Kacey Musgraves defied the odds and won Album of the Year at the 52nd CMA Awards Wednesday night. Typically, a recording as subtle and as overlooked by commercial radio as Golden Hour might have received a nod via nomination, while an artist with more hit singles would have taken the crystal trophy. But Musgraves won on what she said, with some disbelief, was the tenth anniversary of the day she moved to Nashville.
Golden Hour was released in March on Nashville’s division of MCA Records but was not promoted to country radio, where nuance isn’t generally rewarded and where women get only about a tenth the airplay of men. Instead, the artist worked her own path, via television, social media, critical acclaim and her renown as a live performer to build her own niche. On stage with her last night were her co-producers Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk, much-admired Nashville musicians, who co-wrote the project with Musgraves and helped craft a unique sonic atmosphere. The album, with its spiritual allusions, was, she said, “inspired by this beautiful universe and all of you and most of all, love.” Musgraves won the CMA Award for Best New Artist in 2013.
Country soul powerhouse Chris Stapleton extended his run of Male Vocalist of the Year awards to four consecutive years, and he shared Song of the Year with former fellow Steeldriver Mike Henderson for “Broken Halos.” When Stapleton took the stage to sing later in the show, it was a no-frills, big ensemble wonder. It included a gospel choir, a band with Marty Stuart and Dave Cobb, and co-vocalists Maren Morris, Morgane Stapleton and Mavis Staples. They offered “Friendship” off Stapleton’s From A Room: Volume 2 album and segued into a hip-shaking “I’ll Take You There” giving Staples a much-appreciated spotlight.
A few other roots and Americana performances kept the broadcast lively and soulful. The recent induction of Ricky Skaggs to the Country Music Hall of Fame offered a chance for a triple shot of bluegrass and hard country. Skaggs plus his band Kentucky Thunder were supplemented by Marty Stuart, Brad Paisley and Keith Urban on guitar, Sierra Hull on Mandolin and Tennessee fiddle newcomer Carson Carson Peters. They offered “Black Eyed Suzie” at a blistering bluegrass tempo, plus “Highway 40 Blues” and an extended jam on “Country Boy.”
Pistol Annies, the sharp-tongued, attitude-laced trio project of Miranda Lambert, Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe got to launch their album Interstate Gospel, released just last Friday, with the boogie woogie feel of “I Got My Name Changed Back.”
Other major award winners included Keith Urban as Entertainer of the Year, Carrie Underwood as Female Vocalist, Brothers Osborne as Vocal Duo and Luke Combs as New Artist.
A complete list follows:
Entertainer of the Year: Keith Urban
Female Vocalist of the Year: Carrie Underwood
Male Vocalist of the Year: Chris Stapleton
Vocal Duo of the Year: Brothers Osborne
Album of the Year: "Golden Hour," Kacey Musgraves
Musician of the Year: Mac McAnally
Group of the Year: Old Dominion
Single of the Year: "Broken Halos," Chris Stapleton
New Artist of the Year: Luke Combs
Song of the Year: "Broken Halos," Chris Stapleton
Music Video of the Year: "Marry Me," Thomas Rhett
Musical Event of the Year: "Everything's Gonna Be Alright," David Lee Murphy with Kenny Chesney