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ACM Awards 2020: the blow by blow

Jeffrey Remz  |  November 11, 2020

8 p.m. - The ACM Awards get underway in Nashville with Dierks Bentley tributing Charlie Daniels, who passed away earlier this year, "Long Haired Country Boy." Well, a snippet thereof.

Brothers Osborne gets bluesy with Daniels' "Trudy" with Bentley helping out on backing vocals.

And then Ashley McBryde offers "Texas" with scorching guitar from John Osborne.

Fittingly Jason Aldean takes lead vocals on "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." He sounds perfect for the role.

8:08 p.m. - Hosts Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker take the stage. Got to say that in a small setting due to COVID, it feels like a small show at the outset. We'll see how it unfolds."

Reba makes fleeting reference to the issues out there this year that keep us more than six feet apart. That's about as political as she got. Of course, there was the kerfuffle last week when the CMA intimated that artists should keep their mouths shut about what's going on in the U.S. these days (the election social issues like race and more).

The banter between Reba and Rucker is not particularly funny. McEntire's been on the corny side forever, and that hasn't changed.

8:14 p.m. - Maren Morris wins Single of the Year for "Bones." "I had a baby eight months ago, so being out tonight is a win in and of itself," Morris said. She said the song, a love, "was kind of like a medicine for this year."

8:20 p.m. - Morgan Wallen gets center stage on "More Than My Hometown." Breezy song with a lot of vocal twang from Wallen. Wallen must be happy that he got airtime early unlike his dumb decision to go partying in Tuscaloosa, Ala. and forfeit his appearance on Saturday Night Live last month. I like the grit in his voice.

8:25 p.m. - Another win for Morris along with Jimmy Robbins and Laura Veltz for "The Bones." "I'm proud to be a songwriter in Nashville, Tenn. I grew up obsessing over all your YouTube videos...This is such an honor." That song has legs.

8:27 p.m. - A pregnant Gabby Barrett sings her hit "I Hope" with popmeister Charlie Puth, a reprise of their current single. Barrett, of course, has a powerful voice, but Puth provides a real good vocal contrast. Nice job.

8:35 p.m. - The always meaty singer Eric Church - the Springsteen of country - offers "Hell of a View." The production values are far lower in the small setting, and, of course, the applause are very tame.

8:37 p.m. - Host Darius Rucker takes a break to sing "Beers and Sunshine." Rucker has already been in Music City for a decade, he said earlier. An easy going song with a good delivery.

8:46 p.m. - Ashley McBryde delivers "One Night Standards." Her career certainly has been on the upswing this year. Nice job on a real good song with some intensity. Never thought of this before, but I could imagine Reba singing this.

8:49 p.m. - Lauren Akins (a best selling author and wife of Thomas) is out there presenting an award. New Artist of the Year goes Wallen. This is a night of redemption apparently. "Well, I did not expect to get this," he said. "I'd like to thank my mama for always being the one to push me to sing...It's been a great five years since I've moved here."

8:52 p.m. - Dan + Shea and Justin Bieber sing their hit "Ten Thousand Hours" from the Hollywood Bowl. Good combo in a very simple delivery of the song.

9:01 p.m. - Luke Combs sings "Cold As You" from his new deluxe disc.Comes out with more of a big, rocking sound. Got to give him credit for wearing a Brooks & Dunn hat instead of one of his own. Love this guy's songs.

9:06 p.m. - Jon Pardi does a real nice job on the late great Joe Diffie's "Pick Up Man." He gives it a bit more grit than Joe. I always have liked the country side of Pardi. It's when he rocks more that I think he loses direction. Anyway, Joe was deserving of the tribute. Ashley McBryde is getting down on the song too. Joe's widow, Tara, was in the audience as well. Must be bittersweet for her, one would think.

9:13 p.m. - Carly Pearce is joined by Lady A's Charles Kelley (instead of Lee Brice, who has COVID) on the big hit "I Hope You're Happy Now." Kelley sounds real good, although I got to say it's a bit hard to not think about Lady A going after the other Lady A (the Seattle blues singer of the same name, who they sued).

9:17 p.m. - Vocal Duo of the Year:Dan + Shay. They gave the usual thanks. "It means the world," said Dan Smyers.

9:20 p.m. - Reba and Rucker give tribute to Mac Davis on "In the Ghetto." Elvis need not worry. Didn't exactly have the soul of his delivery. I guess this proves that the CMAs were serious in not squelching artists from making (social and political) comments during the show.

