Wednesday, November 7, 2007
– Kenny Chesney took the biggest award of the evening, Entertainer of the Year, at the 41st annual Country Music Association awards Wednesday.
He won the honor over Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban and George Strait.
Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley took home two awards apiece.
Chesney said in taking the trophy from Reba McEntire, "I guess I should thank Brad Paisley because he thanked me. I had to do that. God, I can't believe I get to stand on the stages that I stand on every summer and sing the songs that I sing."
"I want to thank George Strait for paying for dinner last night," he joked before thanking the usual litany of friends, family, fans, his label and country radio.
Female vocalist of the year went to Underwood, who took it over Reba McEntire and Martina McBride. "God has blessed with me so many wonderful things in my life, and I will spend my life wondering why," she said.
Underwood was the first winner for single of the year with "Before He Cheats." Underwood took the award over singles by George Strait, Brad Paisley, Martina McBride and Big & Rich.
Underwood thanked the usual list of songwriters, radio and staff, "family, friends and everybody." Producer Mark Bright also shared in the award.
This was the first award given to Underwood. She later sang her current hit "So Small," the first single from "Carnival Ride," her second CD.
Paisley took the male vocalist award, his first win after seven nominations in the category. He took it over a tough field including Strait and Kenny Chesney "I can't tell you what this means to me to win this. Winning it once will do."
Paisley received an award not broadcast - video of the year for "Online." Actor Jason Alexander directed the piece.
In an upset, Sugarland won duo of the year, ending the long reign of Brooks & Dunn. They also took it over Big & Rich, Montgomery Gentry and The Wreckers.
Jennifer Nettles was all glee in taking the award and could barely talk at first. "We're standing on the shoulders of giants who have come before us. Brooks & Dunn always rock it out, and they're so deserving. we're happy to be receiving this."
Brooks & Dunn had won the award every year between 1992 and this year except for 1 year when Montgomery Gentry took the honor.
Sugarland soon followed it up by singing their current hit single, "Stay" with Nettles giving a soulful reading of the song to big applause.
Album of the year went to George Strait for "It Just Comes Natural" to a standing ovation. This was Strait's sixth win in the category. Tony Brown was also given the award as producer.
"Of the awards I've (been) nominated, this was the one I was hoping I'd come up for here tonight," Strait said.
The Horizon Award, an award given to a new artist or one who has significant career growth, went to Taylor Swift.
"I can't even believe that this is real,' said Swift, crying. "I want to thank God and my family for moving to Nashville so that I could do this."
"This is definitely the highlight of my senior year," said Swift to further tears, raising the award aloft.
Song of the award was handed out to "Give It Away," written by Bill Anderson, Buddy Cannon and Jamey Johnson. George Strait made the song a hit.
"Ya'll been letting me do this for 50 years, and I love you," said Anderson, who has enjoyed a long career as a songwriter and performer.
Johnson thanked his "mom and dad for teaching me how to eat and sing in the first place. I want to thank my ex-wife," he said to laughter referring to raising their child. "She's a good woman. She deserves half of this award."
Rascal Flatts took the vocal group of the year award over Alison Krauss and Union featuring Jerry Douglas, the Dixie Chicks, Emerson Drive and Little Big Town.
Jay DeMarcus said, "This is awesome," before thanking fans, family and radio.
Tracy Lawrence's "Find Out Who Your Friends Are" took home vocal event of the year. Tim McGraw and Chesney participated in the song.
Dobro king Jerry Douglas received the instrumentalist of the year award. He is a member of Alison Krauss's band.
While already officially inducted, broadcaster Ralph Emery, Vince Gill and Mel Tillis were acknowledged for their contributions.
Lia Knight of the Lea Show won the national market personality award.
The Eagles, who just released their first CD in 30 years, played their first awards show ever. They performed the twangy and very country "How Long" with Don Henley and Glen Frey taking lead vocals. Until that point, they received the most enthusiastic response of the night.
Rascal Flatts both kicked off and closed the musical part of the evening. They started with their hit single "Still Feels Good" in Nashville, setting the stage for "country music's biggest night." They ended with the soulful "She Goes All the Way" with actor Jamie Foxx coming out to reprise the vocals he delivered on the CD.
Decked out in a red dress, Miranda Lambert followed Rascal Flatts at the beginning of the show with country rocker "Gunpowder & Lead" the next single from her second disc, instead of her current single "Famous in a Single Gun." Lambert cooked on the song.
Strait, nominated for five awards, played his current single "How 'Bout Them Cowgirls" from his upcoming greatest hits package.
Teen hit maker Taylor Swift came out playing a sparkling acoustic guitar, while singing "Our Song."
In a departure, Paisley used a local high school band to introduce "Online," his latest single. Kellie Pickler and Swift came out to dance during the song.
Alison Krauss played the soft "Simple Love" with her band Union Station.
Big & Rich rocked the house with the over the top "Loud," their new single with Rich dedicating it to "the late King of Bling, Porter Wagoner," who died last week. Rich was decked out in a long fur coat and sunglasses.
Rodney Atkins, who has enjoyed a great year with three hits, sang one of them, "These Are My People."
Ronnie Dunn led Brooks & Dunn in "God Must Be Busy," a tender ballad.
Jason Aldean followed that with a rocking song, "Johnny Cash," which in reality has very little to do with Cash, but, instead, has to do with hitting the road. The word "Cash" was lit up behind Aldean.
Dwight Yoakam offered his thoughts on the late Porter Wagoner. "Porter was not just someone we used to know. He was a pioneer, a groundbreaker, an incredibly talented artist to the end," said Yoakam. "A lot of country stars wore rhinestone suits, but no one ever wore them with his unique and iconoclastic style." Yoakam then opened his jacket with the words "Thank you" taped on the inside.
"Porter, you'll be missed," Yoakam said.
McBride, who was nominated for several awards performed "For These Times," quickly followed by Keith Urban's "Everybody Needs Somebody."
Martina McBride and LeAnn Rimes did a duet together, "When You Love Someone Like That," while Little Big Town reprised their big hit, "Boondocks."
Kenny Chesney played a solid, easy going version of his current hit single "Don't Blink."
Deep voiced Josh Turner, who just joined the Grand Ole Opry and released a CD, doled out his new fast paced, hard country single, "Firecracker."
Pickler sang a very heartfelt ballad, "I Wonder," about a mother/daughter relationship and was in tears by the end of the song. Pickler has long been estranged from her mother, who abandoned her.