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The 50th CMAs: blow by blow

Jeffrey Remz  |  November 2, 2016

8 p.m. - And so it begins with scenes from the past - Willie, Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Reba, George Strait, Little Big Town and Garth Brooks.

"This is definitely the highlight of my senior year," said Taylor Swift, who will not be here tonight I assume.

8:01 p.m. - Vince Gill gets things rolling with "Mama Tried" on acoustic guitar and the Hag's youngest son, Ben on electric. Gill sounds a bit hoarse vocally, but good choice nonetheless.

8 p.m. - And so it begins with scenes from the past - Willie, Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Reba, George Strait, Little Big Town and Garth Brooks.

"This is definitely the highlight of my senior year," said Taylor Swift, who will not be here tonight I assume.

8:01 p.m. - Vince Gill gets things rolling with "Mama Tried" on acoustic guitar and the Hag's youngest son, Ben on electric. Gill sounds a bit hoarse vocally, but good choice nonetheless.

And Brad Paisley got a "Tiger By the Tail" with roy Clark, while Carrie Underwood shows she actually really can sing traditional country with her version of "Stand By Your Man." I've always thought that about her.

8:04 p.m. - Charley Pride turns in "Kiss an Angel Good Morning," though his voice sounds a bit worn. Paisley helps out on guitar.

Alabama keeps the emphasis on the more traditional side of country with "Mountain Music." The newer acts, like Little Big Town and Keith Urban are singing along. Too bad they don't play that.

The newest member of the Country Music Hall of Fame Charlie Daniels tears it up on fiddle.

Great hearing Alan Jackson - "Don't Rock the Jukebox" and Dwight Yoakam with "Guitars, Cadillacs" and more. Randy Travis came out for "Forever and Ever Amen," singing the word "Amen" at the end. Great seeing him, but he seemed to be held up by Underwood and Paisley.

8:11 p.m. - hosts Paisley and Underwood make fun of the election, which is no surprise, but I question whether Underwood really doesn't care who wins. Let's hope not anyway. They end with singing the end of Travis' "Forever and Ever Amen."

8:14 p.m. - Spotlight on Chris Stapleton. When was the last time he smiled?

8:14 p.m. - Paisley calls Underwood "Crooked Carrie." Me thinks not, but BP claims the show is "rigged - No, it's not Brad, but the people want to know will you accept the results." Not a bad back and forth.

Okay, it did get corny with their "basket of deplorables" and the "bra of many colors." It did get silly with Barbie dolls of Tim and Faith. Ho hum.

8:22 p.m. - Thomas Rhett wins Single of the Year for "Die a Happy Man." Not a surprise given the huge success the song received. Good list of nominees though including Eric Church's "My Record Year" and Maren Morris' "My Church."

8:28 p.m. - Kelsea Ballerini sings "Peter Pan" with props behind her. She is all made up and she reinforces the fact that she has little to do with country. The dancers behind her muddy up the song , take the focus away from Ballerini and add pretty much zero. Awkward.

8:31 p.m. - Olivia Newton-John, former country singer, is out for giving Song of the Year - Lori McKenna for "Humble And Kind," a song that became a hit for Tim McGraw. He went up onstage with her. She thanked Mrs. McGraw, aka Faith Hill, for giving her a break. Hill cut several of her songs years ago. Now, McKenna, in her 40s with five kids and spending a chunk of her time in Massachusetts, is gathering up the hits. She's also a fine artist in her own right. This will help. A big big congrats to her.

8:33 p.m. - Brooks and Dunn plays "Brand New Man" with help from Jason Aldean. Sounds fresh years later. Dunn, who has a new disc out in a few weeks, sounds in great vocal shape. we'll see how new he is with his solo disc?

8:41 p.m. - Dierks Bentley and Elle King sing "Different for Girls." Sounds good. Didn't realize King plays banjo, though I can barely hear it. She got some swagger to her voice.

8:44 p.m. - Gretchen Wilson, Janie Frickie, Tanya Tucker and a few other former CMA winners are quickly introduced. Too bad WIlson's career disintegrated. She had a number of fine albums, but the label spent too much on her debut pushing the redneck mama idea. Not a good idea for the long term.

8:45 p.m. - Maren Morris sings her hit "My Church" with help from Preservation Hall Jazz Band and McCrarys. Excellent song with great backing vocals and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band is excellent. I got the chance to see them at Newport Folk Fest for the first time this summer, and they are a great New Orlenas band. They probably outdo Morris. She's fine, but not overpowering either.

8:53 p.m. - Maren Morris wins New Artist of the Year. She had a great song in "My Church," but wasn't my choice. I was for Brothers Osborne, but knew they couldn't win. A year ago, Morris said she was sitting across the street at a bar. What a difference a year makes!

8:58 p.m. - Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood sing "Jackson," the Johnny and June song. They also tackle Roger Miller's "Chug-a-Lug," Crystle Gayle's "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue," Loretta and Conway's "Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man," Lynn Anderson's "Rose Garden," Keith Whiley's "Don't Close Your Eyes" and George and Tammy's "Golden Ring." Nice job by the two singing snippets of the songs. Big effort to honor country's past, which is not a surprise given that it's the 50th anniversary of the awards.

9:07 p.m. - Carrie Underwood in yet another new outfit is singing "Dirty Laundry." All female band (I think). Rocks basically.

