Country Music’s biggest night has come and gone, offering more than a few surprises to the viewers. The phrase “thank you country radio” is one often uttered from the CMA Awards podium, so we checked in with some of our CountryBreakout panelists to gauge their reactions to the ceremony.
The general consensus on show co-hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood seems to be favorable, including the good-natured ribbing of Hank Williams Jr. and his Fox News political flap.
“I really liked the opening, showing respect to Hank Jr. that the Country Music stands behind him (along with all of his rowdy friends),” says Jason McLelland of KDOL/Livingston, TX.
Ted Cramer of WIFE/Connersville, IN thought the Carrie and Brad “tried a little too hard,” while Carey Carlson of WTCM/Traverse City, MI said they were “brilliant.”
Also in the positive column was Kip Jervis of WEZJ/Williamsburg, KY, who said the pair “are perfect as co-hosts, and every one of their segments had everyone in my house rolling in the floor. We especially loved the Little Jimmy Dickens segment.”
Perhaps surprisingly, there was little disagreement over the trophy winners. The Band Perry took home the most awards, while Blake and Miranda remained the format’s vocal king and queen.
“I was so happy for The Band Perry, and Blake and Miranda are the new ‘it’ couple (bet they had an awesome night),” mused WTCM’s Carlson.
“The Band Perry deserved every single award that they picked up,” agreed Jeff Hunt of WFGE/State College, PA. “I had the pleasure of seeing them right after ‘Hip To My Heart’ was released, and I knew they were the real deal.”
Taylor Swift became only the second woman in history (after Barbara Mandrell) with two Entertainer of the Year wins to her credit, which drew enthusiastic praise.
“Congrats to Taylor,” said Tom Duke of KQUS/Hot Springs, AR. “She fills venues up around the world, no one can touch her in sales, she is a great performer and she appreciates her fans. Her only competition, Kenny Chesney, was not even nominated. What’s up with that?”
“Enough cannot be said about Taylor picking up her second Entertainer Of the Year award,” concurred WFGE’s Hunt. “She has done more than enough to earn it. Her stage show is the most exciting not only in country music, but in all music period. She regularly performs for two-and-a-half hours every night, and the crowd goes home happy.”
As usual, the show was loaded with performances from the format’s heavyweights who earned solid reviews.
“Blake, Miranda, and Eric Church all stole the spotlight,” offered KDOL’s McLelland.
“Taylor gave one of the best performances of the night, and I enjoyed the music intensive format of the show,” stated WIFE’s Cramer.
There was also a highly collaborative element this year: Kenny Loggins and Shelton; Rascal Flatts and Natasha Bedingfield; Chesney and Grace Potter; Zac Brown Band and Gregg Allman; plus co-hosts Paisley and Underwood.
“At times I thought I was watching the MTV awards with all the dancing and such but I thought Brad and Carrie were outstanding again,” said KQUS’s Duke. “Rascal Flatts and Natasha Bedingfield were great, as well as Kenny and Grace Potter–I hope they all record together again.”
“I’ve always been a huge fan of the Allman Brothers Band, so the song with Zac Brown Band (“Georgia On My Mind”) blew me away,” added WEZJ’s Jervis. “The opening was everything it should have been with Kenny joining Blake for ‘Footloose.’”
The addition of R&B and pop legend Lionel Richie to the bill might have seemed an unusual choice, but his appreciation of country music showed in a collaborative medley of his hits “Deep River Roman” (with Little Big Town), “Stuck On You” (with Darius Rucker), and “Dancing On The Ceiling” (with Rascal Flatts). Radio respondents expressed excitement about his upcoming country duets project Tuskeegee.
“Lionel Richie sings as well now as he did back in the day if not better,” said WEZJ’s Jervis. “As Lionel and Darius were doing ‘Stuck On You the camera panned at the perfect time and Tim McGraw was singing along! Very cool captured moment there.”
“I can hardly wait for Tuskegee to be available, loved loved loved Lionel Richie. Welcome to Country!” exclaimed WTCM’s Carlson.
The portion of the show seemingly everyone wanted to see was the tribute to the legendary Glen Campbell, featuring Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Vince Gill, and composer Jimmy Webb. All agreed it was a truly special moment, but were disappointed that Campbell didn’t get a chance to play or speak before the commercial break.
“The tribute to Glenn Campbell was fantastic,” said KQUS’s Duke. “I wish that he could have at least played the guitar. I hear he is still as good as ever and to me he is one of the best.”
“Stunning,” seconded WTCM’s Carlson. “Brad and Keith ought to do a cover CD of Jimmy Webb songs.”
“It was really powerful,” chimed in KDOL’s McLelland. “When Glen got up and strapped on the guitar I was excited expecting to hear from him. It was a little disappointing to see a commercial break instead.”
“The part I was most looking forward to did not disappoint, other than the fact that the producers cut to commercial just as Glen Campbell was strapping on his guitar,” noted WEZJ’s Jervis. “I guess it pays to attend, because I’m sure the fans there at Bridgestone Arena got a great, albeit brief performance with Glen sitting in and not to mention the great Jimmy Webb. The whole segment was quite bittersweet. My wife and I got a chance to see Glen last month in Kentucky, likely for the last time, and so the CMA tribute was icing for us as fans.”