Awards Logo It was Country Music’s biggest night of the year. The 2007 CMA Awards recognized some of the most popular artists in Country Music, welcomed several newcomers and aired both memorable and questionable performances.

My folks would be surprised to know that I spent my evening watching a Country Music show. As a jazz/rock/alt fan, I’ve stayed away from the country camp simply for the fact that instrumentalists find more interesting soundtracks outside of Country. However, living in the mountains of East Tennessee, you have to recognize how important this music is in the Tri-Cities. After all, this year’s new Country Music Entertainer of the year, Kenny Chesney is from East Tennessee.

It’s a proud heritage and over the past few years I’ve become more involved with artists like Reagan Boggs, Jason Crawford, Kevin Jackson, Jared Bentley, Josh Green and several crossover musicians. The Birthplace of Country Music and Bristol Rhythm and Roots help celebrate this heritage and I’ve developed a new appreciation for this natural mountain music.

There were outstanding performances last night, but there was something equally important to recognize as the polarities of Country Music was never more obvious. From North to South, East to West, I’m not sure what the CMA describes as “Country Music.” There are natural born flowers and then there are plastic arrangements that seem to flow from the speakers like cotton candy with very little traction. You might say Country Music has multiple personalities and this awards show made that easy to understand.

There were some great moments tonight and among them;

• I’m still in love with Alison Kraus. We’ve raised a wonderful family in my dreams and we both have experienced the best life has to offer. Then I woke up.

• The Eagles made me feel fortunate to be eating a TV dinner as they performed their new single “How Long.” Vince Gill introduced the band as the “blueprint” of Country Rock and Tim, Don, Glen, Joe and Randy sounded terrific as their new record has all the ingredients of a major comeback.

• Vince Gill, I love you man, but why the Fruit of the Loom commercial? Do you really need the money?

• From legends to new artists, the CMA’s Horizon Award went to Taylor Swift, a blond angel celebrating her senior year in high school with one of the most prestigious awards in the business. This young lady seemed a shade green and nervous as she walked down steps in her high heels and acoustic guitar, but she was certainly the most stunning new artist. Some of the other Horizon nominees were tolerable, but Little Big Town stood out the most.

• Reagan Boggs opened for this band a couple of years ago and its good to see them earn some respect. Their performance was one of the most refreshing sounds of the night with rich harmonies and imaginative songwriting with “Boon Docks.”

• Kenny Chesney and Josh Turner proved that their songs are powerful too and their voices and style will be around for a long, long time.

Short notes;

• Keith Urban’s performance was mildly distinctive.

• Some country dude from Cumberland Gap, TN performed, but he had too many pitch problems and blind countryisms that bored me a bit.

• Porter Wagner – Bless the rhinestone sports coat and Dwight Yoakam.

• Jerry Douglas Musician of the Year – well deserved.

Warm Moment of the Night – Hall of Fame Inductees Mel Tillis and Ralph Emory (got a chance to perform with Ralph back in 1992 and that makes me smile).

Bloopers and Flops;

Several new country acts simply had pitch problems and although I was ready to dive down deep and find an obscure moment, Rascal Flatts took care of the night with the worst performance of the evening (despite their awards).

I’ve never been a Rascal Flatts fan and I’m not sure what happened, but these boys made it through – somehow. Vocalist Gary Levox either could not hear, lost his voice or was stoned to the point of dissonance, but he was way off base during their special performance with Jamie Fox.

There was plenty of Hollywood on hand for this awards show with Nicole Kidman and several prime-time actresses grabbing some camera time, but Jamie’s appearance was a bit surprising and what turned out to be a novelty with Rascal Flats turned out to be one of the upsets of the year.

Jamie Foxx appeared with the band singing soul lines over one of the band’s new songs, but I’m certain the Country Music purists were biting their tongues as Jamie soared over every white boy on stage. Oops.

I can’t say that Country Music has a lot of fresh new talent and the audience is becoming more receptive to a variety of flavors. You’ve got spiked-haired performers singing a blend of pop, country and rock and then there are the guys in big black and white cowboy hats selling the lifestyle via words about God, family, country and simple times.

For me, I like picking the real gems and I had my favorites. The industry seems to seed the river though and although they showcase plenty of talent, only a few were natural and the other stars seemed to be clones that may or may not have a place in the Country Music franchise.

And so it goes…I still like don’t have Country Music at the top of my playlist, but I still love great music, original artists and I still long for my dream date with Alison Kraus. Dream on Dave.