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Strait by a country mile Music: Texan grabs big-winner tag from Vince Gill with Male Vocalist, Single and Album of the Year awards.

In yesterday's coverage of the CMA awards, an incorrect title was listed for a song performed by George Strait. The CMA's Male Vocalist of the Year sang "Blue Clear Sky."

The Sun regrets the error.

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For the last couple of years, it seemed like the biggest reason Vince Gill was host of the annual CMA Awards show was to save time. After all, since he won most of the awards, why not have him up there on stage for most of the show?

Last night, though, Gill had to relinquish much of the limelight to George Strait, as the laconic Texan stole Male Vocalist of the Year, Single of the Year and Album of the Year from Gill. That made him the evening's biggest -- and most modest -- winner.

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But the biggest surprise of all was seeing Brooks and Dunn win Entertainer of the Year. As Kix Brooks said, "I have to tell you, George Strait wore us out tonight." Maybe so, but the big award wasn't the only one the two took home, as they also snagged Vocal Duo of the Year.

Joining them in the winner's circle were Patty Loveless, who was named Female Vocalist of the Year; The Mavericks, who won Vocal Group of the Year; Junior Brown took Music Video honors; and Mark O'Connor was again dubbed Musician of the Year.

In what had to have been the upset of the year, Bryan White snatched the Horizon Award away from 14-year old phenomenon LeAnn Rimes. But given the way Rimes was cheered by the crowd during her two performances, it seems likely that she'll have plenty of chances to win in the future.

Gill, of course, didn't go home empty-handed. He won the Song of the Year award for "Go Rest High on That Mountain" and shared the Vocal Event of the Year trophy with Dolly Parton for a rendition of "I Will Always Love You." (Teased Parton as she accepted, "How many things can this song win? Ain't you sick of this song? Well, thank you, and God bless you, anyway.")

As much as award-giving may be the CMA's excuse for throwing this shindig year after year, it's pretty obvious that the real reason people watch the broadcast is because it offers more big-name country acts than even the Nashville video channels. Needless to say, last night's broadcast offered an extraordinarily wide range of musical talent.

This wasn't just meant to draw viewers. Although some singers sang the songs that got them nominated, many more used the air time to publicize their latest releases. As Dolly Parton aptly put it (after plugging her new album, "Treasures"), "You know I had to do a commercial "

Things got off to a strong start as Rimes brought the crowd to its feet with a typically precocious performance of her hit single, "Blue."

Interestingly, watching Rimes show off that remarkable voice was as close as the broadcast got to special effects.

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Unlike the last couple of years, which found a number of Nashville stars going Vegas, this year's show tended toward low-key, not terribly showy presentations.

That was most notably the case with Reba McEntire. Two years ago, she turned up wearing a dress that looked like it relied more on glue than fabric; last year, she hit the stage with her own personal chorus line. But last night, she turned up wearing a plain green pantsuit and fronting a standard-issue country combo. Not an especially splashy presentation, but then again, she didn't need a show -- she had a good song, and sang it beautifully.

Of course, McEntire's stripped-down performance would have had even more effect had she not followed Strait. He may not be much of a public speaker -- upon winning Male Vocalist of the Year, he sputtered, "I really don't know what to say," and then went on to prove it -- but he certainly knows how to put a song across, and his rendition of "Clear Blue Sky" made his victory seem a foregone conclusion.

Perhaps the evening's most surprising star turn came from Wynonna, who did a duet with the last singer anybody would expect to find in Nashville, Michael Bolton. Yet as unlikely as the pairing was, "This Is the Time" found the perfect middle ground for their white soul tendencies. With any luck, it may prove to be the biggest country crossover hit in years.

1996 CMA Awards

Entertainer of the year: Brooks & Dunn

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Female vocalist: Patty Loveless

Male vocalist: George Strait

Vocal duo: Brooks & Dunn

Vocal group: The Mavericks

Horizon award: Bryan White

Song: "Go Rest High on That Mountain," Vince Gill

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Musician: Mark O'Connor

Album: "Blue Clear Sky," George Strait

Single: "Check Yes or No," George Strait

Video: "My Wife Thinks You're Dead," Junior Brown

Vocal event: Dolly Parton with Vince Gill, "I Will Always Love You"

CMA updates

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To hear updates and excerpts from the CMA awards, call Sundial at (410) 783-1800 and enter the code 6114.

Pub Date: 10/03/96

For the record

CORRECTION


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