2017 CMA Awards: Chris Stapleton Takes Top Honors, Carrie Underwood Pays Tribute and Trump Gets Ridiculed

It was a busy night for country music as the 51st Annual Country Music Association Awards took place in their hometown of Nashville, TN last night. While this is a trying time for the genre, the hosts and stars did all they could to evoke unity and an overall love for the spirit of country music. There were plenty of noteworthy moments to come out of the evening, all of which were tinged with a sense of comradery amongst those in the Bridgestone Arena.

Starting with the most notable news of this year’s awards; Nashville’s own Chris Stapleton took home top honors by receiving the “Album of the Year” award. “From A Room: Volume 1” went up against albums from Little Big Town, Miranda Lambert and Jason Isbell, but, for the second time in three years, Stapleton came away with the night’s most prestigious award. From behind a thick beard, Stapleton told reporters backstage that “It’s an unimaginable fairytale type thing.” He would also take home the “Male Vocalist of the Year” award, alongside a performance of his single “Broken Halo” in honor of the victims of the Las Vegas shooting.

Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood took on the heavy task of not only addressing the elephant in the room with a Trump parody, but to inject humor and light-heartedness into an evening of heavy thoughts. Helping with this load was rock-turned-country star Darius Rucker who revived the Hootie and the Blowfish hit from ’94, “Hold My Hand.” In an emotional performance, a slew of country stars including Brooks & Dunn, Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum and Reba McEntire and more, joined Rucker. Among those on stage during this rendition was another star of the night, Garth Brooks. The legendary singer-songwriter took home the award for “Entertainer of the Year” – for the second year in a row – but was lambasted by fans after his performance of “Ask Me How I Know” from his latest album “Gunslinger.” This because he openly admitted to reporters backstage that he had in fact lip-synced the song. “The voice just isn’t there anymore,” he said. Brooks is in the middle of a heavy touring schedule which he went on to say has him performing 12 shows in the last 10 days.

Other performances of the night included a stunning opening song from Eric Church who set aside his guitar to sing an acapella version of “Amazing Grace.” This, before showcasing his boot-stomping new track “Chattanooga Lucy” later in the show replete with whaling electric guitar solos and backup singers. The Brothers Osborne’s sincere rendition of “It Ain’t My Fault” spawned into an even more heartfelt cover of “Tulsa Time,” the 1978 hit from country singer Don Williams who passed away in September. In similar fashion, Dierks Bentely and Rascal Flatts joined forces for a tribute to the recently deceased Troy Gentry with a cover of his former duo’s tune “My Town.” Eddie Montgomery, one-half of Montgomery Gentry, took the stage with Gentry’s widow to receive a standing ovation from the crowd. These performances were among many in this somber night which included odes to those who’ve recently passed away. Underwood took a break from her hosting duties to sing an emotional version of the Christian hymn “Softly and Tenderly” as the in memoriam segment played in the background acknowledging the lost lives from the Las Vegas shooting.

Performances aside, the winners of the evening included Miranda Lambert for “Female Vocalist of the Year,” Taylor Swift’s “Better Man” for “Song of the Year,” Jon Pardi with “New Artist of the Year” and perhaps the most apt award of all, the “Musical Event of the Year” went to Willie Nelson’s duet with the late Glen Campbell for “Funny How Time Slips Away.”

The Country Music Association Awards took place on Nov. 8 in Nashville, TN and aired live on CBS.