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The CMAs blow-by-blow

Jeffrey Remz  |  November 8, 2017

Ready for the CMAs and some opinion of highs and lows? Then, read on.

8 p.m. The CMAs are on with Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum singing the old Hootie & the Blowfish hit "Hold My Hand." Keith Urban is giving a helping vocal as well. Got to say that it sounds fresh and lively and not 23 years old. And Urban lets loose on real steely guitar. Nice. Question? Why are they playing something so old. Now a bunch of others are out there like Reba, Tim and Faith, Thomas Rhett, Garth Brooks, Little Big Town, Ronnie Dunn, Luke Bryan.

"This has been a year marked by tragedy,...including many in our country music family," intoned Carrie Underwood in the opening.

8:07 p.m. - The best way to honor our fans is to play our music loud and plucking proud," said co-host Brad Paisley. Paisley said the show as dedicated to those who were lost and healing. "We will never forget you," Paisley pledged.

Underwood made fun of the CMAs short-lived guidelines about no asking about politics, guns and more.

Paisley joked, "You mean no more stand by your mannafort" and a few other jokes. Not bad from Paisley. And he proceeded to use Underwood "Before He Cheats," with jokey lyrics including "Before He Tweets."

Pink has gotten a lot of airtime already with Paisley and Underwood joking around about her. She's going to perform in one of those non-country acts invading country.

After donning sunglasses, Paisley got a crack in, "I wonder why Eric Church wears his all the time." Good one because Church does and did at the CMAs.

Tim and Faith come onstage, throwing a few barbs at the hosts. They even brought up Barbie style dolls for them. Not bad, but Underwood never quite seems like she's comfy with ad libbing or relaxed. That's not the case for Paisley, of course.

8:16 p.m. - Keith simply gave thanks to a few folks, including his wife, Nicole Kidman, who was in China. Dann Huff, who helped produced, said "To work with this guy was a dream come true."

8:24 p.m. - Thomas Rhett is onstage singing "Unforgettable." Sounds good. He's a good singer, but he isn't in the forefront of traditional country exactly. Light sounding.

8:28 p.m. - Taylor Swift wins Song of the Year for "Better Man," made famous by Little Big Town. Swift was not in the house, so LBT went up to accept.

8:30 p.m. - Montgomery Gentry, really the late Troy Gentry, received the tribute treatment from Dierks Bentley and Rascal Flatts' Gary LeVox on "My Town." Still sad how he passed away of course so tragically. Eddie Montgomery came out to sing as well. Nice job and received hearty applause from the crowd.

8:39 p.m. - Paisley continues knocking the CMA effort to ban journalists from asking questions joking that Alan Jackson had a song "Papadopoulos" (as in "Pop a Top").

8:40 p.m. - Kelsea Ballerini sings her new single "Legends" with help from Reba McEntire. Not so sure of the choice because Reba's a lot better singer. They do sound good together, but it's also not the most exciting song going. It sounds far more pop than country, and Reba is an excellent singer of course.

8:43 p.m. - Very lame joke of Underwood introducing Bryan, who's going to be a host on American Idol. "I've always wanted to see that show," Underwood said. Did anyone laugh? Hope not.

8:43 p.m. - Bryan sings his new single "Light It Up," from his disc out month. Bryan never has done it for me. Too lightweight, and there are vocalists who are much better. Like "Legends," not overwhelmed by the song. Another one that has nothing to do with country as we knew it.

8:51 p.m. - Miranda Lambert sings "To Learn Her," the first country song of the night. It even features pedal steel (a lot of it) from Spencer Cullum and some easy going drumming on a ballad with excellent singing from Lambert, who knows a thing or two about traditional country. Real nice.

8:57 p.m. - Jon Pardi wins New Artist of the Year. Good artist when he keeps it country. He thanked the usual suspects of his manager, family and friends. Pardi seemed genuinely excited about winning the honor and didn't know how to leave the stage. He thanked those who supported him when he was still in high school and played local dive bars.

8:58 p.m. - Garth Brooks sings "Ask Me How I Know." He does a good job in what starts out more country, picks up in volume, but he sings it well. Brooks looks good with his close-cut beard. It'll be interesting how high he can go with this single. He hasn't had the greatest chart success since his return.

9:07 p.m. - More silliness from Underwood and Paisley on prepping for the hosting by doing goat yoga. Unfunny.

9:08 p.m. - Brothers Osborne, a fine band, "It Ain't My Fault." Man, brother T.J. sings well. Love his voice. How about some new music though. It's time. Real good live also. Excellent song too. They also paid tribute to the late Don Williams with a nice reading of "Livin' on Tulsa Time." Well done brothers.

9:13 p.m. - Director Tyler Perry pays tribute to Charley Pride before giving out Album of the Year. "Never more important that we find some common ground, spend some time listening to each other and realize we're more alike than we are not alike" to much applause.

"I'm almost humbled by getting these things," said Stapleton, before thanking his family, fans and the CMAs. Producer Dave Cobb also received the honor for his efforts. Stapleton also co-produced.

9:18 p.m. - McGraw and Hill sing their new single, "The Rest of Our Life." Sounds fine, but not sure it has the staying power of some of their other hits, especially in the current marketplace. I give them a LOT of credit though for putting out an album together. That has not happened in a long time. It's coming one week from Friday.

