Carolyn Kruse

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NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - NOVEMBER 11: (FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Eric Church accepts an award onstage during the The 54th Annual CMA Awards at Nashville’s Music City Center on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for CMA)

The CMA Awards have closed the curtain on another year. Another group of winners have taken home their trophies, and more have gone home without.

Yes, this year was different. No big audience filled with A-listers in front and fans in the back. There were plenty of big stars, but they were seated at tables, socially distanced. They were the audience. Imagine the pressure of performing with mostly just your peers in the room. I’m guessing this had something to do with Ingrid Andress breaking down in tears at the end of her performance.

This morning, in a cloud of CMA Award watching haze,  I am summoning up my recall abilities to share with you some of my favorite things about the night.

1. Eric Church scoring his first Entertainer of the Year Award

Hands down, my favorite moment of the night. The most beautiful surprise of the night! Honestly, up until that moment, most of the wins were not surprising. Not, that he doesn’t deserve it, he most definitely does! But I believe most of us thought it would be the women’s night to win the top prize. But this is 2020, expect the unexpected. As Eric Church relayed in his acceptance speech, “If there was ever a year not to win this award…” Honestly, the timing was perfect for all of us to see Eric win. The “Outsider,” “Mr. Misunderstood,” had us all believing anything is possible. Church stated the not so obvious, so eloquently when he said, “This award this year, at least for me, has been about the loss of this year…The win is we were all here tonight together, as country music. I really believe this. It’s gonna be music that brings us out of this. That’s the one thing that brings us out of this.” He went on to say, “Politicians are about division. Music is about unity.” Those words are ringing in my head this morning, and apparently many of yours, as well, as I have heard from quite a few of you, expressing the same sentiment.

2. Ingrid Andress delivering the most emotional performance of the night

Was it the subject of the song?  Was it being caught up in the moment? Was it the pressure of being the “new girl” performing in front of her peers? It could very well be all of the above. Whatever it was, it was a stunning performance by Berklee College of Music grad, Ingrid Andress. The performance was elevated by humanity. Ingrid could not contain her emotions toward the very end of her song, “More Hearts Than Mine.” It brought us all to tears, for no apparent reason, except that we felt what she felt. Whatever that was. It was just so real

Ingrid Andress performs "More Hearts Than Mine" at CMA Awards 2020

She's holding her tears while still stunning kicking up the song..

3. The Charlie Daniels Opening Tribute

Anytime Brothers Osborne get on stage, it’s going to be electric. Dierks Bentley, Brothers Osborn, Ashley McBryde and Jason Aldean made Charlie proud last night, with a dynamic tribute as the show opener. Side note: Award winner Jenee Fleenor had to pull out of performing in the opener (“Devil Went Down To Georgia”) because she has COVID-19. Dierk’s Bentley’s fiddle played stepped up to the plate and literally shred! Props to Dan Hochalter, who has to buy a new fiddle after his bow-shredded performance. It was worth it Dan.


4. Jon Pardi honoring the late Joe Diffie

Ok, I’m obviously a sucker for a tribute. But these old songs are like a favorite pilly, worn-out fuzzy blanket. They bring us comfort at a time when we need it most. Jon Pardi is just what country music needs right now, a neo-traditionalist. He respects the history of the genre, and approaches songs with plenty of admiration, but also with massive amounts of fun. He totally nailed Joe Diffie’s “Pick Up Man” and had us all singing and dancing (including his crowd of peers).

5. The Fashion

For we girls, it’s all about the fashion, the hair the dazzle of the dress! That said, my favorite outfit of the night was Kelsea Ballerini in her bell-bottom black jumpsuit with sailor collar! Totally fresh and fun! She kicked butt with her performance and her style on stage and on the red carpet! Winner!


6. Everything else

Maren Morris shouting out black women in country was pure class. “I hope you know we see you,” gave me chills and was completely heartfelt, and important.

Keith Urban and his guitar… and that’s all you need

Luke Combs, just in general… He’s like your best friend from college at a keg party. But throw his wife into the mix and you have to love him even more. Nicole was that girl, last night. She was having more fun watching than anyone, except perhaps Ashley McBryde. They were both up dancing for a good portion of the evening, in their socially distanced assigned seats/tables. Btw, Ashley is always the coolest chick in the room.

The women’s night to shine. Despite the fact that Carrie or Miranda didn’t take home EOTY award, it was definitely the girls’ night to shine. Maren took home single and song of the year! And Miranda, Ingrid, Ashley, Kelsea, Carly, Reba and Gabby Barrette all showed what girls are made of… Plenty of spice and strength!

Carolyn Kruse Country 102.5 midday personality 9am-2pm Boston