It's one of those special nights of country music - the 54th annual Academy of Country Music awards with trophies handed out and music in Vegas. Here we go:
8 p.m.: Jason Aldean gets the ball rolling with Florida Georgia Line with FGL's "You Can't Hide Red." Crazy American flag outfit for Tyler Hubbard and a typical FGL type song. This is the same group that just put "Can't Say I Ain't Country," right? Where's Lil Nas X?
8:04 p.m. - Reba McEntire shows up to host the show for the 16th time. "I'm a woman in the music business, and we don't have time for tired," she said in reference to her own question about whether she was tired of hosting so many times. She continued pushing the woman of country - in short supply on the charts - who she said weren't nominated for Entertainer of the Year again.
Reba continued with the lightweight jokes and comments (save the women part), but this wasn't high humor exactly. Blake Shelton participated by pulling out a drink.
8:11 p.m.: Song of the Year goes to Dan + Shay's "Tequila." Can't say I was that surprised. The song was all over the airwaves, though not as much as Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line's "Meant to Be," which was also nominated. Kids, Jesus, country music are all thanked. "This is a dream come true for us," said Dan Smyers of the duo.
8:13 a.m. - Thomas Rhett sings his single "Look What God Gave Her." The guy is a soulful singer, but I'm still not sure how he is country. Easy going groove from Rhett, which is pretty typical.
8:20 p.m. - ACM flashbacks is back with Miranda Lambert playing some of her hits. She comes out swinging with "Love's Giving Up On Me," "Gunpowder & Lead," "Mama's Broken Heart," "White Lightning," "Little Red Wagon." This is the rocking side of Lambert, who sounds good. But it is on the short side of course, a snippet of a bunch of songs.
8:25 p.m. - Luke Bryan sings his new single, "Knockin' Boots." It's not the most exciting, pretty much typical middling fare from Bryan. Goes down easy, but doesn't cut very deep. Nor does it leave much of an impression.
8:29 p.m. - Clint Black is out with Jessie James Decker. "Here we are, Black & Decker," said Black, racking an awful joke and looking old.
8:31 p.m. - Single of the Year goes to "Tequila" by Dan + Shay. They give thanks to the usual suspects of family, the industry, studio musicians and more. Not surprised with this one either.
8:32 p.m. - Chris Stapleton is his usual low-key self in singing "A Simple Song" with wife Morgan on backing vocals, an upright bassist and drummer with a spare set. Great singer and nice backing harmonies.
8:41 p.m. - Ashley McBryde comes out with acoustic guitar singing "Girl Goin' Nowhere." She sounds good and great way for her to present the song. She's gotten acclaim, but not benefitted from a real hit (yet?). "Wow," McBryde said afterwards. Can't say I blame her.
8: 44 p.m. - Maren Morris and Brothers Osborne playMorris' "All My Favorite People." seems a bit out of synch. Too bad because both can sing. The song gets better as it goes along with some great guitar from John Osborne, no surprise. Morris just sounds a bit off vocally, a bit flat.
8:47 p.m. - King George Strait keeps it country with "God and Country Music" from his great new disc. This guy is the definition of steady to say the least. On the CD, his grandson sings on the song, but he's not out there tonight.
8:56 p.m. - Luke Combs is able to sing his hit "Beautiful Crazy" without a hat. He's a real real good singer, and his performance emphasizes that.
8:59 p.m. - Dan + Shay perform their single "Keeping Score" with Kelly Clarkson. Shay Mooney sings with passion. They're not the countriest of acts either, of course. Clarkson reprises her role that she was on the recording. Another strong singer.
9:03 a.m. - Duo of the Year goes to Dan + Shay. Not bad. They are three for three. Brothers Osborne are far more favorable to these ears, but not surprise. "Somebody got the cards mixed up tonight," joked Dan Smyers. "This is such an incredible category to be part of...We are all winners tonight. This is such a honor." "This is probably the greatest night of my life," said Mooney, in addition to getting married and having a kid. Okay, he's allowed to go home. Not a bad night at all for D+S!
9:06 p.m. - Little Big Town sing a new single "The Daughters." Some dancers are going off in the background. Focus on the lyrics folks. They're more important in praise of women. Great line - "I dream for everyone, but not myself." Karen Fairchild sounds a bit off vocally. Low-key musically and not specifically country either.
