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Great Performances at CMAs

The 44th annual Country Music Awards — dominated by Miranda Lambert’s three wins — was one of best awards shows I’ve seen in quite some time; its success in large due to its charming and witty hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood — who managed to be funny without the forced and cheesy lines I typically expect in an awards program — and a slew of strong performances from some of country’s top entertainers.

The first “song” of the night was a Paisley/Underwood ditty to the Beverly Hillbillies theme about Nashville’s flood being overshadowed in the news due to the BP oil spill. The pair then turned to a version of “I’ve Got Tiger by the Tail,” which poked fun at Tiger Woods’ indiscretions before sauntering on to the recent allegations against Brett Favre.

Rascal Flatts launched into their current single “Why Wait.” Watch the Vegas-themed performance below, and check out Jay DeMarcus with his Custom Shop ‘59 Precision Bass in Shoreline Gold, built by Master Builder Greg Fessler. SWEET!

Fender artist Dierks Bentley and his band shined with their performance of his country bluegrass album’s title track “Up on the Ridge,” with Sugarland (who won Vocal Duo of the Year) showcasing the other end of the country spectrum with their new hit “Stuck Like Glue,” and its reggae breakdown.

Even Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who I’d last heard sing a rather timid “Cruisin’” in the film Duets, blew the audience away when she belted out the title song to her upcoming movie Country Strong. The legendary Vince Gill, who played his original ‘53 Fender Telecaster, strengthened the performance with his subtle harmonies. (Gill looks pleased as punch with his partner’s vocals, don’t ya think?)

The evening also included a Sheryl Crow and Miranda Lambert tribute to legendary country artist Loretta Lynn. The original “Coal Miner’s Daughter” joined the ladies after the first two verses of the song, garnering them all a standing ovation.

And whether you are a country fan or not, it’s hard to deny that Keith Urban and Brad Paisley are fine guitar shredders. Urban ripped a few solos on Eric Clapton Stratocaster while performing his new bouncy single “Put You in a Song.” Paisley performed his new song “This is Country Music,” going from acoustic to electric guitar.

Paisley praised the guitar during his emotional acceptance speech for Entertainer of the Year, dedicating the award to his grandfather who encouraged him to play guitar.

“He told me, ‘I want to you to play the guitar because this is going to get you through lonely times.’ I don’t think he ever thought it would draw 20,000 people.”

Here’s the list of the night’s winners:

• New Artist of the Year: Zac Brown Band
• Vocal Group of the Year: Lady Antebellum
• Vocal Duo of the Year: Sugarland
• Single of the Year: “Need You Now” – Lady Antebellum
• Song of the Year: “House That Built Me” – Miranda Lambert
• Music Video of the Year: “House That Built Me” – Miranda Lambert
• Musician of the Year: Mac McAnally
• Entertainer of the Year: Brad Paisley
• Female Vocalist of the Year: Miranda Lambert
• Male Vocalist of the Year: Blake Shelton
• Album of the Year: “Revolution” – Miranda Lambert
• Musical Event of the Year: “Hillbilly Bone” – Blake Shelton andTrace Adkins

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