Alan Jackson Hauls Out the Hay Bales The 34th Annual CMA Awards Full of Surprises, Performances

The 34th Annual CMA Awards Full of Surprises, Performances

Alan Jackson Hauls Out the Hay Bales
Alan Jackson made a strong statement in support of George Jones during last year’s Country Music Association Awards. This year he makes a more subtle point with the hay-bales-and-computers set for his performance of “www.memory,” a song from his upcoming album.

Recently recovered from a life-threatening auto accident, Jones refused to sing an abbreviated version of “Choices” on last year’s show. Jackson took up his cause by ending his own performance of “Pop a Top” with a snippet of the Jones song.

Some speculated that his defiant move might mean Jackson would have no shot at performing on this year’s show. But his status as a country music superstar, and nominations in major categories including Entertainer of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year and Vocal Event of the Year, for “Murder on Music Row” with George Strait, all mean Jackson will return to The 34th Annual CMA Awards at 8 p.m. ET tonight on CBS.

For his performance, Jackson will be surrounded by hay bales, once common in country music presentations but recently demonized as a symbol of country’s rural past. As if to portray the clash of cultures taking place now in the country world, Jackson will have computers and computer monitors placed atop the hay bales as he sings his new single.

The slightly mischievous set was his idea, Jackson confirmed earlier this week, and somewhat bold given that Jackson is a little allergic to hay.

This year’s CMA Awards promise a number of other entertaining moments. The Tennessee Titans cheerleaders will join Toby Keith for his performance of “How Do You Like Me Now.” Reba McEntire will work with a bevy of eight dancers on “We’re So Good Together.” Candles will surround Jo Dee Messina as she sings “Burn,” the title track from her new, platinum-selling album. Ricky Skaggs will join Brad Paisley when he performs a medley of “We Danced” and “Me Neither.” Look for Charlie Daniels to hop out on stage with Montgomery Gentry for “All Night Long,” a song Daniels helped write.

Trisha Yearwood will get help from Mary Chapin Carpenter and Kim Richey on “Where Are You Now.” The Dixie Chicks will perform their somewhat controversial “Sin Wagon” and Lee Ann Womack and the Sons of the Desert do Womack’s breakthrough song, “I Hope You Dance.”

Faith Hill and Lonestar both perform new singles. Look for a big production number from Hill when she does “There Will Come a Day.” Lonestar, nominated for Vocal Group of the Year, will do “Tell Her,” the fourth single from their Lonely Grill album.

Tim McGraw, up for Entertainer of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year and Vocal Event of the Year, gets to do a newly recorded song, “Things Change,” from songwriters Aimee Mayo, Marv Green, Chris Lindsey and Bill Luther. McGraw’s publicist touts the song as McGraw’s musical answer to the debate about where country music should be going.

For the ninth consecutive year, Vince Gill hosts. Shania Twain will be on hand to pass along her Entertainer of the Year crown, and Merle Haggard will induct Charley Pride into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Faron Young also will enter the prestigious group.

And for the first time ever, CMT will get the party started with CMT’s Red Carpet Preview: Live From the CMA Awards, from 7-8 p.m. ET. As stars arrive, they will visit with hosts Bill Engvall, Neal McCoy and TNN personality Katie Haas.