9:28 p.m. - Miranda Lambert sings "Settling Down." Nice with the acoustic flavorings and later some good electric picking. This is the kind of low-key song that fits Lambert well, better than most of the rocking material she has done.

9:32 p.m. - Jimmie Allen is all decked out in a tux, singing his hit "Best Shot." Like a lot of the efforts tonight, it's on the low-key side. I guess that's what the lack of playing in an arena will do to you. I am not complaining.

Allen pays tribute to Charley Pride, who wins the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award. How fitting, particularly this year, when racial issues are at the fore.

9:35 p.m. - Charley is now onstage singing "Kiss An Angel Good Morning" with Allen soon helping out. The crowd, including Eric Church and especially McBryde (that girl got energy), is on their feet. Charley could smile a bit more. Nice job though.

Pride takes the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award. "You might not believe it, but I'm as nervous as I can be," Pride said."I want to thank CMA for this award."

Pride gave homage to a few people he said influenced him: Jack Johnson, Jack Clement and Jerry Bradley. "All my fans, I want to thank you," he said. "I'm through talking I guess." A big congrats to Charley Pride.

9:45 p.m. - Chris Stapleton is onstage singing "Starting Over" with wife Morgan Stapleton. It's the title track of his CD out this Friday. Chris is on acoustic in a wonderful, spare reading of the song. It is so good not to have the bombast of previous years.

9:50 p.m. - Old Dominion wins Vocal Group of the Year, their third win. "This is obviously a strange year, but this's just very humbling, so humbling to be here," said lead singer Matt Ramsey. "What an amazing gift - the life we have. So thanks for this."

9:52 p.m. - Not sure how country Ingrid Andress' bona fides are, but she has a lot of great songs including "More Hearts Than Mine." She's not even playing piano, her trademark instrument. Nice with the backing string quintet as well.

The song seems to have gotten to Andress as well. She was crying at the end. Hope someone didn't break "more hearts" for Andress.

10 a.m. - Rhett is joined by Reba and Christian artist Chris Tomlin on "Be a Light." "In a world full of hate, be a light," Reba sings. Amen, sister!

10:03 p.m. - Luke Combs takes home the extremely well-deserved Album of the Year for "What You See Is What You Get." "Wow," Combs said."I have watched a lot of incredible people win this award, and I have a lot of incredible people to thank for this award."

10:08 p.m. - Little Big Town pays tribute to Kenny Rogers. Nicely done reading of "Sweet Music Man" especially by Karen Fairchild.

10:14 p.m. - Brothers Osborne percolates on their new song "All Night."

10:20 p.m. - Old Dominion is "Looking for Love," the Johnny Lee song, in a tribute to "Urban Cowboy." Good take on the timeless song.

10:29 p.m. - Morris is onstage singing her big hit "The Bones." She's not the countriest of singers out there, but the songs are there.

10:34 p.m. - Keith Urban sings "When God Whispered Your Name" solo acoustic from Australia. He also is particularly country sounding, but he puts his heart into the song.

10:38 p.m. - Female Vocalist of the Year - who else? Maren Morris. It's her night. Morris acknowledged the contribution of black female country singers, saying "I'm just a fan of their music, and they're as country as they can, and I just want them to know - Linda Martell, Yola, Mickey Guyton, Brittney Spencer, Rissi Palmer, Rhiannaon Giddens..There are so many women who pioneer and continue to pioneer in this genre...thank you for making me so inspired to be a singer." That's enough reason to like Maren Morris! ABSOLUTELY best speech of the night.

10:46 p.m. - Male Vocalist of the Year - Luke Combs. "I don't deserve this any more than anyone else in this category...I'm a lucky guy...I love country music, and I love everybody in this category. I wish we all could win."

10:48 p.m. - Kelsea Ballerini goes ultra traditional on "Hole in the Bottle." Gosh, I wish she would do an entire album of this kind of music. Great song. Nice guitar playing too.

10:56 p.m. - Entertainer of the Year - Eric Church. "If there was ever a year not to win this award," he joked. "This award this year, at least for me, has been about the loss of this year. the Loss of life. the loss of playing shows. the Loss of freedom. The loss of kids being in schools. The win is that we were all here person, not on Zoom. I believe this, I really believe this. Music is going to bring us out of this. Politicians are about division. music is about unity, and I promise you it's going to take everybody in this world to unite."

10:58 - And so ends another Country Music Association awards. Definitely different.

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