And so the CMAs award with Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton and host Carrie Underwood singing "Those Memories of You," recorded by Dolly, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. Man, they have great harmonies. Maybe they're the second coming of Pistol Annies.
And then a snippet of "You're Lookin' at Country" from Jennifer Nettles and Little Big Town's Kimberly Schlapman and Karen Fairchild. Short, but nice. Ditto for The High Women and then Tanya Tucker's smoky voice with The High Women on "Delta Dawn."
I guess it's a night for women because Gretchen Wilson is now out with "Redneck Woman." Particularly good were the lines: "So here's to all my sisters out there keeping it country
Let me give a big "Hell Yea" from the redneck girls like me."
And so it went with Crystal Gayle singing "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue," Terri Clark "Better Things to Do" and the always strong voiced Sara Evans' "Born to Fly." She always sounds great. Carly Pearce apparently thought so also.
But this is a chance to pay tribute to the older women of country, for the most part. Martina McBride is out with her signature song, "Independence Day" with Dolly and everybody else. Powerful stuff. And this is all in the first nine minutes of a three-hour show.
Now if they could only get played on radio.
8:09 p.m. - "What a way to kick off country music's biggest night," Underwood said. What a bright dress - kind of orange and gold.
Parton said the start was about "the women of country music, honoring them."
"Standing here with Dolly and Reba means the world to me," said Underwood. Of course, there are corny jokes about the dressing room and Dolly's rack being much bigger.
Can't quite figure out why Eric Church needs to wear shades as they showed him with other Entertainer of the Year Award nominees. He's cool, but the shades don't make the man.
Some requisite jokes about Willie Nelson and getting high. Yet again, not really all that funny.
8:15 p.m. Single of the year:"God's Country" - Blake Shelton. He gave the usual round of thanks. " I want to dedicate this to busbee and Earl Thomas Conley, who we lost this year."
8:22 p.m. - Underwood is out with her second outfit of the night. This one's a lot tamer - blue.
8:23 p.m. - Dan + Shay sing their hit "Speechless." They sound real good as they are seated on stools with a string ensemble and piano backing them. They have a soulful feel to them, but to call this country music would be a real stretch.
8:27 p.m. - Jennifer Nettles and Kristin Chenoweth exchange stupid jokes before presenting Song of the Year to Luke Combs, Robert Williford and Wyatt Durrette for "Beautiful Crazy." Combs thanked his "beautiful fiance for being the inspiration" for this song. The song was on his 2017 debut.
8:34 p.m. - MIranda Lambert sings "It All Comes Out in the Wash." Lambert offers a country vibe with her big drawl and instrumentation. Good song, better live than on the CD. Well done!
8:38 p.m. - Reba sings "Fancy" and retains her powerful voice as usual. She has lost none of her luster.
8:48 p.m. - P!nk is out with Chris Stapleton, an unlikely pairing, on her song "Love Me Anyway." She does most of the song although Stapleton kicks in on his usual gutty vocals backing her up. they are accompanied by a string ensemble. Nicely done.
8:53 p.m. - New Artist of the Year goes to the heavily tatooed Ashley MacBryde. "I once had the pleasure of playing a tribute show for John Prine, and the next day, he shook my hand, and he said' you're real good. You're no Reba, but you're real good. I cherish those little moments that are like that that are truth and guidance from voices that we respect and admire."
8:54 p.m. - Old Dominion is onstage performing "One Man Band" with usual good singing from Matthew Ramsey. It's a lot-key song that won't have people talking tomorrow, but it's a nice change from the big performance pieces from many acts. And they even use upright bass on it.
9:03 p.m. - Underwood is out with her jazzy, smoky song "Drinking Alone." Seen live a few weeks ago, it was a real highlight of the evening where she sits at a cafe bar. You couldn't call this one country either, but forgetting that, it is well sung. And this one also has upright bass.
9:07 p.m. - Luke Combs returns to his baseball cap (unlike earlier when he won his award) to perform his cool hit "Beer Never Broke My Heart." This guy is one super singer. He's got a lot of vocal chops to say the least. Hey, there's even a banjo in the mix.
9:15 p.m. - Kelsea Ballerini sings her new song "Homecoming Queen." She's seated on a stool playing acoustic guitar. Like other performances tonight, there's a real emphasis on the song and the singer, not a bunch of musical histrionics.
9:18 p.m. - For some reason Ballerini starts singing "Girl Crush" with Lindsay Ell and then Runaway June and Maddie and Tae. Great song, of course, from Lori McKenna. Nice, slow vibe to the song. Then Ashley McBryde weighs in and Carly Pearce. Finally, Little Big Town, who actually sang the song are out to sing with the others and a bunch of smoke rising. Nicely done. Fairchild tells the crowd, "You're looking at the future of country music right here." Maybe. We'll see.
