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Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton--and Gwyneth Paltrow--share spotlight at 44th Country Music Assn. Awards

November 10, 2010 |  8:47 pm

Miranda Texas country music firebrand Miranda Lambert won big at the 44th Country Music Assn. Awards ceremony on Wednesday in Nashville, taking home trophies for best album, top female vocalist and top video in connection with her album “Revolution.” Brad Paisley took the night’s top award as entertainer of the year, and Lady Antebellum’s chart-topping hit “Need You Now” was named the year’s best single.

The entertainer award to Paisley recognizes a combination of live performance, recorded music and ambassadorship for country music. “My hero is Little Jimmy Dickens,” Paisley said in a broken voice, of the Grand Ole Opry veteran, “and he has a saying: ‘If you see a turtle on a fencepost, it had help getting up there.' I feel like a turtle on a fencepost at this point.” [For the record: A previous version of this post was edited to describe Brad Paisley as "mimicking" his hero, Little Jimmy Dickens, in his acceptance speech. In his comments, Paisley was paying tribute to Dickens, not imitating him.]

Lambert, whose awards came on the day she turned 27, said, “ ‘Revolution’ has truly caused a revolution in my life this year. ... It’s my baby, it’s what I live for. Thank you so much for loving it, too.” “The House That Built Me,” a Tom Douglas-Allen Shamblin composition that Lambert sang on the album, was named song and video of the year.

Blake Shelton, Lambert’s fianc, took two awards, including male vocalist in what may have been the evening’s biggest surprise, trumping George Strait, Keith Urban,  Paisley and Dierks Bentley. Sugarland took the vocal duo trophy.

Atlanta’s party-minded jam group the Zac Brown Band was named new artist of the year, and Lady Antebellum, a Georgia-based trio, also collected vocal group honors on a show that sought to pump up its celebrity quotient, and ratings, by showcasing actress Gwyneth Paltrow in her public debut as a country singer.

Paltrow, awkwardly strumming an acoustic guitar and joined by Vince Gill, sang the title song from her forthcoming film, “Country Strong,” for which Nashville pros helped guide her through a crash course in country music to prepare for her role, and to do her own singing, in the tale of a fallen country star who tries to overcome a personal tragedy and an alcohol abuse problem to regain her career.

Paisley Paisley and his co-host for the telecast, Carrie Underwood, played the Paltrow card early, singling her out from her seat in the audience at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena and saluting her courage in taking her movie role into the real world by singing before the CMA audience. Paisley then joked that no country musician would attempt the reverse by seeking out stardom in the Hollywood: “Right, Tim?” he asked of Paltrow’s co-star in the film, singer Tim McGraw.

The CMA’s endorsement of “Country Strong” extended to the inclusion of another of the film’s actresses, Leighton Meester, the “Gossip Girl” star who introduced last year’s entertainer of the year winner, Taylor Swift, for her musical performance Wednesday. Swift went home empty-handed after seeing the trophy for the only category in which she was nominated this year, female vocalist, which she also won last year, handed to Lambert.

The show’s Nashville-Hollywood connection continued with a quick cut during the broadcast to actress Nicole Kidman following a performance by her husband, singer-songwriter-guitarist Urban, and again with actress Sissy Spacek's introduction of a segment saluting country queen Loretta Lynn.

After courting younger viewers with the appearances by Swift and Meester, “American Idol” alumnus Kelly Clarkson and Reba McEntire doing a countrified take on Beyonce’s pop-R&B hit “If I Were a Boy,” the CMA show paid respects to Lynn, one of country’s elder stateswomen.

The “Coal Miner’s Daughter” singer and songwriter sang with Lambert and Sheryl Crow, reprising their trio rendition of her signature song from a new all-star tribute album of the same name.

The show took pains to satisfy country’s broad age demographic with performances by veterans such as McEntire, George Strait and Alan Jackson to more recent arrivals including Swift, Lady Antebellum, Jason Aldean and the Band Perry.

Paisley and Underwood alluded in the opening segment to the flooding in Nashville in May and the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill that began in April with a musical parody of the bluegrass-laced theme from “The Beverly Hillbillies” TV series:  “Nashville had a flood and we barely made the news/Then up from the gulf came a bubbling crude…Oil, that is.” Paisley also took a musical jab at 2010’s wayward pro sports figures, notably Tiger Woods, with a ribald revision of Buck Owens’ 1965 hit “I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail.”

The three-hour ceremony was carried by ABC-TV  live to the East Coast and on tape delay for West Coast viewers.

The CMA Awards recognize recordings released from July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010, and are chosen by voting members of the Nashville-based CMA, an industry group of musicians, record company executives and employees, music publishers, and radio and concert industry personnel.

--Randy Lewis

Top photo: Miranda Lambert holds her three Country Music Assn. Awards backstage. Credit: Evan Agostini / Associated Press. Bottom photo: Brad Paisley accepts the entertainer of the year award. Credit: Tami Chappell / Reuters

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