Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town Among CMAs Winners

It was an emotional night in Nashville on Wednesday as the biggest stars in country music gathered for the 51st Country Music Association Awards.

“This has been a year marked by tragedies,” co-host Carrie Underwood said. “Tonight we're going to do what families do, come together, pray together, cry together and sing together, too.”

Her co-host Brad Paisley – who at one point wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the word “Unity” – added: “This show is dedicated to all those we lost.”

Keith Urban, Eric Church, Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum opened the show with a medley that included “Amazing Grace” and Rucker’s Hootie and the Blowfish song “Hold My Hand,” honouring the victims of recent mass shootings in the U.S. as well as those affected by hurricanes.

During the “In Memoriam” segment, Underwood broke down while singing the hymn “Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling” as photos of 58 country fans who died in the Las Vegas shooting were shown on screen.

Getty Images

Urban debuted a new song, “Female,” which he said was inspired by women coming forward with allegations of sexual assault and harassment against high-profile men. And Tyler Perry, during a tribute to Charley Pride, urged people to “find some common ground” and “spend some time listening to each other and realize that we are more alike than we are not alike.”

The tone of the evening was summed up by Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town. “Kindness is an attractive quality,” she said while accepting the Vocal Group of the Year award. “We actually could change the way things are going, we just have to step out and be together.

“Tonight should be about harmony, about what we can do together to change things.”

There were also emotional tributes to Glen Campbell (by Little Big Town and Jimmy Webb) and Troy Gentry (by Rascal Flatts and Dierks Bentley – later joined by Eddie Montgomery).

Pop stars had a presence at the CMAs, including P!nk, who performed “Barbies,” and Niall Horan, who teamed up with Maren Morris for “Seeing Blind.”

Of course, awards were also handed out.

Taylor Swift, who did not attend, won Song of the Year for writing Little Big Town’s “Better Man.”

Garth Brooks earned Entertainer of the Year for a sixth time. The superstar was slammed on social media for lip-synching his CMAs performance. (He later told reporters he was suffering voice issues.)

Getty Images

Miranda Lambert won Female Vocalist of the Year, Chris Stapleton took Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year, Brothers Osborne won Vocal Duo of the Year and Music Video of the Year ("It Ain't My Fault"), and Jon Pardi was named New Artist of the Year.

Urban’s “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” co-written by Canada’s Steven Lee Olsen, won Single of the Year.

On a sidewalk outside the Bridgestone Arena, singer Sturgill Simpson solidified his CMAs "outsider" status – literally – by busking for tips that he said would be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union.

In a speech that was streamed on Facebook Live, the singer said:

“Nobody needs a machine gun. Coming from a guy who owns quite a few guns. Gay people should have the right to be happy and live their life any way they want to, and get married if they want to, without fearing getting drug down the road on a pickup truck. Black people are probably tired of getting shot in the streets, and getting enslaved by the industrial prison complex, and hegemony and racism is alive and well in Nashville, Tennessee. Thank you very much."