NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CRAIG HAVIGHURST) -- Fans of classic country music have complained for years that the CMA Awards and CMA itself give short shrift to the roots of the music and traditional sounds.
This year, those disaffected viewers will have more to watch and listen for when the show airs live Wednesday night from Nashville' Bridgestone Arena on ABC at 7 p.m central time.
Producers are calling this landmark 50th edition a throwback celebration, with performances by George Strait, Reba McEntire, Alan Jackson, Vince Gill and 1960s star Charley Pride.
In all 7 former CMA Entertainers of the Year are set to sing.
Dolly Parton will receive the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.
Bluegrass icon Ricky Skaggs will get stage time, as will super-picker Roy Clark, who was a nominee for instrumentalist of the year at the first CMA Awards in 1967. He lost to Chet Atkins.
Perhaps most relevant to classic American music fans is the continued success of Chris Stapleton. Last year on the CMA Awards he dropped jaws and launched a breakout with a duo performance with Justin Timberlake. This year he returns with five nominations, including Entertainer of the Year. Meanwhile his 2015 album Traveler continues to top the Billboard country sales chart.
In general however, the historic gulf between Top 40 country and Americana music continues to be wide.
This week’s Nashville Scene profiles outspoken country singer songwriter Sturgill Simpson who says his goal is to be the biggest country star on the planet in ten years without help from the CMA.