Luke Bryan was he big winner at Sunday night’s 2016 American Country Countdown Awards show, winning trophies for Male Artist of the Year and overall Artist of the Year. The Capitol Nashville recording artist repeated his win from 2014’s telecast, and unseated Jason Aldean in the overall category. (The ACCAs were not presented in 2015.) The night’s other multiple winner was Sam Hunt, who won Breakthrough Male Artist of the Year, as well as Top Digital Album for his million-selling Montevallo disc.
Carrie Underwood took home honors in the Female Vocalist category, snatching the trophy from Miranda Lambert – who won in 2014. Could Kelsea Ballerini be waiting in the wings? The Black River recording artist won the prize for Breakthrough Female Artist of the Year, after a twelve-month period where her first two singles (“Love Me Like You Mean It” and “Dibs”) topped the charts.
Other winners during the evening included Thomas Rhett for Song of the Year for his “Die A Happy Man” single, Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” for Digital Song of the Year, Chris Stapleton for Album of the Year (Traveller), Old Dominion for Breakthrough Group / Duo of the Year, and Florida Georgia Line in the Group / Duo of the Year field.
Two veteran performers also picked up hardware. Garth Brooks won the prize for Touring Artist of the Year, while Reba McEntire presented longtime friends Brooks & Dunn with the Nash Icon Award for their long and illustrious career.
The evening was also filled with some strong performances. Carrie Underwood kept the crowd stirred with “Church Bells,” while Florida Georgia Line had one of the highlights of the night with the television debut of “H.O.L.Y.” and Ballerini dazzled with a fun version of “Dibs.” Chris Janson electrified the crowd with his “Buy Me A Boat,” and Rhett provided one of the more soulful moments with his performance of the award-winning “Die A Happy Man.” Perhaps the evening’s musical high point came at the end, however.
Actor Matthew McConaughey introduced Toby Keith, who took to the stage with Merle Haggard’s longtime band, The Strangers. With the late singer’s son, Ben, playing behind him, Keith delivered a medley of Haggard hits that included “Mama Tried,” “Okie From Muskogee,” and “Today I Started Loving You Again.” The singer passed away from complications from pneumonia last month on his 79th birthday (April 6).
The American Country Countdown Awards finalists and winners for all categories are based on radio airplay charts, sales and streaming data from April 1, 2015 to March 28, 2016 provided by BuzzAngle Music. Touring data is from Pollstar’s “The Concert Hotwire.” The NASH Icon Award is chosen by The American Country Countdown.