LAS VEGAS – Brooks & Dunn, the most honored artists in the history of the Academy of Country Music’s awards show, picked up a record 20th and 21st trophies Tuesday night as country music’s elite gathered to perform and compete for honors.
Newcomer Carrie Underwood, last year’s “American Idol” winner, was also a double winner, taking top new female vocalist and single of the year awards. The latter was for “Jesus Take the Wheel,” a song she performed on the show.
“I wouldn’t be here if God hadn’t opened all the doors for me,” she told the audience.
Kenny Chesney captured the entertainer of the year award.
Brooks & Dunn claimed the first award handed out Tuesday, song of the year for “Believe,” a gospel-tinged tune written by Craig Wiseman, co-writer of the 2005 song of the year, “Live Like You Were Dying.”
Brad Paisley, who had a leading six nominations going into the show, got the award he said he wanted, album of the year for “Time Well Wasted.” He also shared vocal event of the year honors with Dolly Parton for “When I Get Where I’m Going.”
The three-hour show was as much about music as awards, however, and Trace Adkins provided one of the evening’s musical highlights. Dressed all in black – from his cowboy hat to his leather suit – Adkins added a Las Vegas touch to the program as he performed his song “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” while surrounded by shimmying showgirls.
There was also a medley of songs honoring the late Buck Owens. The creator of country music’s Bakersfield Sound died in March.
Reba McEntire, hosting the show for the eighth time, also took a shot at country music’s newest outlaws, the Dixie Chicks.
“I don’t know why I was so nervous about hosting this show this year,” she said. “If the Dixie Chicks can sing with their foot in their mouths, surely I can host this sucker.”
The Chicks, criticized in country circles when Natalie Maines told an audience in 2003, “Just so you know, we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas,” are striking back at their critics in their new single, “Not Ready to Make Nice.”