This Sunday brings the American Country Countdown Awards, a relatively fresh face on an awards circuit that already includes the CMAs, the ACMs, and the CMTs. The ACCAs debuted in 2014, replacing the American Country Awards; the event is related to the genre’s premier radio countdown show, American Country Countdown with Kix Brooks, and winners are determined by data — sales, chart placement, tour receipts. The ACCAs did not take place in 2015, so this year’s ceremony is only the second iteration of the event.
Here’s five things we’re looking forward to seeing on Sunday.
Hunt’s Montevallo album instantly changed the trajectory of mainstream country music, but the singer’s impact has not yet been acknowledged at the slew of awards shows in his genre. Hunt was shut out at last year’s CMAs, and he came up empty again at the ACMs earlier this month. The ACCAs are based on commercial success, and it may be harder to ignore Hunt by this metric: Montevallo was certified platinum, and it spawned three No. 1 hits on the Country Airplay chart. (Another single reached No. 2; two more songs are still on the chart.) The singer has been nominated in five categories at the ACCAs, so he’ll have multiple opportunities to take home some hardware.
Last fall, Martina McBride headlined a triple bill celebrating female singers in country music at an event for Pandora. She’ll be performing with two ladies at the ACCAs as well – Jennifer Nettles, who’s capable of gospel zeal, and Cam, who torched the country charts last year with her second single, “Burning House.” The three will come together to sing “This One’s For the Girls,” a pealing track from 2003 that became a top five hit.
The best-selling duo in the history of country music will be honored at the ACCAs with a Nash Icon Award. The last Brooks & Dunn album arrived in 2007; since then, you either spin the oldies or watch an awards show to get your fix — the pair rarely tours, though they are playing a series of dates in Las Vegas in 2016. (Unfortunately for those in the Northeast, Brooks & Dunn’s planned stop at New York City’s ill-fated country extravaganza, Farmborough, was cancelled – along with the whole festival.) Reba McEntire will be on hand to present the award — one icon recognizing another.
Toby Keith’s Merle Haggard Tribute:
Haggard’s death has already inspired countless tributes, but this should be one to watch. Revisit Keith’s 2005 collaboration with Haggard, “She Ain’t Hooked On Me No More,” and you hear kindred spirits at work. “He’s the biggest ever,” Keith recently told AP. “He never did stray off the beaten path. He stayed exactly with what he did. He never quit writing the same style of songs. He was my idol.” Keith will unite with Haggard’s band, the Strangers, to honor the legend.
Unfortunately, Matthew McConaughey has not recorded a country album (yet). But he will be on hand to introduce Toby Keith’s Merle Haggard tribute. If his 2014 Oscar win was any indication, McConaughey is enjoyably unpredictable at awards shows. At the very least, he’ll produce pearls of wisdom like, “it’s a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates.”
Editor’s note: Billboard is an affiliate company of one of the American Country Countdown‘s co-producers, Dick Clark Productions.