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Surprise! The CMA got the awards right this year… for the most part

Before they are too far into the past, I had a few comments on this year’s Country Music Association awards, which were presented earlier this month in Nashville.

Most of you know me as a crotchety curmudgeon who loudly and often proclaims how country music is going to hell in a handbasket and today’s music can’t touch the classic country of yesteryear. But to my surprise, I think that the CMA did a pretty good job in handing out honors this year.

Entertainer of the Year went to Taylor Swift. While this young phenom might be just a bit too young and bubbly for my taste, I have to admit that I like her music. A lot. If even half of the official press material on her is true, Swift is a talent the likes of which only comes around once in a while, and she has earned her meteoric success. She was nominated in four categories, and took the top award in each one. The other nominees for Entertainer of the Year were Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, George Strait and Keith Urban. This win makes Swift the youngest (at 19) performer to be named entertainer of the year, and the first woman to take it since Shania Twain in 1999.

Given that she took the big one of the night, it’s no surprise that Taylor Swift got the Female Vocalist of the Year award as well, beating out Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood.

Male Vocalist of the Year was claimed by Brad Paisley- for a third consecutive time. Paisley also hosted the event for a second time with Carrie Underwood, and beat out Kenny Chesney, Darius Rucker, George Strait and Keith Urban for the Male Vocalist of the Year honor. I’ve always kind of tolerated Brad Paisley as a decent performer and a great person, but I think he’s finally coming into his own as great country musician. His recent stuff is showing more depth and quality, so while I don’t know that I’d have given him this award two and three years ago, I’m fine with him taking it this year.

New Artist of the Year was awarded to Darius Rucker, and well-deserved, I think. He’s made an incredible transition from Hootieville and has been putting out some great new country music. The Zac Brown Band was also up for this award, and I wouldn’t have kicked any if they had won it, either. Other nominees were Randy Houser, Jamey Johnson and Jake Owen.

I’m also a big fan of the outcome of the award for Vocal Group of the Year. Lady Antebellum (about which I said is ‘one of the most unusual names for a country band that I’ve run across in quite a while,’ in a blog for the Reno Gazette-Journal) took this one, and again, a well-deserved win. They won New Artist of the Year in 2008, and in addition to being named top vocal group this year, also won for the single, “I Run to You.” The Vocal Group category this year also included the Eagles (why?) and Little Big Town, Rascal Flatts and the Zac Brown Band.

Vocal Duo of the Year… yet again, a choice that I enthusiastically support and endorse. Sugarland took this prize, for the third year in a row. Other nominees were Big & Rich (why? why? why?), Brooks & Dunn, Joey+Rory and Montgomery Gentry.

Single of the Year, as I’ve mentioned above, went to Lady Antebellum’s “I Run to You,” beating out the Zac Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried,” Jamey Johnson’s “In Color,” Billy Currington’s “People Are Crazy,” and Brad Paisley’s “Then.” Wow, talk about a strong field of contenders…

Album of the Year went to Taylor Swift’s Fearless, against Brad Paisley’s American Saturday Night, Keith Urban’s Defying Gravity, Sugarland’s Love on the Inside, and Jamey Johnson’s That Lonesome Song.

Song of the Year gives recognition exactly where I think it should go… to Jamey Johnson’s “In Color,” also written by Lee Thomas Miller and James Otto. “In Color” is a wonderful country song, and I’ve often thought of commenting on it in this blog. And now I’m sorry I didn’t, because if I had, I could say ‘I told you so.’ Competition in this category included “Chicken Fried” (a good song, but a little flighty to be Song of the Year), “I Told You So” (Randy Travis’ hit… yes perhaps a song of the year, but not the song of THIS year), “People are Crazy” (This one’s good, just not quite as good as “In Color”) and Paisley’s “Then.”

The Musical Event of the Year category is, to my mind, a contrived and silly thing. Just because a pair of big name entertainers get together on a song doesn’t make it an ‘event.’ But the CMA didn’t consult me on creating this award, so I guess it’s not going to be going away any time soon. This year, it went to Brad Paisley and Keith Urban and “Start a Band.” And this is the only winner this year that I have real issues with. “Start a Band” just isn’t very good. Particularly when you look at the stuff it was up against… Brooks & Dunn and Reba McEntire and “Cowgirls Don’t Cry,” Kenny Chesney and Mac McAnally and “Down the Road,” Lee Ann Womack and George Strait and “Everything But Quits,” Carrie Underwood and Randy Travis and “I Told You So,” and The Raconteurs and Ricky Skaggs and Ashley Monroe and “Old Enough.”

When I previewed Lee Ann Womack’s album on this blog, I predicted that “Everything But Quits” would be up for this award, so you might be thinking that the “Start a Band” win is just sour grapes. But I wouldn’t be complaining if “Cowgirls Don’t Cry” or “I Told You So” had won Musical Event of the Year. I think they are both stronger contenders than “Start a Band” (and truth be told, both might be better candidates for the award than the Womack/Strait song… might be.)

The final two categories, I don’t even pretend to be qualified to judge. Music Video of the Year went to Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” over Randy Houser’s “Boots On,” Billy Currington’s “People Are Crazy,” Paisley and Urban’s “Start a Band,” and George Strait’s “Troubadour.” The Musician of the Year award went to Mac McAnally on guitar, beating out Eddie Bayers on drums, Paul Franklin on steel guitar, Dann Huff on guitar and Brent Mason on guitar.

Taylor Swift photo courtesy CMA

About R. Keith Rugg

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One comment

  1. I have to disagree with your view on “Start A Band” winning the Musical Event award. I LOVED this song and video and the fact that Brad and Keith can sing AND play lead guitar when they sing, well, it’s just outright genius in my book. And I don’t mean just PLAY guitar–these guys (especially Keith) are so talented, they make the rest of them look like amateurs!