Miranda Lambert won in three categories Sunday night (April 6) at the 49th annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas while legend George Strait and newcomer Kacey Musgraves recorded milestones in their respective careers.
Strait was named entertainer of the year, an honor he accepted in 1989. Musgraves nabbed album of the year honors for her debut Same Trailer Different Park.
In addition to winning the female vocalist award, Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart” was named single record of the year. “We Were Us,” her collaboration with Keith Urban, was chosen vocal event of the year.
“I cannot believe it,” Lambert said of her female vocalist win. “I really didn’t expect it. I was just hanging out with Trisha Yearwood back there. Holy crap!
“And I was standing next to Sheryl Crow — a complete and utter rock star. And Kacey Musgraves, I grew up with her. She wrote the single of the year (“Mama’s Broken Heart”) this year. Carrie Underwood is my buddy, y’all, and she’s a phenomenon. I can’t believe it. I’m so grateful and thankful and humbled.”
Urban also won video of the year honors for “Highway Don’t Care,” Tim McGraw‘s hit that also featured Taylor Swift. Both of the awards were announced on the red carpet prior to the CBS telecast, so Urban didn’t get any screen time for an acceptance speech. However, he made up for it with an explosive performance of “Even the Stars Fall for U.” (Urban actually won three awards, including an extra one as producer of “We Were Us.”)
Strait’s entertainer of the year award comes during his Cowboy Rides Away tour, a two-year undertaking signaling the end of his national touring.
“You know what? I’ve always said I have the best fans in the whole world,” Strait said in accepting the trophy. “I heard this was a fan-voted thing, so I rest my case. This is so amazing. It’s been such an amazing past 30 years.”
After acknowledging the support of his family and record label, he added, “Thank God for all of this stuff that He’s blessed me with. Thank the Academy of Country Music.”
At that point, someone in the audience yelled a word of support.
“I love all of you,” Strait laughed. “Thank you so much.”
“I can tell you, I really did not expect this,” Musgraves said. “Luke Laird and Shane McAnally, I got to produce this record with them. I’m so proud of it. All the wonderful musicians who played on it … all these songwriters that made these songs a reality. I just want to say I’m really proud to be a woman representing country music.”
One of the most eloquent acceptances speeches came after The Band Perry won the vocal group award.
“This is a mountaintop moment in the life of The Band Perry, and I tell you we appreciate it so very much because we started at the bottom of the mountain 15 years ago,” Kimberly Perry said. “Our sweet grandfather, he gave us some great advice back in the day — especially on the nights when there were more people onstage than out in the crowd listening.
“He would always say, ‘Kids, this ain’t no hill for a climber.’ We accept this for the climbers tonight.”
Songwriter Connie Harrington became emotional in accepting song of the year honors with co-writers Jessi Alexander and Jimmy Yeary for the Lee Brice hit “I Drive Your Truck.”
“This is not for me,” Brice emphasized. “This is the song of the year, and it comes from the writers.”
The song was inspired by the true story of Paul Monti, whose son Jared was killed while serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan.
“We’re so honored and grateful for the outpouring of response for this song,” Harrington said. She said the award is dedicated “to every person in America who knows what it’s like to live the words of this song day-in and day-out.”
Jason Aldean was named male vocalist of the year.
“This is really unexpected,” the Georgia native told the crowd. “It was a shock last year to win it and even a bigger shock, I think, this year. … Country music fans, you’re the best in the world. It’s been one hell of a ride, so I hope it doesn’t end anytime soon. Thank you, guys, for everything.”
With multiplatinum music sales that catapulted them to headliner status, Florida Georgia Line’s win as vocal duo of the year was almost a no-brainer for ACM voters.
“You guys are unbelieveable,” Tyler Hubbard said. “Thank you guys so much. Thank for believing in us. We’ve got to thank the Lord for letting us be here, as always.”
Justin Moore triumphed in the other fan-voted category — new artist of the year.
“I was beginning to think there might be a height requirement for this award,” Moore joked before ending his speech with a special message.
“Country radio, thank you for giving me a voice and taking a chance on a hillbilly from Arkansas,” he said.