Wednesday’s Academy Of Country Music Awards show on NBC-TV had its momentsbut that’s not saying a lot when you consider it ran for three hours. Obviously, an awards show has to spend a fair amount of time actually giving out awards. The entire show can’t be devoted to live performances and interesting video clips. But the Academy of Country Music’s (ACM) award shows have become increasingly cumbersome, primarily because they are crowded with people who have absolutely no entertainment function. This is a direct result of the record labels vying to get as many of their artists on stage as possible. The labels hope that the network exposure will sell albumsand it probably will for the acts who are allowed complete performances. One has to wonder, however, what values accrues to artists who speak one line on camera as part of a three-person award presentation team.
Kix Brooks, Ronnie Dunn and Faith Hill hosted this year’s ceremonies. Although they are all splendid musical performers, they are not as improvisationally agile as an effective master of ceremonies needs to be. It would have taken meticulous writing and exquisite timing to prevent the co-hosts from stepping on each other’s lines, and neither of these elements was in evidence throughout the evening. There’s a great pacing advantage in using a single, quick-witted host, as the Country Music Association has discovered in Vince Gill.
Still, there were some bright spots. Shania Twain and Bryan White were models of graciousness in accepting their awards as Top New Female and Top New Male vocalists. Twain took the time to hug her competitors for the honor before she went on stage, and White paused to shake hands with his. Clint Black reminded us again of just how strong a singer and writer he is with his stunning acoustic version of “A Bad Goodbye.”
Alan Jackson’s tribute to his parents might have been maudlin in the hands of a lesser talent, but he made it majestic. Faith Hill revisited her hit of some months back, “It Matters To Me,” and demonstrated why that powerfully understated song is already well on its way to becoming a country classic. Buoyed by the audience’s enthusiasm, Patty Loveless accepted the award for Top Female Vocalist with the ecstatic proclamation, “It feels good to be a woman of the ’90s in country music.” Reba McEntire came close to stealing the show with, of all things, her new Fritos commercial. Delightfully goofy and far-fetched, the spot managed to showcase all the features that make McEntire country music’s most exciting stage act.
With such a wealth of talent available, the Academy would be doing everyone a favor if it used it more judiciously.
♦ Epic Records’ Joe Diffie is headlining the Crown Royal Country Music Series ’96 Spring Tour. The event started April 27 in Kansas City, Mo., and will take in 18 other cities in its first leg. Supporting acts include Neal McCoy, Rhett Akins, Bill Engvall, Toby Keith and Chely Wright.
♦ Imprint (formerly Veritas) Records will make its album debut June 4 with the release of Gretchen Peters’ The Secret Of Life. Peters’ first single, “When You Are Old,” has already charted.
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