9:23 p.m. - Duo of the Year - Dan + Shay. Shay Mooney said, "This is a little overwhelming man...this is absolutely incredible...I'm so thankful for this."
9:29 p.m. - Lady Antebellum, who have a new album out this week, are out with pop singer Halsey singing "What If I Never Get Over You." Slowed down song with Jerry Douglas on Dobro. He's always excellent. Nice vocal interplay from the trio and Halsey. They then turn to her song "Graveyard." Well done, but no surprise, it's not a country song, but probably a smart move by Halsey to expand her audience.
9:34 p.m. - Brooks & Dunn are out with Brothers Osborne for "Hard Workin' Man" from B&D's recent album. That Osborne boy sure can sing. Love his voice. These guys kick into gear with Ronnie Dunn taking over on vocals.
9:44 p.m. - Maren Morris is out with "Girl," her big hit. She belts it out nicely & does it justice. The stage is littered in white. Hard to tell what it is, but looks like flowers. I can't say I've been a big fan of hers. There's something a bit too staged somehow. At the end, she touches her tummy - she's pregnant. Anyway, she did do a good job of singing it.
9:49 p.m. - Vocal Group of the Year - Old Dominion. Lead singer Matthew Ramsey said, "What an amazing thing we get to be a part of. I keep thinking tonight of how back in the day, we operated under the mantra of self preservation where any time anything good would happen to us, we would look at each other and say, ' this is never going to work anyway.'"
Citing those who supported and backed the band, Ramsey said, "We should have been saying, of course, we're going to make it. Of course, it's going to work."
9:51 p.m. - Shelton is out singing his big hit "God's Country" with its blips in the background. BS does a good job singing it. Good version even if not so different than the recorded version. Could do without the fire going off in the background - a bit heavy.
10 p.m. - Thomas Rhett's decked out in a fancy black suit and white shirt with black bow with a the mid-tempo "Remember You Young." Nicely done, mid-tempo song.
10:03 p.m. - Dolly is out with King and Country, a Christian duo of brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone on their song "God Only Knows" before another Christian singer, Zach Williams sings "There Was Jesus." She sang with him on the recording also. We're getting religion for the first time tonight. Dolly takes more of a backing role here until she kicks off her brand new song, the bouncy "Faith." Dolly may be 73, but she sounds great. For all her silly jokes, she really is such a great singer and performer.
10:15 p.m. - Keith Urban is on acoustic singing "We Were." Nice, but nothing unbelievable.
10:19 p.m. - Bobby Bones and Joe Walsh of the Eagles are out. Walsh is acting a bit odd out there.
10:20 p.m. - Maren Morris wins Album of the Year for "Girl." She is overcome with emotion and is tear-eyed. "This is incredible," she said. "Thank you country music." Morris paid tribute to busbee, who worked with her on her albums, who died in late September. Morris honored his late wife, who was in the audience. Such a loss for music.
10:24 p.m. - Dierks Bentley and Chris Janson and Sheryl Crow pay tribute to Kris Kristofferson. Brothers Osborne also are onstage. Bentley doesn't make you forget Kris K with "Me and Bobby McGee" in a free flowing version. Joe Walsh is out on guitar as well. Janson does a real nice job blowing away on harp, but not a stellar outing. Crow's singing didn't do it for me either.
10:33 p.m. - The shades remain on for Church, who sings the lovely "Some of It." Well done acoustic song. Church's career really mushroomed far more than I ever imagined. Nice!
10:37 p.m. - Luke Combs takes Male Vocalist of the Year without a baseball hat. "This is pretty unbelievable stuff," he said. "I remember sitting on my parents porch when I was a little kid and watching Vince Gill come up here and win this same award."
"Country music means everything to me, and this means everything to me and my family. Thank you guys so much. This is a moment I will never forget," he said.
10:39 p.m. - Kacey Musgraves and Willie Nelson sing "Rainbow Connection." Willie sounds a little off vocally, very throaty, but Musgraves is simply beautiful in her delivery. Nice pairing in theory.
10:47 p.m. - Garth Brooks and Shelton sing "Dive Bar." Free flowing and done in a dive bar setting. Nicely done.
10:52 p.m. - Kacey Musgraves wins Female Vocalist of the Year in a tough field. "Words can't express just how meaningful and truly unbelievable the past couple of years have been," she said."Ultimately...the female creative spirit, the female energy, it's really needed right now. It's really important...It's something that earth needs. And so whether it's me up here or any of the other women in this category, I just think that it's a beautiful thing, and I'm very appreciative."
10:57 p.m. - Entertainer of the Year - Garth Brooks. I would have thought maybe Church. "Very sweet," Brooks said. he then praised Reba as host and Ballerini's performance. He said the Combs would win the honor in the future. After throwing around more praise, that was about it for another edition of the Country Music Association Awards.