9:27 p.m. - Pink finally comes out to sing "Barbies." It's about as country as some of the other songs I've heard tonight. Acoustic guitar and string-based with cello and upright bass and three backing singers. She sings very well with some timbre and emotion. Not sure what's doing with the transmission because it has frozen three different times.

9:31 p.m. - Old Dominion follows after an intro by Underwood in another new outfit with "No Such Thing as a Broken Heart." The band has done well for itself, but not sure why it's not playing its current single "Written in the Sand." They then proceeded to announced broadcast awards.

9:38 p.m. - The late Glen Campbell receives the tribute treatment from Little Big Town on "Wichita Lineman." I like the fact that they make it their own with soft acoustic guitar and piano. LBT keeps it nice and slow. Real nice harmonies as well. That was Jimmy Webb on piano. The song brought tears to some of those shown.

9:44 p.m. - Brothers Osborne win Vocal Duo of the Year. TJ Osborne said, "This is incredible you all." He said he was asked in interviews what it meant to win the honor previously and said, "I can tell you firstly we've made a lot more money," he said jokingly. He then talked about the support of friends and family. Nice win. Somehow not so so surprised even though they won over Florida Georgia Line. On paper, one would think that FGL would win it hands down. Yes, they have awards, but they have never been a slam dunk.

9:51 p.m. - Chris Stapleton sings "Broken Halo." Acoustic guitar comes through loud and clear. So does his wife, Morgane, on backing vocals. He is such a fine singer. I got to say that I'm still ultra surprised he has done as well as he has, which has absolutely nothing with quality (he has that in spades) and everything to do with how he is so way way different than just about everyone else out there.

9:55 p.m. - Maren Morris sings "I Could Use a Love Song" with Niall Horan, doing his own thing now after being with One Direction. They then segue into his "Seeing Blind," good song, which could be considered Americana at the very least. Nicely done. Got to say that I was skeptical about this pairing in advance, but one of the best of the night thus far. Very well done.

10:05 p.m. - Carrie Underwood sings "Softly and Tenderly," while the names of those who have died are flashed on a backing screen. Can't quite see who most of them are save Tom Petty and a few shorts with Jo Walker-Meador of the CMA, Troy Gentry, Don Williams and Glen Campbell. I guess country is inherently Christian as evidenced by this song. Underwood in no surprise does a super job of singing with an orchestra backing her. This song sounds right up her alley. The end of the song shows the 58 people murdered in Las Vegas. So sad needless to say.

10:14 p.m. - Little Big Town wins Vocal Group of the Year. Not surprised. "Tonight should be about harmony. It should be about what we can do together to change things. Kindness is an attractive quality. We actually can change the way things are going," said Karen Fairchild, one of the four members. Well well spoken in what was doubtlessly aimed at President Trump. Glad to see that someone had the guts to say what was on her mind.

10:17 p.m. - Paisley is out with a t-shirt that says "UNITY" and sings "Heaven South." Nice job of singing a country song. He brings out Kane Brown, who I didn't know could sing country. Will Brad be an influencer? Love his guitar playing. Surprise surprise. Hey, you can even see a banjo. Didn't realize that was allowed.

10:20 p.m. - Jon Pardi sings a bit of "Dirt on My Boots." Good country song

10:23 p.m. - Lauren Alaina is singing "Come Together" with Dan + Shay. Good sentiment, but I remain very turned by the CMA's attempt to throttle journalists in asking questions about guns, Vegas and politics.Is this on purpose that the very next ad contains The Youngbloods' version of "Come Together" in an ad for Walmart. Interesting. The Youngbloods' take was better, folks.

10:29 p.m. - Keith Urban sings his new song "Female," written in the wake of Harvey Weinstein. Interesting that there has been no mention of that until this song, in effect.

10:33 p.m. - Miranda Lambert wins Female Vocalist for the seventh time. Well deserved. "More than any of the year that I've been a part of the CMAs, I feel like there's a family tonight," she said.

10:34 p.m. - Eric Church sings "Chattanooga Lucy," a soulful song that sometimes rock. Definitely a southern feel to it. Not exactly country either. Church does as Church pleases. Got to give him credit on that and the way he tours and records.

10:42 p.m. - Male Vocalist of the Year - Chris Stapleton wins for the third time. He said the others nominated all helped him get to where he is today from touring to writing. "It means a lot," said Stapleton in giving out his thanks.

10:45 a.m. - Alan Jackson gets to perform as a Country Music Hall of Fame inductee singing "Chasin' That Neon Rainbow," his first big hit. Great song then and now. Folks like Dierks Bentley and Luke Bryan sang along, although I'm not so sure Bryan ever was "living that honky tonk dream" (emphasis on honky tonk). I only wish that he would get played on radio and the hits would keep coming.

10:54 p.m. - Garth Brooks wins Entertainer of the Year. Got to say that I thought Stapleton would win. "To all of us, Miranda said it best, Little Big Town said it best, we're a family." He gave thanks to his band and crew on the road.

10:57 p.m. - Jackson closes out the night with "Don't Rock the Jukebox" with Paisley helping on guitar and Underwood on backing vocals. Great song from one of the seminal artists of our generation. Super way to close out the night.

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