Top CMA Awards nominee Miranda Lambert, who entered “Country Music’s Biggest Night” with a record nine nominations, walked away with an armful of CMA Awards. The Texas bombshell took home three trophies, including Female Vocalist, Album for Revolution (produced by Frank Liddell and Mike Wrucke) and Music Video of the Year for “The House That Built Me” (directed by Trey Fanjoy, who picked up her second consecutive Award in that category). The three Awards were the first she has won in her career.
“Revolution has certainly caused a revolution in my life this year thanks to the Country Music industry,” Lambert expressed after winning Album. “It’s what I love, it’s what I do, it’s what I live for, so thank you for loving it too.”
After wowing the crowd with his tribute to the music he loves, “This Is Country Music,” Awards co-host Brad Paisley won the big one, Entertainer of the Year, which was his first win in the category. An emotional Paisley quoted his hero Little Jimmy Dickens: “’If you see a turtle on a fence post it had help getting there.’ I feel just like a turtle on a fence post right now.” Paisley went on to thank all fans of Country Music. “It sounds like a cliché when you say thanks to the fans, but the great thing about Country fans is that when you say ‘fans,’ I don’t even mean mine. You guys are loyal to everyone in this room.”
“The 44th Annual CMA Awards” was hosted for the third time by Paisley and Carrie Underwood and broadcast live from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on the ABC Television Network.
Winning was definitely a family affair as Lambert’s fiancé Blake Shelton picked up his first career CMA Awards, winning Male Vocalist and Musical Event of the Year for “Hillbilly Bone,” his duet with Trace Adkins, who also snagged his first CMA Award. A normally outspoken Shelton was almost at a loss for words after his Male Vocalist win. “This is about 34 years worth of steps for me, so it would take me forever to thank everyone,” Shelton said. “It’s a really big deal for me. This is unbelievable.” Shelton performed his latest hit, “All About Tonight.”
Lady Antebellum won their second consecutive Single of the Year Award for the smash crossover hit “Need You Now,” becoming the only artist in CMA Awards history to capture the Single honor in consecutive years. After winning their second Vocal Group of the Year Award, the trio marveled at the huge year they’ve had. “Thank you so much to my bandmates Charles [Kelley] and Dave [Haywood],” Hillary Scott summed up while accepting their Award. “This year has been unbelievable and I can’t imagine two better people to enjoy the ride with.”
Zac Brown Band was another first-time winner, picking up the New Artist of the Year Award. “Thank you to all the fans who believed in us and supported us,” said band front man Brown. “It’s an honor to get to do what we do.” Alan Jackson joined Zac Brown Band to perform “As She’s Walking Away” from the band’s sophomore album, You Get What You Give.
Song of the Year went to the songwriters who penned Lambert’s hit “The House That Built Me,” Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin. Backstage, Shamblin grew nostalgic when talking about his childhood home and the inspiration for the song. “For years I have wondered what it would be like to go knock on the door and go back in and see where I used to sneak out the back window and see where I learned to play my guitar,” he recalled. “This song is about wondering what it would be like to go back to where I grew up.”
Gunning for fellow nominee Brooks & Dunn’s record of 14, Sugarland picked up their fourth Vocal Duo of the Year Award after performing their latest No. 1 hit “Stuck Like Glue.” “To be able to win this Award tonight,” mused Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles backstage, “I think is really validating in the sense that it’s also your peers and they’re saying, ‘Yep, it’s good!’ I like it.”
Guitarist Mac McAnally picked up his third consecutive Musician of the Year Award in the pre-broadcast ceremony.
In one of the more memorable performances of the evening, Lambert and Sheryl Crow offered a rendition of “Coal Miner’s Daughter” in honor of Loretta Lynn’s 50th anniversary as a Country Music recording artist. Actress Sissy Spacek, who portrayed Lynn in the 1980 biopic “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” made a surprise appearance to celebrate the Country Music Hall of Fame member. “Loretta didn’t need any actress to turn her into a great character,” Spacek proclaimed. “She was born one.” Lynn joined Lambert and Crow onstage for the last verse of the song she made famous before presenting the Female Vocalist of the Year Award with Spacek.
Awards co-host Underwood opened “Country Music’s Biggest Night” with instrumental accompaniment by Keith Urban and fellow co-host Paisley on “Songs Like This.” Later, Underwood brought down the house with the powerful “Mama’s Song.”
Female Vocalist nominee and 2009’s Entertainer of the Year Taylor Swift wowed the crowd at the Bridgestone Arena with “Back to December,” the new single from her latest release Speak Now, which sold more than 1 million copies in its first week and continues its dominance of Country and pop charts.
Fellow Female Vocalist nominee Reba McEntire performed a cover of Beyoncé’s “If I Were a Boy,” from her newest album that was released this week, All the Women I Am.
Male Vocalist and Album of the Year nominee George Strait, the top all-time CMA Awards winner, performed “The Breath You Take.” Dierks Bentley, who was also nominated for Male Vocalist and Album, performed the bluegrass-infused “Up on the Ridge.” Fellow Male Vocalist nominee Urban, who was also up for Entertainer of the Year, rocked the house with “Put You in a Song.”
Academy Award winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow made her Country singing debut on the Awards, performing “Country Strong,” the title track from the upcoming film in which she portrays a Country singer on a comeback tour. The film, which co-stars Tim McGraw is set to open nationwide in January. Paltrow closed the show, accompanied by Vince Gill.
One of the many performance highlights included the Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson duet “Don’t You Wanna Stay” from Aldean’s latest album My Kinda Party. Genre-blurring Country rocker Kid Rock offered his anthem “Born Free,” the title track from his new album due Nov. 16. Kenny Chesney offered his latest hit, the football-themed “Boys of Fall.”
Vocal Group nominees Rascal Flatts performed their latest hit “Why Wait” in front of a Vegas-themed backdrop. Fellow Vocal Group nominees The Band Perry offered the poignant “If I Die Young.”
Presenters for the night included New Artist nominees Luke Bryan, Jerrod Niemann and Chris Young; ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” host Ty Pennington and “Better With You” star Joanna Garcia; NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon; nominees Easton Corbin, Little Big Town and Martina McBride; and Country stars Sara Evans, Tim McGraw, Kellie Pickler, LeAnn Rimes and Darius Rucker.