One of these days I’d love to make it to the CMAs and even if the 51st has been sitting on my DVR for a few weeks now I’ve been looking forward to watching on TV. The show’s about more than just the music that actually takes home the awards (some thoughts on last year’s CMAs here). I enjoy all the country stars taking turns performing – seeing them transition from their seated roles with family/spouse to performing up on stage and then back again makes them more interestingly human. And I like seeing these country performers recognize each other, especially when everyone in the audience is on the same page, singing along to a country classic – like Tulsa Time or Don’t Rock the Jukebox, a couple of 2017’s examples. I also like seeing great songwriters get recognized for their critical role in making country music.
In terms of live performances, one of the high points for me of this year’s show was Eddie Montgomery, Rascal Flatts and Dierks (H/T to him for getting in on this great performance) singing My Town in tribute to the departed Troy Gentry. She Couldn’t Change Me was among my first favorite country songs and there have been so many MG song I’ve loved over the years and Gentry will definitely be missed. I was surprised at how much I liked No Such Thing As a Broken Heart by Old Dominion, which made it onto my post-CMA Spotify playlist for further consideration. Luke Bryan’s performance and T-Swift’s no-show were lows.
Looking at some of the awards, Little Big Town was a poor choice for Vocal Group of the Year – especially stacking up against Rascal Flatts and ZBB, either of which should have handily beat them out. I suppose I should refresh my familiarity with LBT to understand why they keep winning awards/why people like them. I also didn’t care for the choice of Miranda Lambert as Female Vocalist of the Year. If ever Carrie or Reba are in contention I can’t see how the award goes to someone else, unless perhaps Jennifer Nettles or Martina McBride are involved.
One of the winners I actually felt pretty good about was Jon Pardi for New Artist of the Year. I’m not quite sure how the CMA determines who’s new since I remember listening to Missin’ You Crazy and Up All Night driving around in my good old Jeep in 2012-13 (especially since the radio stations were pushing his songs real hard then) but at least, of the folks nominated, I think he was the best choice. Pardi actually (co-)writes most of his songs and strikes a pretty good balance between Billboard pop country, traditional country and country rock. I was also pleased and surprised to see Jason Isbell’s name come up via nomination for Album of the Year even if he didn’t get the award. This nomination also led indirectly to my being aware that there’s a thing called the Americana Music Association with its own awards show which I’ll definitely need to check out.
Inductees into the CMHOF this year were strong. Alan Jackson is one of my absolute favorites – and based on live reactions clearly a favorite too of the CMA crowd – a rock solid performer who seems to increasingly represent the backbone of traditional contemporary country. And Jerry Reed with the classic East Bound and Down and Don Schlitz who wrote Forever and Ever, Amen, Deeper Than the Holler, The Gambler and too many other great songs to name.
Cheers to a fine show. As they say: next year in Nashville!