LOS ANGELES — Wednesday night’s (May 22) 37th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards are the first major music industry awards in which Alan Jackson ’s “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” is eligible to win.
Jackson has performed the song twice on awards shows — at the Country Music Association Awards in November and at the Grammys in February. At neither event, however, was the country star’s emotional response to the events of Sept. 11 up for an honor since it was written after the deadline for eligibility had passed.
Dick Clark Productions, producers of the CBS broadcast Wednesday (7 p.m. ET/PT) from the Universal Amphitheatre, have tapped Jackson to open the telecast. He’ll sing his latest No. 1 country single, “Drive (For Daddy Gene),” but “Where Were You” could make some noise before the night ends. The song is up for single and song of the year, and Jackson is in the running for top male vocalist and entertainer of the year. He has won ACM single of the year honors twice, for “Chattahoochee” and “Don’t Rock the Jukebox,” and he has been named top male vocalist twice, in 1995 and 1996 (for the award years 1994 and 1995). Jackson has never won the ACM’s entertainer of the year prize.
At last year’s ACMs, Toby Keith emerged as a winner of major industry awards for the first time, capturing album of the year and top male vocalist. Keith is back this year with six nominations and will be a formidable opponent. He vies with Jackson for top male vocalist, entertainer of the year and single and song of the year (“I Wanna Talk About Me”). He also is up for video of the year (“I Wanna Talk About Me”) and album of the year (Pull My Chain). Keith is slated to perform his brand new single, “Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue,” from a new album, Unleashed, coming out in August.
The O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, a force at both the CMA awards and the Grammys, is up for album of the year and vocal event of the year (“I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow”). None of the contributors to the soundtrack are scheduled to perform, however.
In addition to Keith, O Brother’s competitors for album of the year include Travis Tritt ’s Down the Road I Go, Tim McGraw ’s Set This Circus Down and Brooks & Dunn ’s Steers & Stripes. All three will perform on the show. McGraw and Brooks & Dunn have won the honor in the past.
Like Keith, Brooks & Dunn have six nominations — more than any other artists. Besides album they are in the running for entertainer of the year (they were winners in 1996 and 1997); top vocal duo (an award they’ve won eight times before); song and video of the year (“Only in America”); and single of the year (“Ain’t Nothing ’Bout You”).
The popular duo will make their performance of “My Heart Is Lost to You” something of an event. They have supplemented their normal band with three Latin percussionists, and there’s talk that Sheila E will join them for their performance. In Tuesday rehearsals, the band had a very full sound as it worked the song’s Santana-style groove.
Brooks & Dunn also are in the running for the Home Depot Humanitarian Award, the ACM’s first-ever fan-voted honor, for good works. Show host Reba McEntire and Alabama are the other nominees. Voting will continue through the show, and a winner will be announced at the beginning of the last hour.
Kenny Chesney , one of the hottest artists in country music right now, is up for one award, top male vocalist, and is slated to perform “The Good Stuff.” A win in the highly competitive male vocalist category would be his first major industry award. He was named the ACM’s top new male vocalist in 1998.
Tritt has expanded his band by one — Dobro specialist Jerry Douglas of Alison Krauss & Union Station — for his performance of “Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde.” Talking with a reporter following his rehearsal Tuesday, Tritt said “a West Coast vibe permeates the show. It’s very relaxed and has a Hollywood groove.”
The Hollywood-based Academy also will present its annual Pioneer Award to an undisclosed recipient. Last year’s honoree was Barbara Mandrell . Mark Chesnutt , Joe Diffie and Tracy Lawrence , slated to tour together this summer as the CMT-backed Rockin’ Roadhouse Tour, will be part of the Pioneer Award presentation.
The three-hour telecast will include Lee Ann Womack and Willie Nelson doing “Mendocino County Line,” and Hank Williams Jr. and Kid Rock will perform their humorous duet “The ’F’ Word.” Hank Jr. also is slated to pay tribute to Waylon Jennings with an acoustic performance of “The Eyes of Waylon,” a song he wrote for Jennings.
Nominees for new male vocalist, new female vocalist and new duo/group will perform in a medley, an ACM tradition. Also on the docket for the night are Alabama (“I’m in the Mood”), Sara Evans (“I Keep Looking”), Jo Dee Messina (“Bring on the Rain”), Martina McBride (“Where Would You Be”), George Strait (“Living and Living Well”) and Trisha Yearwood (“I Don’t Paint Myself Into Corners”).
Look for CMT’s Katie Cook and Greg Martin, who will team with Mark Wills to present top country video.
Herewith, some cavalier and unscientific predictions:
Entertainer: Tim McGraw
Male vocalist: Alan Jackson
Female vocalist: Lee Ann Womack
Vocal duo: Brooks & Dunn
Vocal group: Dixie Chicks New female vocalist: Carolyn Dawn Johnson New male vocalist: Chris Cagle New vocal duo/group: Trick Pony Video: “I Wanna Talk About Me”
Album: O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Single: “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)”
Song: “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)”
Vocal event: “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow”