjo for the upbeat, big sounding song, and sounds real good. At least he gives it prominence, while a fire rages around him. Just be hot up there, and not just from Urban.
9:21 p.m. - Little Big Town gets help from Trombone Shorty on new single "Stay All Night." He's not so short with his trombone though, real good with New Orleans feel. Real nice outing with the funky sound reigning here. This was a good pairing. Sometimes they seem very lame, but this one worked.
9:33 p.m. - Kelsea Ballerini sings "Peter Pan" with Nick Jonas coming on at the end. Got to say that she sounds a bit flat for awhile, but picks it up. She sure shows a lot of leg..
9:36 p.m. - Tim McGraw sings his new hit single "Humble and Kind," penned by the great Lori McKenna. Lots of flashlights lit up there. Nice message to the song about not too big for your britches. McGraw's vocals also could be stronger.
9:44 p.m. - Lady A's Charles Kelley sings "Lonely Girl." He gives it a soulful, Motown feel. Good beat and vibe, but is this country?
9:48 p.m. - Vocal Group of the Year - Little Big Town. "It's such a gift to make music every day, and we're so thankful to do this," said Philip Sweet. Karen Fairchild said, "We grew up singing harmonies with our families, so we want to give this to our families." Kimberly Schlapman, "Thank you for Chris Stapleton not being a group." Fairchild further joked that they discovered Stapleton.
9:57 p.m. - Carrie Underwood sings "Church Bells." She sings with her usual authority> Not sure I like the footwear though. Black shoes that wrap up to near her knee. Looks uncomfy. Lots of drumming up there including Underwood belting away on the big drums. And like a number of songs, hard to call this country.
10:01 p.m. - Kiefer Sutherland has gone country apparently, having released a video. Now, he's here to give out Female Vocalist of the Year:Miranda Lambert who comes from backstage. "Whew, thank you so much. Awesome. I love you all. I just want to say Carrie , you just killed it." Lambert said she was "excited" to see the next generation of country female performers singing their own songs - "I love seeing tonight, new country girls shining." She didn't cry this time!
10:03 p.m. - Sam Hunt is up singing "Make You Miss Me" decked out with white hat and white piano. Does a good job singing it, bit soulful, but less so than some of his hits.
10:07 p.m. - Thomas Rhett sings his big award winning hit "Die a Happy Man." Same deal for him though as Cam. Why doesn't he sing "T Shirt," his current single?
10:16 p.m. - Miranda Lambert gets down with Keith Urban and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top to sing "Tush." She rocks out on the classic. Sounds real good. So does Urban on guitar and Gibbons as well. Nice job. Okay, this wasn't country either, but good meshing of music.
10:19 p.m. - Male Vocalist - No surprise. It's Chris Stapleton. Again. "Thank you," he said. "There are so many people to thank." He proceeded to give thank yous to various people who helped him along the way. "I got to thank my wife all the time. She makes me sound better and look better than I ever would have." He also gave a general thanks to the country community. Thank you for being so kind to me. I really truly appreciate it." Stapleton sounded heartfelt. I suspect he's still in disbelief about how the last 11 months has gone.
10:28 p.m. - Kacey Musgraves gets face time in introducing Katy Perry with whom she has toured. Perry is decked out in a cowboy outfit with oddball yellow star earrings and cowboy hats. Perry talked on the connection with Parton in growing up with family members who were preachers (Perry's father is). Perry talks for awhile about the TV movie about Parton's life, "The Coast of Many Colors," which won the Tex Ritter Award.
10:31 p.m. - Parton steps up in a jacket of a many colors. "I hope you like my coat. I had to do something to overcome all those long legged women I had to work with around here."
"This means the world to me," said Parton, "and so do you."
10:34 p.m. - "Once in a lifetime, first time ever duet," said Musgraves. "I'm freaking out." She got tongue tied because I think that was repetitious. They sing "Coat of Many Colors.," "Jolene" and "9 to 5." The pairing made a lot of sense as both Parton an d Perry are outsized personalities. Parton sounded a bit worn vocally, and Perry didn't have the best voice either, but it was nice to see them up there doing justice to the songs. And it may have been the songs that made you remember this is a country awards show, if you know what I mean.
10:45 p.m. - Florida Georgia Line is out to perform. Somewhere along the line they won Vocal Duo of the Year tonight over Joey + Rory. I thought the latter would have been a slam dunk. Nothing against FGL, who I'm not a big fan of at all, but to the point of honoring someone who passed away. FGL is singing away.
10:49 p.m. - Stapleton gets some time on stage - not winning an award. Nice and soulful in singing the ballad "Fire Away." That guy is one fine singer. Wife Morgan helps out on backing vocals.
10:56 p.m. - Entertainer of the Year:Jason Aldean. Got to say I'm surprised. I thought either Church or Lambert would take it.. "I was just starting to think this one wasn't in the cards for me," Aldean said, adding, "I tell you what. I may be rough around the edges a little bit." before saying how he was glad to be in the music business. "This is one of the best nights of my professional career." Aldean understandably was moved by the honor, leaving the stage to a big bear hug from fellow nominee Bryan.