CMA Awards 2017: 51st annual show will showcase fun duets, many Georgia nominees

A couple of things can always be counted on at the Country Music Association Awards — quirky musical pairings and the fact that a sizable portion of the nominees will have Georgia roots.

In recent years, the spotlight event for country music has successfully adopted the mission of the Grammy Awards to showcase live performances, preferably with unusual pairings.

This year, the CMAs, which will air live from Nashville at 8 p.m. Wednesday on ABC, didn’t conjure anything as interesting as Little Big Town and Ariana Grande (2014) or Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton (2015).

Yes, there is a One Directioner — Niall Horan — performing with Maren Morris.

Atlanta's Zac Brown Band will compete for vocal group of the year. Photo: Robb Cohen Photography & Video /

But the others are comfortably familiar: Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, who just wrapped a joint tour and will release their first album together Nov. 17; Pink and Keith Urban (she and Kenny Chesney are up for musical event of the year with “Setting the World on Fire”); Reba McEntire and Kelsea Ballerini; and an opening performance featuring Eric Church, Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker, Urban and others.


“The 51st CMA Awards”

8 p.m. Wednesday on ABC.

While nothing official has been announced to honor the victims of the Las Vegas mass shooting last month (although the CMAs briefly tried to prevent the media from asking artists about the tragedy), it’s possible this opening gathering will pay tribute.

A few more things to look for during Wednesday’s broadcast:

Representing the Peach State: This year’s crop of Georgia nominees includes Leesburg’s Luke Bryan (entertainer of the year); Rossville’s Lauren Alaina (new artist of the year — even though her breakthrough came on the 2011 season of “American Idol”); Cedartown’s Sam Hunt (single and song of the year for “Body Like a Back Road”); Florida Georgia Line (vocal duo of the year — the band’s Tyler Hubbard hails from Monroe); Little Big Town (single of the year and music video of the year with the Taylor Swift-penned “Better Man,” album of the year for “The Breaker” and vocal group of the year; the group’s Karen Fairchild is a graduate of Lassiter High School in Marietta, and Kimberly Schlapman is a native of Cornelia); Lady Antebellum (album of the year for “Heart Break” and vocal group of the year — the band’s Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley hail from Augusta); Valdosta’s Thomas Rhett (male vocalist of the year, musical event and music video for “Craving You” with Morris); Atlanta’s Zac Brown Band (vocal group of the year).

Other performances: Last year’s Entertainer of the Year, Garth Brooks , will take the main stage. Also on the live docket are Bryan, Rhett, Newnan hero Alan Jackson, Miranda Lambert, Brothers Osborne, Little Big Town, Old Dominion, Jon Pardi, Stapleton, and Carrie Underwood.

Speaking of Underwood: She and Brad Paisley will co-host the ceremony for the 10th consecutive year, so expect their usual combination of gentle topical humor and self-aware hokey knee-slappers.

For live coverage of the red carpet and backstage at the CMA Awards, follow The Music Scene blog on and on Twitter.

About the Author

Melissa Ruggieri
Melissa Ruggieri
Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers music and entertainment news for Atlanta Music Scene blog on, and she remembers...