9:13 p.m. - Eric Church wins Album of the Year for "Mr. Misunderstood." Well deserved. Gutsy disc as he released it as a surprise one year ago, sending it to about 75,000 fans first. Very under the radar, not even supposed to do all that much given a supposed lack of hits. But it's a fine piece of work and well deserving.

9:16 p.m. - Little Big Town sings "Better Man," Good harmonies, but not the most exciting song, a bit inert almost. Karen Fairchild doesn't sound all that good vocally. As for the farm backdrop? Eh, not a very good idea.

9:24 p.m. - Billy Ray Cyrus joke isn't all that funny.

9:25 p.m. - Miranda Lambert sings her single "Vice" ahead of album release later this month. The song hasn't bowled me over. It doesn't seem like an obvious choice to be the lead-off single either. The lyrics are pretty good, but musically, nothing special.

9:29 p.m. - Tim McGraw sings McKenna's "Humble and Kind." Good performance of a message song McKenna wrote for her five kids. I can't figure out who these people are they are showing on the sides. Now they have a bunch of kids holding candles. The theatrics are overwhelming to say the least. Not needed.

9:39 pm. - Alan Jackson and George Strait cover "Remember When" and "Troubadour" respectively. Jackson always sounds really good.

9:44 p.m. - Vocal Duo of the Year - Brothers Osborne. Okay, this was a total shock. I wrote that I hoped they would win it because they had a fine album, mainly ignored earlier this year, and could do it live, but when Florida Georgia Line is nominated? And how about Joey + Rory? I thought maybe they'd win for sentimental reasons. When TJ Osborne said he had not prepared a speech, I can't say that I doubted him. He said he expected to congrat Florida Georgia Line, who were sitting right by them. No surprise that he'd think that way.

This was the surprise of the evening so far. By far.

9:53: Keith Urban sings "Blue Ain't Your Color." Nice simple guitar work and good vocals.

9:57 p.m. - Little Big Town wins Vocal Group of the Year. No surprise there.

10:05 p.m. - Surprise surprise. Beyonce and the Dixie Chicks are out singing "Daddy Lessons," and it actually does have a country vibe to it with banjo, fiddle and acoustic guitar. Real nice. I was not expecting this. Natalie Maines is doing a good job on vocals and Beyonce sings it well of course, not taking over. They also play a bit of "Long time gone." No doubt about it. The Chicks are. Can't imagine how or why they decided to play the CMAs, but nice job combining the two. Excellent performance.

10:15 p.m. - Kenny Chesney receives the Pinnacle Award after being intro'd by friend Peyton Manning. He thanks the fans of course and those who set the stage for him. Nice speech. Chesney was only the third artist to ever win the award, after Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift.

10:17 p.m. - Thomas Rhett is out to sing his megahit "Die a Happy Man." He's a good, soulful singer, who doesn't have to do with country, but he'll take the chart success no doubt. And his latest disc was a real good one.

10:27 p.m. - Chris and Morgane Stapleton sing "Seven Spanish Angels" with Dwight Yoakam. Really nicely done. It was originally sung by Willie Nelson and Ray Charles. Nice Spanish feel musically. Yoakam certainly gets a chance to shine, and Stapleton gives his soulful reading.

10:29 p.m. - Luke Bryan rocks on "Move." I remain not a fan of his. He may be a nice guy, but he has always left me flat with his vanilla songs. He offers quite the contrast from Stapleton and Yoakam to say the least.

10:38 p.m. - Florida Georgia Line sings its hit "May We All" with Tim McGraw. Like the acoustic bent to it, but a bit too rocking at times. Would have been a stronger song without. McGraw sure is getting a lot of face time tonight. Good for him. Nice reading of the song.

10:42 p.m. - Female Vocalist of the Year - Carrie Underwood. She wins it for the fourth time. I got to say I thought for sure Miranda Lambert would win it. Underwood doesn't hav a ton to say except a lot of thanks.

10:44 p.m. - Eric Church is out with Rhiannon Giddens to sing "Kill a Word." Lower key song, and she's, of course, a great vocalist. No surprise there. Not the most overpowering song, but well done.

10:54 p.m. - Dolly Parton wins the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award with intro from Lily Tomlin. But before she comes out Jennifer Nettles sings with Pentatonix in a good version of Jolene. Nettles has a strong voice, but she's a bit too precise for my taste.

10:57 p.m. - Reba tackles "9 to 5." Perfect song for her, but Dolly owns this song. Sorry. Ditto for "Here You Come Again," which Kacey Musgraves song. I love Musgraves, her sass and singing, but leave it for Dolly.

Dolly cracks a few jokes of course in taking the honor. She is definitely deserving, and interestingly, she does a better job singing than any of the guests.

11:07 p.m. - Chris Stapleton wins Male Vocalist of the Year. Not a surprise. He seems to win these awards. He's a low key kind of guy, but made it clear he was enjoying the evening. Well deserved honor for the veteran.

11:15 p.m. - Brad Paisley sings his new single "Today." Sounds good.

11:17 p.m. - Entertainer of the Year - it's Garth, and I got to say that I am surprised. I guess coming back on the road a few years ago and being more and more in the public eye with activity does it. Stapleton seems to do well in the awards and was deserving, but Brooks is one happy man. Congrats!

11:22 p.m. or so - And that about ends the 50th CMA Awards. Surprisingly, it went over time, but had a number of good moments and winners. See you in another 50 years (or less)!

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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