As pledged, the 2023 CMT Music Awards delivered surprise and one-of-a-kind musical encounters on Sunday night, April 2. First off, co-hosts Kelsea Ballerini and Kane Brown more than demonstrated that Nashville isn’t the only Music City in America, with support from the rip-roaring Austin, Texas crowd, gathered on five stages altogether for the festivities.
Distinctively, the CMT Music Awards stand alone as the only fully fan-voted awards in country music. Past honorees like Shania Twain and Jon Pardi, now a new dad, recounted the meaning of their first recognition, long before the transition to the Moody Center. Before the night was over, the surging new class of talents, Lainey Wilson, Jelly Roll, and Cody Johnson took home their own trophies.
Yes, queens of country music dotted the heady audience of heavy hitters, along with a few from other genres. Still, from the second she took the stage, Wynonna, as in the Wynonna Judd, held everyone hearing the mesmerizing power and emotion of her voice in her own private cathedral of faith and forgiveness at the CMT Music Awards, as noted by USA Today per MSN, People per MSN, and Hollywood Life relate. The daughter sang the familiar chorus of Love Can Build A Bridge one year ago with her mother, Naomi. This night, as the plaintive cry of I Want To Know What Love Is echoes through every heart, a truly divine absolution comes, even while the questions endure.
Kelsea’s heartfelt plea takes priority
Much to their credit, the CMT Music Awards opted for Kelsea Ballerini to offer her own personal statement prior to the official ceremony opening. Through her quivering voice, tears were palpable as the Subject To Change singer-songwriter detailed each child and adult victim of the Nashville shooting at the Covenant School on March 27. Furthermore, she recounted her own experience as a witness to a classmate’s death by gun violence in her school cafeteria in August of 2008. His name, Ryan McDonald, made it personal, and her emotion, years later, keeps it personal.
In closing, her demand for “real action” came from her core to her country music community, and to the one of all humankind. Every precious child and every loving adult has a name known to God, and God only knows what it will take for our children to come first.
A first-time duet for Wynonna and Ashley McBryde
Consistently, her faithful fans and critics alike praise the soulful, spiritual, and downright gospel nature of Wynonna Judd’s voice. It’s as pure country as it is R&B, and it embodies the Spirit through and through. Country Music Alley profiled the artist last October, just as she was extending dates for The Judds: The Final Tour.
At that juncture, Wynonna related how every performance was part of working through the pain of her mother’s loss by suicide. Clearly, Wynonna stood as she opened I Want To Know What Love Is looking into familiar faces of her audience for support, and she found it.
Although the Foreigner classic featured a gospel choir, another friend, and familiar Angel, appeared at Wynonna’s side to sing the first chorus. The harmonies and undertones between Ashley McBryde and Wynonna were something heavenly, rarely seen from the CMT Music Awards stage, despite its reputation for unique collaborations.
With a gentle point from Ashley, Wynonna wails wonderfully with a characteristic “Yeahhhhh’s.” While McBryde drives the second verse, Wynonna finds her groove, and the audience receives revival more than they ever expected from the CMT Music Awards.
“Mama, you need to be here tonight,” Wynonna calls, gazing heavenward. “I miss you and I love you, and I don’t understand,” she continues her prayerful admission.
Before the performance, Wynonna confessed that the only way she can get through the performance is that “I just show up.” Certainly, she didn’t show up and become a vessel of healing for so many with the same questions. Assuredly, her extended country music family feels blessed to have shown up, too.
More fun for Wynonna tops off the night
The CMT Music Awards are famous for memorable finales. Slash, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, and virtually every breathing being ever part of the Lynyrd Skynyrd southern rock legacy gathered on stage for a knockout medley of Simple Man and Sweet Home Alabama.
As it happens, the tribute to founding member Gary Rossington, who passed away March 5, only included the superstar talents of LeAnn Rimes and Wynonna as backup singers, but let’s just say the ladies took the total number of camera shots, stealing the show on top of Wynonna’s closing flourish on Simple Man.
The Human Country cowboy, Cody Johnson, kept his hat on but rocked harder than anyone on the CMT Music Awards stage. He not only assumed frontman duties but showed off every superb musician on stage, sharing the spotlight. Truly, from the simple to the sublime, a grand time was celebrated by all.
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