CMA Fest: Eric Church, Faith Hill Perform; Softball With Carrie Underwood; TNT Revives 'Dallas'
CMA Fest: Eric Church, Faith Hill Perform; Softball With Carrie Underwood; TNT Revives 'Dallas'

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The CMA Music Festival continued at a frentic pace on Saturday, with music seemingly at every turn along the way in a very crowded downtown Nashville.

At the Riverfront Stage, Big Machine recording trio Eden's Edge -- set to release their debut disc this coming Tuesday -- kept fans entertained, as did critic favorite Corey Smith and Kip Moore, who rendered an energetic set that included his inagural chart-topper, "Somethin' Bout A Truck." But there was plenty of established talent to keep the attention of festival goers. Heidi Newfield dazzled the crowd with a set that included her latest, the emotional single "Why'd You Have To Be So Good." One of the highlights of the river stage was the performance of Country Music Hall of Fame member Mel Tillis, who showed that, even at age 79, charisma and stage presence are two traits that seemingly never go out of style.

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The evening performance at LP Field was brought to order with a stirring performance of the National Anthem by Julie Roberts. The crowd then came to their collective feet with a performance from the legendary Kenny Rogers. Rogers, who appeared just down the road in Manchester on Sunday at Bonnaroo, turned the home of the Tennessee Titans into a great big sing-a-long, thanks to hits like "The Gambler." Eric Church, Luke Bryan, and Little Big Town all gave strong performances that would have made anyone from Capitol Records proud.

paisley Brad Paisley was presented with the CMA International Artist Achievement Award at LP Field on Thursday, June 7 before his performance at 2012 CMA Music Festival. (L-R): CMA Chief Executive Officer, Steve Moore; Brad Paisley; and Sony Music Nashville Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and CMA Board of Directors Chairman, Gary Overton. (Photo: Caitlin Selle/CMA)

Little Big Town in particular gave one of their strongest performances we have yet to see from the vocal group. "Pontoon," their current single, should be the song that knocks them over the top. After performing it on the CMT Music Awards this past week, digital download sales of the tune shot up cosiderably. Hunter Hayes also left quite an impression on the fans in the crowd -- especially the younger ones. "Wanted" is shaping up to be one of the major power ballads of the summer.

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Faith Hill also made a big impression on fans with performances of hits like "Breathe" and "Piece of My Heart," and also treated fans to a couple of new songs from her upcoming Warner Brothers album.

It wasn't all music on Saturday, as the stars showed other talents that morning at the 22nd annual City of Hope Softball Challenge, which featured Carrie Underwood, Vince Gill, and Scotty McCreery, among others.

Spotted in the crowd were manager/attorney Ansel Davis, Tony Conway (CEO, Conway Entertainment Group), longtime radio personality Ed Salamon, CMA publicist Jessie Schmidt, and Big Machine/Dashboard Media publicist Natalie Kilgore.

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The CMA Fest traditionally brings out celebrities from all different worlds. For instance, this year featured appearances by CNN Headline News anchor Robin Meade -- there to promote her current Brand New Day album, as well as professional wrestling legend Jerry "The King" Lawler. One of the most-buzzed about happenings during the weekend was a special event at the Country Music Hall of Fame this past Saturday hosted by TNT. The event was to give festival-goers a sneak peek at the network's re-launch of the classic prime-time series "Dallas."

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Series stars Linda Gray ("Sue Ellen") and Josh Henderson ("John Ross") answered questions from the audience in a Q&A moderated by WSMV entertainment reporter Jimmy Carter. Fans of country music will notice some of their favorite songs sprinkled into the soundtrack of the show. Henderson says it's a relationship that fits together.

"I think that 'Dallas' has such a widespread audience that it covers everything," he told Billboard. "But, obviously Country Music is such a big deal in Texas, and there's a lot of it at the Ewing Barbecues, and 'Dallas' is a country show with the ranch and the horses. I think it goes hand in hand. We feel great to be here."

Gray, who was with the series during the first twelve seasons, defiitely was entranced by the power of music over their weekend in Nashville. "We went to see Carrie Underwood and Blake Shelton at LP Field last night, and to be in that crowd and people pour all that love onto that stage was amazing. It touches your heart and soul," she says, adding that "I rememember in 1978 learning how to line dancing for the role, and now we have Adele singing the last song in the show. It's very special."

"Dallas" premieres Wednesday night on TNT at 9pm EST / 8pm CST.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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