Old and new balance at country music awards

George Strait was named Entertainer of the Year.
Jason Davis/Getty Images
George Strait was named Entertainer of the Year.

Wednesday night at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, country music embraced the new and honored its elders during the 47th Annual CMA Awards on ABC.

The three-hour telecast, hosted for the sixth time by Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley, was, as usual, stuffed with performances, with only nine of the 12 awards given out during the live show.

Rookie duo Florida Georgia Line rode the popularity of their hit “Cruise” to two wins in the vocal duo of the year and single of the year categories. Tim McGraw took home two before the show for musical event of the year and music video of the year for “Highway Don’t Care,” featuring Taylor Swift and Keith Urban. Married stars Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton nabbed female and male vocalist of the year in repeat wins, and the “Voice” coach also won album of the year for his “Based on a True Story.” Vocal group of the year honors went to Little Big Town, and Lee Brice’s “I Drive Your Truck” copped song of the year honors for its writers. For the sixth straight year Mac McAnally walked off with musician of the year honors.


In the night’s two biggest surprises Kacey Musgraves bested the boys of Florida Georgia Line, among others, to win new artist of the year and country legend George Strait — who is in the midst of a farewell tour — won the top prize of entertainer of the year.

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Strait was among a star-studded group — including Urban, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, and Rascal Flatts — to present Swift with the Pinnacle award. Mick Jagger, Justin Timberlake, Julia Roberts, Carly Simon, and Ethel Kennedy were among those singing Swift’s praises via video.

Musically, the show seesawed between underwhelming and a raucous party and featured both the harder rock-oriented sounds of artists like Eric Church and the more traditional bent of artists like singer-songwriter Musgraves. Tributes to Kenny Rogers and the late George Jones were jubilant and poignant, and visitors from other genres dropped in to lend a hand, including Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, who jammed with the Zac Brown Band.

Sarah Rodman can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GlobeRodman.