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STAPLETON DOMINATES CMA AWARDS
11/11/21

By Holly Gleason

It was a good night for country music. With Chris Stapleton taking six awards—Song and Single for “Starting Over,” Album of the Year and Male Vocalist, plus two more for co-producing the Album and Single with Dave Cobb at The 55th annual Country Music Association Awards, it was a sweep that suggested deep talent still matters in a genre that’s spent the last several years as a high-octane BroCountry fest. A purveyor of a steamy soul country that is as much Macon or Muscle Shoals, the incredibly humble songwriter harkens back a kind of country that was less about machining hits and more about scraping one’s guts to arrive at a truth that makes people pause.

That same commitment to raw honesty carried Carly Pearce to her first Female Vocalist and Brothers Osborne to their fourth Duo. For Pearce, whose marriage of less than a year derailed, and TJ Osborne who came forward as gay, those truths informed their Album of the Year nominees 29 and Skeletons respectively. Check out the winners list here.

Jimmie Allen, who spoke of spending his last $100 to come to the CMA’s 50th anniversary show to see Charley Pride, sleeping in his car, being discovered at Puckett’s Grocery by manager Ash Bowers and working whatever job to get by, took home Best New Artist. In addition to his well-deserved award, he turned in a Michael Jackson-evoking performance of “Freedom Was a Highway.”

Kelsea Ballerini with fellow East Tennessean Kenny Chesney picked up Vocal Event and Video of the Year for “Half of My Hometown” pre-telecast. The pair found a connection with the CMA voters by mining the life, risk and price paid for chasing the dream of music.

Still, winner of Entertainer of the Year was Luke Combs, who hit the scene four years ago like a hurricane. A songwriting force who watched nine co-writers have their first #1 hits, Combs arrived as a Music Row outsider and connected with fans in a way that has made him a massive streaming and sales star. Clearly stunned when Alan Jackson called his name after invoking Merle Haggard, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and more, Combs stumbled through his speech, visibly moved by the honor and joking, “I’ve never made a speech for something like this, and clearly, it’s not serving me now.”

...Read more