Cedar­town’s own Sam Hunt rocks out at t he CMAs

The Standard Journal - - FRONT PAGE - From AP Re­ports

Though the room was full of A-lis­ters like Carrie Un­der­wood, Mi­randa Lam­bert and Luke Bryan, Lit­tle Big Town, with their mas­sive hit “Girl Crush,” and Chris Sta­ple­ton, who has writ­ten songs for most of Nashville, owned the 2015 Coun­try Mu­sic As­so­ci­a­tion Awards.

Sta­ple­ton, who has writ­ten for Bryan, Kenny Ch­es­ney, Ge­orge Strait and oth­ers, was Wed­nes­day night’s big win­ner with three awards — male vo­cal­ist, new artist and al­bum of the year for “Trav­eller.”

Ev­ery­one cheered him on, from Lam­bert to Bryan, who won en­ter­tainer of the year.

“Watch­ing Chris Sta­ple­ton have this night is so up­lift­ing,” Bryan said on­stage af­ter he won the top award for a sec­ond time.

Sta­ple­ton, who was the lead singer of the blue­grass band The SteelDrive­rs, was on the brink of tears when he won his third prize at the Bridge­stone Arena in Nashville, Ten­nessee.

“About two years ago, I lost my dad and I made this record think­ing about a lot of mu­sic he would like. ... My mom is here tonight. I want to thank my mom,” said Sta­ple­ton. “I’m not go­ing to take it lightly ...I got to thank my wife again, she al­ways pushes me to be the best I can be ...I gotta thank all my cousins in Ken­tucky.”

Sta­ple­ton’s night wasn’t just about win­ning awards: He also turned in a show-stop­ping per­for­mance with Justin Tim­ber­lake, who tapped into his Mem­phis, Ten­nessee, roots as they strummed their gui­tars while singing “Ten­nessee Whiskey,” which Sta­ple­ton cov­ered on his al­bum. They fol­lowed that with Tim­ber­lake’s tune, “Drink You Away.”

The au­di­ence was in awe: Tim­ber­lake’s wife, ac­tress Jes­sica Biel, watched ex­cit­edly and bopped her head while Keith Ur­ban recorded the per­for­mance with his phone.

“Justin Tim­ber­lake and Chris Sta­ple­ton, thank you very much. I’m go­ing to go home and prac­tice,” Lam­bert said on­stage when she won fe­male vo­cal­ist of the year

It was Lam­bert’s sixth con­sec­u­tive win in the cat­e­gory.

“I ap­pre­ci­ate it. I needed a bright spot this year,” she said on­stage.

Lam­bert could have been re­fer­ring to her di­vorce to Blake Shel­ton, an­nounced in July. Shel­ton, who per­formed at the live show on ABC, con­firmed Wed­nes­day just hours be­fore the awards show that he and his fel­low “Voice” men­tor Gwen Ste­fani are dat­ing. Un­der­wood and Brad Pais­ley joked about the di­vorce at the top of the show.

“And of course we can’t ig­nore the breakup that rocked our world,” Un­der­wood said, as the cam­era panned to Miss Piggy and Ker­mit the Frog.

“On a com­pletely un­re­lated topic, howdy Blake?” Pais­ley replied as the cam­era panned to Shel­ton, who laughed and clapped his hands along with the au­di­ence.

“Did you hear that duet that Blake did with Ashley Madi­son?” Pais­ley asked. Un­der­wood replied: “That was with Ashley Mon­roe.”

That was fol­lowed by a pair of duets: Eric Church and Hank Wil­liams, Jr. per­formed “Are You Ready for the Coun­try” and John Mel­len­camp and Ur­ban worked their gui­tars dur­ing “Pink Houses.” Thomas Rhett, whose “Die A Happy Man” is No. 1 on Bill­board’s Hot coun­try songs chart, per­formed with rock­ers Fall Out Boy.

Sam Hunt won over the au­di­ence with his per­for­mance of “Take Your Time,” while Un­der­wood sang “Smoke Break” and Mus­graves per­formed “Dime Store Cow­girl” sport­ing a cow­boy hat and a shiny num­ber re­veal­ing her legs and arms. Bryan sang his slow groove “Strip It Down,” while Ja­son Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, Reba McEn­tire and Brooks & Dunn also per­formed.

Lit­tle Big Town, who also earned ap­plause for their per­for­mance of the bal­lad “Girl Crush,” won vo­cal group and sin­gle of the year for the No. 1 hit. The writ­ers of “Girl Crush” won song of the year.

“Sev­en­teen years ago this very month we be­came a band,” an emo­tional Kimberly Sch­lap­man said on­stage, stand­ing next to band mem­bers Karen Fairchild, Jimi West­brook and Phillip Sweet.

The four­some, along with Church, walked into the arena as the most nom­i­nated act with five. They lost mu­sic video of the year to Mad­die & Tae’s “Girl in a Coun­try Song” and mu­si­cal event of the year to Church and Ur­ban.

Bryan, who beat Lam­bert, Church, Garth Brooks and Kenny Ch­es­ney for en­ter­tainer of the year, kissed his tro­phy mul­ti­ple times when he won the night’s fi­nal award.

“Thank you Lord, thank you Je­sus, thank you ev­ery­one in heaven look­ing out for me,” Bryan said. “This is the best busi­ness in the world with the best peo­ple.”

Chris Pizzello/In­vi­sion/AP

Sam Hunt per­forms at the 49th an­nual CMA Awards at the Bridge­stone Arena on Wed­nes­day, Nov. 4, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn.

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