9:17 p.m. - Blake Shelton is out with his new song, "God's Country." Why does he have to succumb to the beats also? No need. Stick with the country sound. Slow burner of a song.
9:22 p.m. - Old Dominion breezes through "Make It Sweet" with its simple message: "life is short, make it sweet." These guys have grown on me over time. Lots of good songs. They don't cut deep, but always sounds pleasing. Ear candy.
The emphasis is most definitely on the performances because there have been very few awards handed out, and Dan + Shay seem to win all of them.
9:31 p.m. - Brooks & Dunn are back with Combs on "Brand New Man" from the brand new "Reboot" album. Combs sounds great as he does on the CD. Ronnie Dunn is a bit pitchy at times, but the energy is there at least.
9:35 p.m. - Keith Urban takes on "Burden" with its piano-driven sound. Well delivered and heartfelt.
9:40 p.m. - Male Artist of the Year - Thomas Rhett. "I'm going to give this one to Dan + Shay so they can go home with four." He said he was glad to be part of country music, gave a shout out to fellow nominees and praised the Lord. I got to say that I was surprised as I figured Chris Stapleton would take it or Combs. Maybe they split up the vote allowing Rhett to win?
9:46 p.m. - Eric Church sings with McBryde on "The Snake" from his latest. Nice duet and Church always sounds cool. Good exposure for McBryde for sure.
9:50 p.m. - LANCO sings the anthemic "The Rival." Any song that has "Oh-oh-oh" in it qualifies as anthemic.
9:58 p.m. - Carrie Underwood is outside b the pool to start off her song, "Southbound." well choreographed. It's a light, frothy song. Well sung, although it doesn't cut all that deep.
10:02 p.m. - Kane Brown offers "Good As You," another one of those soulful country songs. He delivers it well and gets the country quotient in there with a nice fiddle interlude. R&B singe rKhalid follows immediately in a song that has nothing to do with country. Not sure what he's doing on the show at all.
10:12 p.m. - Not only does Reba get to host, but she gets to sing "Freedom" from her very strong brand new release. She looks great with red boots and jacket. When she lets loose, the song soars.Real good singalong chorus.
About 10:20 p.m. - Album of the Year:Kacey Musgraves for "Golden Hour." "Oh my gosh, thank you so much. Making this album along my two friends...are some of the greatest memories of my entire life...thank you to everyone out there still buying records."
10:25 p.m. - Jason Aldean is introduced as Artist of the Decade and sings a medley of his hits including "The Lights Come On" and"Don't You Wanna Stay" with Clarkson, who's getting good TV time tonight. This is not the most exciting reading of the songs. Aldean picks up the pace with "Dirt Road." He's more of a rocker than a country singer.
Strait handed Aldean the award. "I see a lot of artists out there who have had helluva decade - my boy out there Luke Bryan, Carrie, Keith," he said before thanking his label, his management team, country fans and radio. "You have changed my life forever," he said. "Forever."
10:39 p.m. - Actress Chrissy Metz makes her singing debut on TV with "I'm Standing With You," from her new movie "Breakthrough." Lauren Alain, Mickey Guyton andMaddie & Tae help out on vocals as well, in a show of women power. Carrie Underwood came out near the end to power the song.
10:46 p.m. - Strait and Lambert team up to sing his hit "Run."
10:51: Kacey Musgraves wins Female Artist of the Year. "I didn't expect this, but I'm so thankful for the chance to share my lyrical perspective and voice as well. This voice goes out to any girl, woman is maybe being told that her style, perspective is too different to work. It'll work out."
10:52 p.m. - Dierks Bentley is out with Brandi Carlile, who has had a great year on "Travelln' Light." She showcases her vocal skills, expanding her audience no doubt in the process. Well deserved. Bentley isn't too shabby either, but Carlile is ever steady. Is that mandolin I hear? Seems to be the first time this evening.
10:56 p.m. - Keith Urban wins the big one, Entertainer of the Year. He thanked his wife, team, the fans ("you don't know much you mean to me")
10:59 p.m. - Strait closes out the night with some of his very fine country song, "Every little Honky Tonk Bar."
And so ends another ACMs that is ultra heavy on performances. None were bad, but some were certainly better than others. All in a night's work with much congrats to Musgraves and Dan + Shay. Hey, to get nominated is pretty darn good too.