Keith Hopes “Tonight” Is the Night: Singer Among Hopefuls at ACM Awards

Singer Among Hopefuls at ACM Awards

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. – Of all the songs to be performed on tonight’s (May 9) 36th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, none is likely to be more unfamiliar to viewers than Toby Keith ’s “I’m Just Talkin’ About Tonight.”

Keith’s new single is slated for an album he is working on with producer James Stroud. Country radio stations have begun playing the song, and Keith performs it on tour with Brooks & Dunn , but consumers hoping to find it on an album are out of luck until DreamWorks releases his new CD in the fall.

Keith has nominations for entertainer of the year, top male vocalist, video of the year, album of the year, single of the year and song of the year, so he has earned the prominent opening spot he gets on tonight’s three-hour show, broadcast live by CBS beginning at 8 p.m. ET/PT from the Universal Amphitheatre.

While his may be the newest tune presented on the show, Keith isn’t the only artist looking to take advantage of a prime time TV slot to get valuable exposure for a new single or album release. Billy Gilman will sing “She’s My Girl” from his just-issued album, Dare to Dream; Montgomery Gentry will dip into their new one, Carrying On, for “She Couldn’t Change Me”; Lonestar previews their upcoming CD, due in June, by performing the title track, “I’m Already There”; and Brad Paisley , last year’s top new male vocalist, will do “Two People Fell in Love” from his next CD, out later this month.

The country music extravaganza will include 14 musical performances, a couple of “mini” performances and 20 presentations of the Hollywood-based Academy’s “Hat” award. Last year’s big winners are not slated to take the stage this year. Shania Twain , reigning entertainer of the year, is expecting a baby. Last year’s top male vocalist, Tim McGraw , will attend with his wife, top female vocalist Faith Hill , but neither will perform. Top vocal duo or group the Dixie Chicks will be represented by Martie Seidel.

Keith, Jo Dee Messina and host LeAnn Rimes will enhance their presentations with dancers and pyrotechnics. Messina will do “Downtime” from her album, Burn, while Rimes has chosen “Don’t Fight the Moonlight” from the best-selling film soundtrack, Coyote Ugly.

Brooks & Dunn will perform “Ain’t Nothing ’Bout You,” the No. 1 song from their new album, while Diamond Rio will do a mini-performance of their recent chart-topper, “One More Day.” Dwight Yoakam will haul out his Cheap Trick cover, “I Want You to Want Me.” Alan Jackson will do his jaunty Southern flagwaver, “Where I Come From.” Look for a powerful performance from Lee Ann Womack on her new single, “Why They Call It Falling.”

Also performing: SHeDAISY , Jessica Andrews , Kenny Chesney , the Warren Brothers and Sara Evans and the nominees for top new male artist, top new female artist and top new vocal duo or group.

Kenny Rogers will accept the Academy’s career achievement award, then take the stage to do “There You Go Again,” his new single.

Patty Loveless , Ronnie Milsap and Terri Clark will present The Pioneer Award to a recipient who is being kept a secret.

Rimes puts a cap on the evening with a subdued reading of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” which she describes as “probably the first song I ever sang.” Musical director John Hobbs accompanies her on piano.

CMT will carry a special pre-show telecast as stars file in on the red carpet behind the Universal Amphitheatre. CMT Hit Trip hosts Jeff Davis and Alecia Ross will join Messina as hosts of the hour-long special, which begins at 7 p.m. ET. Jeff and Alecia also will serve as presenters for the video of the year award.