Luke Bryan wins top ACM Award, but female acts own the night

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This combination photo shows Mickey Guyton, from left, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris and Carrie Underwood performing at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Nashville, Tenn. The awards show aired on April 18 with both live and prerecorded segments. Underwood brought the Academy of Country Music Awards to church. Morris won two honors, including song of the year, Lambert performed three times and held onto her record as the most decorated winner in ACM history and Guyton, the first Black woman to host the awards show, gave a powerful, top-notch vocal performance. (AP Photo)

NEW YORK – Carrie Underwood brought the Academy of Country Music Awards to church. Maren Morris won the most awards of the night, including song of the year. Miranda Lambert performed three times and held on to her record as the most decorated winner in ACM history. And Mickey Guyton, the first Black woman to host the awards show, gave a powerful, top-notch vocal performance.

Though female country stars didn’t compete for the night’s top prize – Luke Bryan was named entertainer of the year – they owned Sunday’s ACM Awards.

Underwood’s performance stood out the most. She was joined by gospel legend CeCe Winans and the dynamic duo blended their voices like angels onstage. Underwood performed songs from her recent gospel hymns album “My Savior,” kicking off the set with “Amazing Grace” and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Then Winans joined in, matching her strong vocal performance.

Lambert performed three times, first alongside rock-pop singer Elle King for a fun, energetic performance of their new duet “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home).” Lambert, who founded pet shelter nonprofit MuttNation, also performed alongside album of the year winner Chris Stapleton for “Maggie’s Song,” a tribute to Stapleton’s dog who died 2019. Her final performance was with Jack Ingram and Jon Randall.

The performances that aired Sunday were pre-taped at various locations in Nashville, Tennessee, including the Grand Ole Opry House, the Ryman Auditorium and The Bluebird Cafe. Winners, wearing masks, accepted awards in real time in front of a small audience made up of medical and health care workers.

Bryan was set to perform Sunday but backed out of the show because he recently tested positive for the coronavirus.

“I’m so sorry I could not be there,” he said from Los Angeles. “And to all my fans out there and country radio, we miss touring. We’ve missed being on the road with everybody that makes me an entertainer. My bus drivers, my band, my crew, what a challenging year. But to all the fans and everybody, we'll be back out on the road doing what we love.”

Morris spoke about the taxing year without live music when she won female artist of the year — one of her three wins.