ACM Honors Salute Country Industry At Ryman Gala

Miranda Lambert and Keith Urban onstage at the ACM Honors. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Courtesy of the Academy of Country Music

All-time ACM awards champion Miranda Lambert was in the spotlight again at the Ryman Auditorium on Wednesday evening (8/21).

Lambert won the organization’s Gene Weed Milestone Award to cap a night that also honored songwriters, venues, musicians and other behind-the-scenes figures, as well as her fellow stars. Lambert’s five CDs to date have all won Album of the Year statuettes from the California-based Academy of Country Music (ACM).

“I don’t even know what to say – I’m so humbled,” said Lambert. “I mostly just want to thank Nashville. To be part of this community and family, I’ll never get over it.”

Her award was presented by Keith Urban, who joined her on a duet of “The House That Built Me.”

“In her, I saw a kindred spirit right away,” he said. “You followed your muse unapologetically.”

The ACM also presented Cliffie Stone Icon awards to Martina McBride and to Brooks & Dunn. McBride’s award was presented by Lauren Alaina.

“You are my hero,” said Alaina to McBride. “You taught me how to sing.”

“All I have ever wanted to do is sing and carry the flag for country music,” said McBride in accepting. “All I ever wanted to do was leave a body of work that mattered to people, and do it with integrity and authenticity. I’m so honored and so blessed.”

Alaina sang “Independence Day,” and Caylee Hammack sang “Broken Wing” in the awardee’s honor.

Lauren Alaina, Martina McBride and Caylee Hammack. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Courtesy of the Academy of Country Music

The Brooks & Dunn statuette was presented by Ashley McBryde, who sang “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone” in a soulful duet with Chris Harris that brought the house down. Kix Brooks & Ronnie Dunn accepted via video.

One of the other emotional highlights of the event was the presentation of Songwriter of the Year to Shane McAnally.

“I’m still really in awe of the fact that I get to write songs,” he said. “Beyond that, I really didn’t know that you could be in country music and be gay. This town has never for a minute made me feel anything but loved and accepted. I love country music, and I love this town.”

McAnally also thanked his husband and business partner, Michael McAnally Baum, who, “tells me every day that I can be anything.” Following his speech, the honoree received a standing ovation from the fans and industry attendees of the show.

McAnally also accepted the Jim Reeves International Award on behalf of his frequent collaborator, Kacey Musgraves.

His own award was presented by Midland, who sang “Burn Out” and “Mr. Lonely,” both of which McAnally co-wrote and produced.

Midland with Lori Badgett and Shane McAnally. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Courtesy of the Academy of Country Music

ACM Poet Awards were given to Kye Fleming, Rodney Crowell and Billy Joe Shaver, all members of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Country Music Hall of Fame member Barbara Mandrell presented Fleming’s honor. “I’ve been retired for 22 years, but there was no way you could have kept me away from tonight to honor….Kye Fleming,” Mandrell said. “She is somebody who means the world to me.”

Kye Fleming and Barbara Mandrell. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Courtesy of the Academy of Country Music

Tenille Townes sang a bluesy arrangement of “Sleeping Single in a Double Bed,” then joined Maddie & Tae in the finale of the duo’s “I Was Country (When Country Wasn’t Cool).”

“I’m blessed, and that’s the biggest thing to say about it,” said Fleming of her honor. “It’s the best gift in the world.”

Chris Janson sang “Honky Tonk Heroes” and “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal” in Shaver’s honor and accepted on the songwriter’s behalf. Chris Young delivered “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight” as the event’s kick-off performance in honor of Crowell. Daughter Hannah Crowell accepted her father’s accolade.

Chris and Kelly Janson. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Courtesy of the Academy of Country Music

An apparently impromptu performance earned another of the night’s standing ovations. With just piano accompaniment, Trisha Yearwood delivered “One More For the Road” from her Sinatra tribute album. WME’s Gayle Holcomb encouraged her to make that record. Yearwood presented the Gary Haber Lifting Lives Award to her buddy Holcomb.

Gayle Holcomb and Trisha Yearwood. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Courtesy of the Academy of Country Music

The hit movie A Star Is Born was recognized with the Tex Ritter Award. Many of the Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga songs on its soundtrack were co-written with Nashville talents. The film’s music supervisors, Julia Michaels and Julianne Jordan, accepted.

Nashville concert locales swept the ACM honors this year, claiming Small (Ryman Auditorium), Medium (Ascend Amphitheater) and Large (Bridgestone Arena) Venue of the Year prizes.

The other winning venues were Coctaw Casino (Durant, OK); Mohegan Sun Arena (Uncasville, CT, with its award accepted by pop star Tony Orlando) and Joe’s on Weed Street (Chicago, IL). The last-named was represented by Ed Warm, who is also the current ACM board president.

Ed Warm, Bobby Bones and Lori Badgett. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Courtesy of the Academy of Country Music 

Warm was a double winner, since he also claimed the Promoter of the Year accolade. The Festival of the Year was Faster Horses (Brooklyn, MI). Nicole More of Wilson Events won Talent Buyer.

The night began with opening remarks by RAC Clark. Then radio personality and Dancing With the Stars champion Bobby Bones was glib and amusing as he presented the Musician honors. They went to Derek Wells (guitar, also the evening’s bandleader), Dave Cohen (keyboards), Mike Johnson (steel), F. Reid Shippen (engineer), Glenn Worf (bass, not present), Matt Chamberlain (drums, not present), Jay Joyce (producer, not present) and Ilya Toshinski (specialty instruments).

This was the 13th annual ACM Honors presentation.

Maddie & Tae. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Courtesy of the Academy of Country Music


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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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