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  • 2015 CMA Awards: This Time, They Got It Right

    By Dendy Jarrett |

    HarmonyCentral_CMA_Show_2015Report.jpgDespite an identity crisis, country music scored a win



    I admit, I almost didn’t watch the show. For a good reason.

    My wife asked if I was; I said I’d give it a try, but if it was anything like the last several, I probably wouldn’t make it past the first few songs. I don’t like wasting time, know what I mean?

    Granted I’m not pessimistic by nature, but I live in Nashville…and anyone here will tell you that for several years now, country music has endured an identity crisis. The lines between country and other genres has become so blurred with so much crossover, you’d be hard pressed to find many George Strait or George Jones types out there anymore.


    So, I settled in for what was sure to be a mundane performance, and then it happened. John (Cougar) Mellencamp and Keith Urban opened the show with “Pink Houses” and drew me in. Yes…it gives further proof to the identity crisis, but hey, Mellencamp is from my era and just the song alone took me on a walk down memory lane. They had my attention. Later Keith Urban would perform in “Sting” fashion playing bass, and played it well (is there anything that guy can’t do?).


    (Photo: Diamond/Getty)


    It was evident the house engineers were having a challenge getting the sound dialed in, as Zachery Brown, who normally is right on pitch, was having trouble in the beginning of his performance landing on the notes. But, by mid-song, he was slaying it.

    Pentatonix took the stage with no backing tracks, no back up singers, and no instruments and simply killed it with an a cappella performance of the Oak Ridge Boy's classic "Elvira."  This was such a stellar performance that it earned them a long standing ovation!

    There was a performance by Little Big Town when they sang a harmony-rich “Girl Crush,” which earned them a CMA for Song of the Year.



    (Photo: Diamond/Getty)


    Yes, there were the normal sleepy performances by some who I can’t understand for the life of me where their staying power comes from, and some of them even won awards. Performances by Sam Hunt (“Take Your Time” — #you should), Florida Georgia Line (#how’d they get here), and Kenny Chesney (#auto tuning working overtime) and Eric Church (#Idon’tgetit) left me flat, as did a so-so performance by Luke Bryan, who won Entertainer of the Year. Fortunately, Carrie Underwood’s extremely short dresses helped compensate for the mediocre performances…yet, I digress.



    The moment that really “took everyone to church” and in my opinion was the best performance to date on the CMAs was a stunning performance by Justin Timberlake and newcomer Chris Stapleton. Chris performed “Tennessee Whiskey” and Timberlake performed his tune, “Drink You Away.”

    Personally, I love Justin Timberlake. The guy can do no wrong. He is a tremendous singer, actor (one of the best Saturday Night Live hosts ever), and he can dance. Most importantly, he can entertain. 

    In the duet, Chris Stapleton outperformed Justin with raw vocal talent—but the pair caused the place to go electric. At the end of the performance, even Justin was bowing to Chris as if to acknowledge the steller performance he gave.

    It also continued the argument about country music and the identity crisis. While Chris has a whiskey tenor quality to his voice, he can really reach the high notes, but it could have easily been an artist like Marc Broussard performing—yet he has nothing to do with country music.

    And how can everyone be overlooking that it was not only Justin and Chris who brought the house down, but it was really a dynamic trio. Morgane Stapleton, Chris’ wife, simply slayed with the best of them. Her talent and prowess proved her to be a formidable vocal force. So as we shower Justin and Chris with accolades, let’s not forget Morgane.


    Although country music still struggles to find its new identity, this particular CMA’s result was to drive home that fact that people want to be entertained more than anything. They appreciate true, raw talent. So, let’s hope that this year’s show was not a fluke, and that the trend continues.





     Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton – Drink You Away – CMA’s 2015

    Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake – Tennessee Whiskey – CMA’s 2015

    Further Proof of the talents of Chris and Morgane Stapleton. They are the "real deal".



