ABC Music/Warner signings Lee Kernaghan and Beccy Cole were the big winners at the 35th Country Music Awards in Australia's "country capital" of Tamworth, in New South Wales.

Organized by the Country Music Assn. of Australia (CMAA), the event was held Jan. 27 at the Tamworth Regional Entertainment Centre.

Kernaghan took four Golden Guitars, as the awards are called. He won for male artist, and best album and top seller "The New Bush", which has sold 70,000 units (platinum) since its April 2006 release. His "Close As A Whisper (The Gift)" won the heritage song category.

Kernaghan's tally of Golden Guitars his reached 24, beaten only by the 37 won by Slim Dusty who died in 2003.

In a post-awards ceremony, ABC Music managing director Mark Scott presented Kernaghan with a plaque to recognize 1 million album sales in Australia. He has recorded seven albums since 1992.

Cole's three Golden Guitars on the night brought her overall tally to seven. She won for female artist of the year, while her song "Poster Girl (Wrong Side Of The World)" claimed the Australasian Performing Right Assn. song of the year, and best single. The song, published by ABC Music Publishing, was written in response to an irate fan who wrote to say that Cole's performing for Australian troops in Iraq in 2006 was tantamount to supporting for the war.

The CMAA also awarded to EMI Music Australia-signed, Nashville-based Keith Urban for outstanding achievement in country music.

Other winners included siblings The McClymonts (Universal) for new talent and group and Slim Dusty's daughter Anne Kirkpatrick with the bush ballad trophy for "Peppimenarti Cradle" (Compass Brothers).

Guitarist Tommy Emmanuel's "Gameshow Rag/Cannonball Rag" (ABC) won the instrumental category, Allan Caswell and Drew McAlister's "A Little Bit of Country in Us All" (Origin) took vocal collaboration and Felicity Urquhart's "Big Black Cloud" (Felicity's Entertainment) was awarded the best video clip.

The awards were the climax of the 10-day Tamworth Country Music Festival, which drew 90,000 fans and injected A$40 million ($30.8 million) into the economy, according to Tourism Tamworth.

Additionally, the awards will reach a wider audience when broadcast nationally through regional areas on the Southern Cross Network this Saturday (Feb. 3), and to the five major cities the next day on the free to air Network Ten. Pay TV station Country Music Channel has scheduled a two-hour special on Feb. 9.

Many record labels market their country titles on TV, radio and point of sale at the festival.

Tim Harris, Sydney-based marketing manager at ABC Music, points out that "while the festival is important, there is a spike in sales in January as a result of a wider interest (from mainstream media) in country music through the month."

Current albums by Urban, Kernaghan, Cole and the McClymonts rose in this week's official Australian Recording Industry Assn. Top 100, while their catalog works re-entered the ARIA country chart. Topping this week's country chart, published Sunday night, was "The Winners of 2007" (EMI Music Australia), a compilation of awards finalists.