The Oklahoman (TNS)

NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Although the coronavirus pandemic played last-minute havoc on the performance lineup, the Country Music Association handed out the 54th Annual CMA Awards Wednesday night on ABC.

Oklahoma native Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker co-hosted the awards show from Music City Center in downtown Nashville, Tennessee.

Eric Church, performing “Hell of a View,” was awarded the night’s top honor of CMA Entertainer of the Year, a first for the hit maker.

“You know what the win is? The win is we all were here tonight together as Country Music, in-person, live, not on Zoom. I believe this. It’s going to be music that brings us out of this. That is the one thing that is going to save the entire world,” Church said in accepting the award.

Maren Morris, performing “The Bones,” was the night’s biggest winner, taking home three awards for CMA Single, Song and Female Vocalist of the Year. She paid tribute to Black women in country music in accepting her Female Vocalist trophy:

“Linda Martell. Yola. Mickey Guyton. Rissi Palmer. Brittney Spencer. Rhiannon Giddens. There are so many amazing Black women who pioneered and continue to pioneer this genre... You’ve made this genre so, so beautiful. I hope you know that we see you,” Morris said.

Luke Combs, who performed “Cold As You,” took home two awards for CMA Album and Male Vocalist of the Year. Old Dominion won CMA Vocal Group of the Year, Dan + Shay accepted trophies for CMA Vocal Duo of the Year, and Morgan Wallen, performing “More Than My Hometown,” received CMA New Artist of the Year.

Winners announced prior to the live broadcast included Miranda Lambert for CMA Music Video of the Year for the clip to her hit “Bluebird,” the uplifting song she co-wrote with Natalie Hemby and Oklahoma native Luke Dick. Dick joined Lambert on the show for a performance of her new single “Settling Down”:

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CMA Awards audience featured several country music superstars seated at tables rather than in the usual shoulder-to-shoulder awards show crowd configuration.

Still, the awards show was plagued with last-minute cancellations due to the pandemic. According to The Tennessean, nominated country group Rascal Flatts, which includes guitarist Joe Don Rooney of Picher, exited the CMA Awards at the 11th hour after an unidentified member of the band tested positive. Trio Lady A and CMA Musician of the Year Jenee Fleenor also bowed out of the show at the last minute due to the pandemic, although Lady A’s Charles Kelley still turned out to perform with Carly Pearce.

Positive COVID-19 tests forced Brice (Pearce’s original duet partner) and Florida Georgia Line to cancel performances in the days leading up to the show.

Jason Aldean, Brothers Osborne, Dierks Bentley and Ashley McBryde kicked off the night with a special collaboration honoring the late Charlie Daniels. Having felt the loss of many legends this year, the show also honored country greats KennyRogers and Oklahoma native Joe Diffie with tributes from Little Big Town and Jon Pardi, respectively.

Hosts Reba and Rucker took the stage for a breathtaking collaboration of Mac Davis’ “In the Ghetto,” a tribute to the country legend and three-time CMA Awards host.

You could also hear a pin drop when McBryde took the stage to perform “One Night Standards,” while Rucker brought the feel-good vibes with his chart-topping “Beers & Sunshine.”

Honoring Country Music Hall of Fame trailblazer and 1975 CMA Awards co-host Charley Pride with the CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award, Jimmie Allen took the stage for an emotional introduction followed by a surprise performance of “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” with Pride.

Old Dominion took viewers back to 1980, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the classic film “Urban Cowboy,” performing Johnny Lee’s “Looking For Love.”

The 54th Annual CMA Awards also featured the world television premiere of Dan + Shay and JustinBieber’s No. 1 single “10,000 Hours,” captured remotely at Los Angeles’ famed Hollywood Bowl. Also, performing off-site, Keith Urban treated viewers to an intimate performance of “God Whispered Your Name” from his native homeland, Australia, dedicating his performance to frontline workers.

Ingrid Andress made her CMA Awards performance debut with a spectacular and tearful rendition of her top hit “ More Hearts Than Mine.”

Thomas Rhett, featuring McEntire and Chris Tomlin, filled the room with inspiration, while Chris Stapleton performed a stripped-back version of his latest single “Starting Over” with Morgane Stapleton. Pearce and Kelley performed a soulful rendition of “I Hope You’re Happy Now.”

Rounding out the evening, Kelsea Ballerini, Gabby Barrett featuring Charlie Puth and Brothers Osborne all wowed the audience with one-of-a-kind performances.