Strait, Paisley, Chesney, Underwood Take Top CMA Honors

Despite standout performances by the Eagles and Kid Rock (with Lil Wayne in tow), the 42nd annual Country Music Association Awards belonged to traditionalists, with George Strait and Brad Paisley coming away the big winners last night (Nov. 12) at the Sommet Center in Nashville.

Strait picked up his 20th, 21st and 22nd CMA awards. Co-produced by Strait and Tony Brown, "Troubadour," was named album of the year and "I Saw God Today" was named single of the year.

"A lot of people try to reinvent themselves and push the envelope and the envelope breaks," Brown said backstage. "With George we don’t try to overthink it."

Paisley, who co-hosted the show with Carrie Underwood, picked up his second straight win for male vocalist. He also took home the music video award for "Waitin' on a Woman" which featured Andy Griffith and was directed by Jim Shea and Peter Tilden.

Paisley opened the show with "Start a Band," a duet with fellow guitar slinger Keith Urban. He later performed "Waitin' on a Woman" and also offered a brief music tribute to the late Jerry Reed. It was a busy night for the singer. "I won’t take too much time -- I’ve talked enough," Paisley said after winning the male vocalist award.
Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles was the night's other big winner. "Stay," which she wrote, was named song of the year. "It was a gift from the beginning," she said in accepting the award. "It was a gift to write and I hope it was a gift and it touched your hearts." The duo also picked up its second straight vocal duo award.

A glowing Shania Twain made a rare appearance to introduce Kenny Chesney as entertainer of the year. It was his fourth win in the category and third straight nod.

"The energy that I get onstage is pretty addictive," Chesney said after the show. "I can't tell you what it’s like to feel the energy of 60,000 people."

The Wailers joined Chesney onstage earlier in the night for a performance of his recent hit "Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven," which was greeted with a standing ovation.

Immediately following an emotional performance of "Just a Dream," "American Idol" winner Underwood was named female vocalist for the third straight year. "I want to thank country music," she said. "I came here an unconventional way and you didn't have to accept me."

As expected, Rascal Flatts picked up vocal group honors, their sixth straight win in the category. "It never gets old, especially when you’re in a category with your heroes like the Eagles," the group's Jay DeMarcus said backstage.

Lady Antebellum took home top new artist honors just two nights after group member Hillary Scott was named songwriter of the year by performing rights organization SESAC.

Meanwhile, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss took home musical event honors for "Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)" from their highly acclaimed album "Raising Sand" (Rounder). Mac McAnally was named musician of the year.