NASHVILLE SKYLINE: Gentle Thoughts on the CMA Awards Show

Just What Does It All Mean, Anyway?

(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/ Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)

Thoughts while watching the CMA Awards:

• Aren't there any good audio engineers in Nashville? The sound on that show -- both live in the Grand Ole Opry House and on TV -- ranged from acceptable to atrocious. I mean, this is only the biggest event in country music and one of CBS' highest-rated TV shows. Just wait till next year when the unions in New York City get their hands on this show.

• I don't care for people trashing Dolly Parton and blaming her for shortening Kenny Chesney's acceptance speech for winning the entertainer of the year award. Dolly Parton is one of the funniest, most spontaneous people in show business, and that show was lucky to have her and should have made more use of her talent than just handing over one trophy. As it was, she was the funniest and freshest speaker of the evening. If the show's producers couldn't have scheduled the evening a little better to allow some time at the end -- well, that's their bad, not Dolly's. There was enough dead time and witless bantering during the two hours and 58 minutes that preceded Dolly's appearance to allow some stretching at the end. And awards shows can go over their scheduled time. It does happen. And what nitwit of a director at the end switched over to a dead shot of Brooks & Dunn standing there microphoneless and speechless and looking helpless?

• Great moments: Gretchen Wilson proved to the world at large what we already knew: She is a first-rate artist, and she can stay at this party for as long as she wants to. Pat Green is a funny guy, and country needs to see more of him. Dierks Bentley showed he's ready to run with the big boys. Alan Jackson and Patty Loveless gave a tutorial in what a duet should sound like. And so did Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss with "Whiskey Lullaby." Sara Evans is more stunning than ever. Kris Kristofferson demonstrated why he's truly an officer and a gentleman.

• Not-so-great moments: They were pretty obvious. No point in further punishing the offenders. But I tell you, there were many moments there best forgotten.

• A member of a certain fairly newish country group had best watch his public behavior. He was getting pretty close to genuinely offending some of the superstars he was sitting near during the evening.

• It's pretty evident the CMA voters were sending some clear signals. One is that they feel it's time for a changing of the guard. Toby Keith and Alan Jackson, with a total of thirteen nominations between them, won zero awards. Chesney, who had never won a CMA award, was rewarded in two categories, including the big prize of entertainer of the year. Signal number two is that newcomers -- no matter their immediate success -- are not automatically rewarded. Muzik Mafia members Big & Rich and Gretchen Wilson shared seven nominations, and only Wilson won, nabbing the Horizon award. That Horizon nominees lineup shows, though, that country's immediate future is bright: Josh Turner, Bentley, Big & Rich, Julie Roberts and Wilson are all genuine talents.

• Did they run out of the good drugs at my alma mater, Rolling Stone? I see the magazine's Web site reported that the CMA Awards were held in Las Vegas, at the Mandalay Bay Hotel.

• Alison Krauss remains one of country music's most under-appreciated treasures. Without her, "Whiskey Lullaby" would be just another great song. With her, it's one of country's greatest songs ever, and why it didn't win the song of the year award is beyond my powers of comprehension. Her modesty prevents her from being the superstar her talent demands. Even so, I hear that advance orders for her forthcoming CD with Union Station, Lonely Runs Both Ways, total about 600,000 copies. It's due Nov. 23. I just got an advance copy of it, and it's classic AKUS. Well worth the three-year wait for a new one.

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