    Here’s a list of all the winners of the 2015 CMA Awards:

    Entertainer of the Year

    Garth Brooks

    Luke Bryan -- WINNER

    Kenny Chesney

    Eric Church

    Miranda Lambert


    New Artist of the Year

    Sam Hunt

    Maddie & Tae

    Thomas Rhett

    Chris Stapleton -- WINNER

    Kelsea Ballerini


    Album of the Year

    Old Boots, New Dirt, Jason Aldean

    Pageant Material, Kacey Musgraves

    Pain Killer, Little Big Town

    The Big Revival, Kenny Chesney

    Traveller, Chris Stapleton -- WINNER


    Female Vocalist of the Year

    Miranda Lambert -- WINNER

    Kacey Musgraves

    Carrie Underwood

    Lee Ann Womack

    Kelsea Ballerini


    Male Vocalist of the Year

    Dierks Bentley

    Luke Bryan 

    Eric Church 

    Blake Shelton

    Chris Stapleton -- WINNER


    Single of the Year

    "American Kids" Kenny Chesney

    "Girl Crush," Little Big Town -- WINNER

    "I Don't Dance," Lee Brice

    "Take Your Time," Sam Hunt

    "Talladega," Eric Church


    Music Video of the Year

    "Biscuits," Kacey Musgraves

    "Girl Crush," Little Big Town

    "Girl in a Country Song," Maddie & Tae -- WINNER

    "Little Red Wagon," Miranda Lambert

    "Something In The Water," Carrie Underwood


    Song of the Year

    "American Kids," Kenny Chesney

    "Girl Crush," Little Big Town -- WINNER

    "Like A Cowboy," Randy Houser

    "Like A Wrecking Ball," Eric Church

    "Take Your Time," Sam Hunt


    Musical Event of the Year

    Django and Jimmie, Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard

    "Lonely Tonight," Blake Shelton & Ashley Monroe

    "Raise 'Em Up," Keith Urban & Eric Church -- WINNER

    "Smokin' And Drinkin'," Miranda Lambert & Little Big Town

    "Wild Child," Kenny Chesney & Grace Potter


    Musician of the Year

    Sam Bush, Mandolin

    Jerry Douglas, Dobro

    Paul Franklin, Steel Guitar

    Dann Huff, Guitar

    Mac McAnally, Guitar -- WINNER


    Vocal Duo of the Year

    Brothers Osborne

    Dan + Shay

    Florida Georgia Line -- WINNER

    Maddie & Tae

    Thompson Square


    Vocal Group of the Year

    Lady Antebellum

    Little Big Town -- WINNER

    Rascal Flatts

    The Band Perry

    Zac Brown Band





    Dendy Jarrett is the Publisher and Director of Harmony Central. He has been heavily involved at the executive level in many aspects of the drum and percussion industry for over 25 years and has been a professional player since he was 16. His articles and product reviews have been featured in InTune Monthly, Gig Magazine, DRUM! and Modern Drummer Magazines.





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    HC was broke down last nigh and I wanted to post this.


    Chris Stapleton is a monster and the real deal. If you listen carefully, you can hear his Kentucky roots shine. Although he onlymade one album with the Steel Drivers, I really lovethat simpler sound, not that his latest album isn't fantastic. EvenAdele has covered a Chris Stapleton song. Folks should go back and listen tostuff like "If It Hadn't Been For Love". Now that's aperfectly crafted murder ballad. The cool things allthis bands folks saw last night will be on tour and at festivals.Personally given the choice between the nose bleed section at a good concert orseats at the World Series behind home plate, I'll take mychances with a nose bleed every time.  

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    Not a fan of the genre at all. I listened through the video selections

    in the article and if that's the show that went down at the CMA then the

    genre in hurting not only for identity. There was a time when it had

    roots and I respected it for that. The blues still sports its own, as

    does many other genres, but our country genre as decidedly and

    consciously forsaken its own by allowing the silent invasion of watered

    down talent that does not respect it. I mean that. Poor writing is

    simply poor writing, no matter how you stage it, and because it's a

    fragile genre, these invaders have had an easy time splintering it for

    their own purposes. Country is dead.

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