If you ever want to know how to pay tribute to those who have died, take a look at Wednesday’s Country Music Association awards.

Starting with Eric Church singing “Amazing Grace,” the show continued the thread, offering up tips of the cowboy hat to Glen Campbell, Troy Gentry and Don Williams. While no one pointed out the musical salutes, host Carrie Underwood made amends with an in memoriam section that included photos of those killed at the country concert in Las Vegas.

She choked up while singing “Softly and Tenderly” and got great support from the audience members who held electric candles. Wholly moving.

The show was fairly respectful, too.

Underwood and co-host Brad Paisley talked about some rules the CMA set out and, apparently, the powers-that-be told members of the media they couldn’t ask about politics, violence or any other newsworthy subjects. That irked reporters covering the event and, sure enough, the two were able to turn it into a novelty song.

Both Tyler Perry and Little Big Town used the words of Maya Angelou to capture the night’s rather solemn mood.

The music? There were mashups (Niall Horan and Maren Morris, for example) and a who’s who rendition of “Hold My Hand” (a Hootie and the Blowfish number) featuring Darius Rucker, Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum and everyone else sitting in the front row. Indeed, when the song finished, the participants moved into their seats.

Of the night’s soloists, Luke Bryan was probably at the biggest disadvantage. He couldn’t compete with the likes of Chris Stapleton or Garth Brooks. He didn’t even try some of his signature moves, leaving the dancing to Thomas Rhett, the man most likely to take country in a new direction.

Miranda Lambert, surprisingly, had the most traditional country turn, singing “To Learn Her.”

The best? The one true country artist, Alan Jackson, who sang two of his classics.

Among the observations:

CLOTHES: Red was a big choice (Tim McGraw even wore a red jacket that looked snazzy); Carrie Underwood won the award for most dressed. She had more outfits than Barbie and many of them weren’t exactly keepers.

SURPRISES: Taylor Swift won the Best Song award for “Better Man,” but wasn’t there to accept it. The CMA didn’t turn its back on her but Swift obviously turned hers on the organization that gave her a big boost.

SHOWSTOPPER: Miranda got a record seventh Female Vocalist of the Year award. She wore a dress that was cut-down-to-there and said she felt the country business was closer than ever thanks to the respectful broadcast. Surprisingly, she was nominated for a passel of awards and only got the female vocalist prize.

GREAT MEMORY: New Hall of Fame inductee Alan Jackson sang “Chasin’

That Neon Rainbow,” a song that probably inspired many of the night’s performers. Most sang along, able to remember all the words. Priceless.



MALE: Chris Stapleton

FEMALE: Miranda Lambert

GROUP: Little Big Town

DUO: Brothers Osborne


SONG: “Better Man,” Taylor Swift (for Little Big Town)

SINGLE: “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” Keith Urban

ALBUM: “From a Room, Vol. 1,” Chris Stapleton

MUSICAL EVENT: Glen Campbell and Willie Nelson

VIDEO: Brothers Osborne

MUSICIAN: Mac McAnally