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George Strait is king of CMA cruise

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Michael Corcoran

Editor’s note: This article was originally published November 7, 2013

Ironic that they honored George Jones on a CMA Awards show that could’ve been called “They Stopped Honoring Country Music Today.” In the midst of all those singing bodybuilders, George Strait and Alan Jackson sang a stirring version of Jones’ masterpiece, “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” the “Citizen Kane” of country records, last night in Nashville.

The CMAs are everything in country music- the Grammys times ten- so the show always features what’s really hot in the mainstream. But finding out what the “Glee”-ful opening segment of Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line had to do with the term “country music” would require a forensic crew.

Since their award-winning single is called “Cruise,” I thought FGL was called Florida Cruise Line for a minute and the name stuck as the show wore on and felt like being on an ocean liner with entertainment by overgrown boy bands.It was all hunks and chunks, with most of the folks onstage looking either like they worked out for six hours a day or adhered to “The Rascal Flatt Diet.”

Look, I’m not one of those bitter oldtimers- Blake Shelton had a term for us- who’s always lamenting that country music should still sound like Lefty Frizzell and Bob Wills. I love that Jason Aldean song “Dirt Road Anthem,” with the rap break, and even the Blake Shelton song that rips it off. I’d much rather see Carrie Underwood in concert than Dale Watson. There is real talent in Nashville. And fresh ideas.

But some of these new country acts make me wonder if the vapid jocks and popular girls from high school are still running things. Eric Church is the leader of the “Bro-cephus” movement- an AC/DC meets twang sound that is cool for about 10 seconds. And then you have all those mixed-sex groups like the Band Perry, Little Big Town and Lady Antebellum that make ABBA come off like the Velvet Underground. There’s just no realness to any of that music- just high school talent show winners getting paid.

But country music fans still buy records, perhaps because many of them think downloading is something you do from the back of a truck, and so the Album of the Year trophy, which went to Blake Shelton for “Based On a True Story,” still truly means something. And it was great to see Kacey Musgraves of East Texas win best new act, though I don’t know why they cut the word “joint” from her performance. Wouldn’t mind if they bleeped the word “truck” from several of the other songs.

A highlight performance for many was when Dave Grohl played drums for the Zac Brown Band. He was a fierce blur of sticks, but when the drummer for Nirvana plays a country music awards show, Courtney wins.

The night ended in dignity, with George Strait, whose band is based in San Marcos, winning the Entertainer of the Year award. The elder statesman beat out Shelton, Aldean, Bryan and Taylor Swift for the night’s top honor. Strait is in the midst of his final concert tour, which takes him to the Erwin Center Jan. 10.

The stars of the TV show “Nashville” were ever-present at the CMAs (which aired on ABC, the “Nashville” network) and while getting ready to give the best female vocalist award to Miranda Lambert, actress Connie Britton feigned confusion over whether or not she’s previously won the same award. The actor who played Deacon had to remind her that it was her character Rayna James who had won a CMA. It was a stupid bit and it fell flat, like some of hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood’s material (though “Obamacare By Morning” killed.) But that moment over what’s real and what’s not said a lot about how the proceedings felt.

Wait, is this a country music show we’re watching or are the cameras going to pan the audience for a Chris Brown reaction shot if Rihanna wins?

Here’s a complete list of winners.