Nashville played host to a different kind of awards show Wednesday night (August 21), as the 13th annual ACM Honors came to town. A complement to the massive televised spectacle that is the yearly Academy of Country Music Awards, this show was dedicated to winners and honorees that don’t make the big show — and it’s always a special night.
Held once again at the historic Ryman Auditorium, this year’s show did include plenty of trophies being handed out. But as always, the focus was on a star-studded lineup of live performers who offered up once-in-a-lifetime covers of the honorees’ work, adding up to an awards show that is unlike any other.
As for those honorees, here we go: Brooks & Dunn and Martina McBride were presented with the ACM Cliffie Stone Icon Award for “advancing the popularity of the country genre.” Miranda Lambert was handed the ACM Gene Weed Milestone Award for her “unprecedented or outstanding” achievements in the previous year. Kacey Musgraves got the ACM Jim Reeves International Award for spreading awareness of country music overseas. Rodney Crowell, Kye Fleming and Billy Joe Shaver earned the ACM Poet’s Award for their iconic work as songwriters, A Star Is Born was highlighted with Tex Ritter Film Award and industry pro Gayle Holcomb was given the ACM Gary Haber Lifting Lives Award for her support of the Academy’s charitable efforts.
But those awards were handed out in intriguing style, with big name artists showcasing the honorees in song.
Chris Young kicked the evening off with Crowell’s “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight,” while Caylee Hammack and Lauren Alaina performed a medley of “Broken Wing” and “Independence Day” in tribute to McBride. Chris Janson put his spin on Shaver’s “Honky Tonk Heroes” and “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal,” and Tenille Townes and Maddie & Tae delivered a medley of “Sleeping Single in a Double Bed” and “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool” to tribute Fleming.
Trisha Yearwood stunned the crowd with rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)” in honor of Holcomb, and Ashley McBryde teamed up with Chris Harris to highlight Brooks & Dunn with their classic, “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone.”
Later on, Honky-tonk trio Midland broke the pattern by performing their own songs — “Burn Out” and “Make a Little” — as a tip of the hat to this year’s ACM Songwriter of the Year, Shane McAnally, but it was the night’s final performance that brought down the proverbial “house.”
A pair of true superstars came together for a spine tingling country duet, as reigning ACM Entertainer of the Year Keith Urban and Lambert — who happens to be the most-awarded artist in ACM history — capped the night with a performance of “The House That Built Me.” It was a fitting way to say goodnight in the hallowed venue, known as the “Mother Church” to country fans around the world, and a fitting tribute to a group of honorees who’ve dedicated their lives to music.