Before Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman got a chance to sing a medley of two of the most soulful songs ever recorded, they had to listen to their Little Big Town band mates Phillip Sweet and Jimi Westbrook sing their praises extensively.
“Thanks to these two incredible women, Kimberly and Jimi's wife Karen, we’ve been able to make our living together making music. And we’ve been able to tour the world and be a part of this amazing country music family," Sweet said as he introduced the women as honorees at Wednesday night's (Oct. 17) CMT Artists of the Year special. "Karen has one of the sexiest voices in music.
"And she’s fearless and loyal and above all, a great friend and a great human being. She’s always thinking ahead and pushing us all to be our creative best for this band and our craft."
Westbrook concurred about his wife having the sexiest voice, and then added some more praise for her and for Schlapman. “Besides her beautiful voice, Kimberly is one of the kindest, most compassionate souls I've ever known. I count it as a blessing that we get to share the stage every night and make music with these two intelligent, strong, beautiful women."
When it was time to sing, the trio of women -- Fairchild, Schlapman and Gladys Knight -- chose Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me" and "Help Me Make It Through The Night," a Kris Kristofferson tune that's been covered by almost every country singer since he wrote it in 1970. Even Knight herself covered it on her band's Standing Ovation album in 1971.
When the women accepted the honor, Schlapman first gave credit to Knight for the unforgettable performance. "Wow, Gladys Knight, you are our hero forever and ever and ever. In heaven, we're gonna be your background singers. I promise.
"Twenty years ago we went on a search. We had this crazy idea about a band," she shared about the days right before Little Big Town came to be. "And we went on a search for these two guys and, oh my stars. God gave us the very best men we could've dreamed of.
"I grew up in Georgia, in front of my mirror, with my hairbrush, singing Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton. From there to here tonight is incredibly humbling. I'm so incredibly grateful for what God has blessed us with," she added before thanking her own mother and her two young daughters at home.
Fairchild kept her acceptance brief, giving most of the credit back to CMT. "I can't say enough about CMT for honoring women. It's really important right now," she said. "I hope I can live up to this honor."