American Music Awards: Handful of Country

Luke Bryan Thanks Bus Driver, Brantley Gilbert Stunned

Of course, Luke Bryan would thank his bus driver. That’s how country boys do it, right?

At Sunday night’s (Nov. 23) American Music Awards in Los Angeles, there wasn’t much country music being celebrated, but there was just enough to keep me tuned in.

Bryan didn’t win the big award of the night — artist of the year. That one went to One Direction, but he did win for favorite country male artist.

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“I want to thank God above for letting me tour night-in and night-out on the road,” he said in accepting the award. “I want to thank the fans for making it possible to stand up here and win the awards. I want to thank all my management … my booking agent … all my guys out on the road — my band, my crew, my bus driver.”

Other big awards went to Florida Georgia Line for favorite country duo or group and Carrie Underwood for favorite female country artist. It was Underwood’s eighth AMA victory since being named favorite new breakthrough artist in 2006.

Probably the biggest surprise of the night was when Brantley Gilbert’s Just as I Am beat out Eric Church and Garth Brooks for favorite country album. Even Gilbert was stunned.

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“Whoa, I wasn’t expecting this,” he said. “It was an honor just to be considered for this award and be in the same category with two people I really, really look up to and respect in this business. … I wanna give credit to the people that don’t get all the bright lights and get to take one of these home — the fans. Call ‘em friends or whatever you want to, so this one’s for y’all!”

Backstage, after the win, Gilbert’s shock still hadn’t worn off.

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“I write what I know, and I write what I live. It’s gritty, but it’s how life where I come from is,” he said. “I guess that really connected for people, which makes me proud. I never thought about being here, but for someone who cares about the music the way I do, it sure feels like the music’s hitting home.”

In between the handful of country wins, there were nonstop pop performances. There were a few minutes of country when Brooks performed “People Loving People” live from his show in North Carolina.

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.