Now that we've had a few days to digest the Academy of Country Music Awards, some random thoughts.
It was quite apparent that the powers that be were reaching back in time. How else do you explain prominent appearances from Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire and Brooks & Dunn?
It wasn't only a case of singing news songs (okay, B&D don't have any). In fact, a number of the acts reached back for old material before launching into new songs. (Kenny Chesney, for example, sang "Young" and "Wild Child") That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I thought the night was built on looking ahead, not behind. And Brooks and McEntire have new CDs. Can B&D be far behind?
As for the performances, a number of them proved worthy. Reba was in fine vocal form, on her typical strong woman fare, "Going Out Like That." At 60, her voice remains expressive, full, twangful.
Reba's daughter in law, Kelly Clarkson, gets the award for funniest line of the night. "I have the coolest mother in law in the world, and you all can suck it."
George Strait isn't going away apparently, a good thing. He debuted his new single, "Let It Go," live. His singing could have been a bit better, but the guy got country bona fides written all over him. He is a survivor in what is a young man's game.
What a contrast he provided to folks like Florida Georgia Line, who acted out "Sippin' on Fire" by being surrounded on it.
Miranda Lambert, a big winner on the night with four awards, is sounding better and better. She reached back to "Mama's Broken Heart" before launching into her current single, "Little Red Wagon" where her vocals owned the song.
Fortunately most of the songs worked and were not over the top, which award shows tend to fall victim to. Brooks turned in a stirring performance of "All American Kid," complete with military personnel walking down the aisles. There is a fine line between paying homage to and respecting the military and using them for commercial purposes.
The last stretch of the show again mixed old and new with Alan Jackson turning in his umpteenth heartfelt reading of "Where Were You," written in the wake of the 9/11 bombing, but also appropriate give that the day was the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombings. Paisley followed with "Crushin' It" and Brooks & Dunn their old hit "My Maria."
But how to explain the pairing of Nick Jonas with Dan + Shay? This did not advance the duo's career for sure when they are singing Jonas songs. I guess Dan + Shay don't particularly care whether they're singing a country song as long as they're getting exposure.
The awards, of course, were sometimes hokey. How else do you explain the entire scene with Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo and saying the Cowboys have "bigger balls" than the Patriots. From a football standpoint, that is hardly true (somehow I have a sneaking suspicion that the Pats will remember that comment when they come to Foxboro, Mass. during the second week of the upcoming season).
The silliness continued when Romo threw a pass to co-host Luke Bryan, who was pumping up his Cowboys gloves before making the grab.
Bryan is a likable kind of guy, even if I can't say the same about his music. He's easy going, but not a natural a la Brad Paisley who seems to have those jokes popping from the get go. As for fellow host Blake Shelton, he just tries too hard at times with his jokes and antics.
Bryan was not all that inspiring musically. Certainly not when he rocked on songs like "I See You."
One guy who I was most glad to see in the house was Randy Travis. He looked frail, halting and a bit stiff following a stroke in July 2013. He's been on the mend ever since and hoping to return to recording. Travis received a well-deserved standing ovation from the crowd upon being announced.
Darius Rucker and Brad Paisley closed out the night with a bluesy version of "Let the Good Times Roll." For the most part, they did at this year's ACMs.