Miranda Lambert won album of the year and Sugarland took single record and song of the year honors Sunday for their mellow hit “Stay” at the 43rd Annual Academy of Country Music Awards.
“I’m sitting right behind Kenny Chesney and I just don’t feel right taking this,” said Lambert, who won for her sophomore outing, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” “I’m a songwriter, and I poured my heart and soul into this album. Thank you for appreciating it.”
The win was big for Lambert, who beat out superstars Chesney and Brad Paisley, as well as hot new acts Taylor Swift and Rodney Atkins.
Members of Sugarland acknowledged that “Stay” wasn’t exactly the kind of song that was created for commercial or awards success.
“Thanks everybody for believing in a song that’s almost a five-minute acoustic song,” Kristian Bush said. His partner, Jennifer Nettles said, “It means so much to me that you guys really relate to this song.”
Jack Ingram won top new male vocalist. The 37-year-old Texan released his first album in 1992 and bounced around a number of record labels before his career took off.
“Sometimes it takes a long time and that’s my story,” Ingram said backstage. “I put in a lot of hard miles, and I’m thankful.”
Lady Antebellum took home top new duo or vocal group. “Does this mean we get to hang out with Kenny Chesney now?,” the trio’s Charles Kelley joked.
Swift won top new female vocalist. The 18-year-old thanked her mother for going on the road with her beginning when she was 16, leaving behind a comfortable life to sleep in rental cars and on airplanes so her teenage daughter could pursue her dream.
“Mom, thank you so much,” she said as she fought back tears. “I love you. This is for you.”
Earlier, Brad Paisley’s “Online” won video of the year. It was produced by former “Seinfeld” star Jason Alexander, who also co-starred and made an onstage appearance Sunday night, joking that he didn’t believe the stereotype of country stars and fans being religious — seeing as he hadn’t spotted any of them at synagogue.
Tracy Lawrence won vocal event of the year for “Find Out Who Your Friends Are” with Tim McGraw and Chesney.
“This is absolutely awesome,” Lawrence said. “We moved a big mountain pulling this off.”
Hosted by Reba McEntire, the awards are aired live from the MGM
Grand. Carrie Underwood opened with her rocker, “I Don’t Even Know His Last Name.” Strait, who was celebrating his 56th birthday, performed his 56th No. 1 hit: “I Saw God Today.”
It was McEntire’s 10th time as host, going back to 1986. In those days, she joked, “Underwood was a typewriter, Sugarland was doughnut shop and a Pickler was someone who made pickles.
“Back then, Roger Clemens wasn’t even interested in country music,” she cracked. Clemens recent acknowledged a long-standing relationship with country singer Mindy McCready that began when she was 15. The former baseball player maintains the relationship was not sexual.
Chesney led all nominees at the with 11, including the night’s most coveted trophy, entertainer of the year.
Other leading nominees were Rodney Atkins with six, and Brad Paisley, Big & Rich and Sugarland with four apiece.
If Chesney takes the entertainer award, it would be his fourth straight win and tie him with Garth Brooks. Alabama holds the record with five in a row.
For the first time, fans’ votes will choose the winner. All other categories are decided by ACM members.
List of winners at the 43rd Annual Academy of Country Music Awards from Las Vegas:
Entertainer of the year: Kenny Chesney
Top male vocalist: Brad Paisley
Top female vocalist: Carrie Underwood
Top vocal group: Rascal Flatts
Top vocal duo: Brooks & Dunn
Top new male vocalist: Jack Ingram
Top new female vocalist: Taylor Swift
Top new duo or vocal group: Lady Antebellum
Album of the year: “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” Miranda Lambert
Single record of the year: “Stay,” Sugarland
Song of the year: “Stay,” Sugarland (Jennifer Nettles, composer)
Video of the year: “Online,” Brad Paisley (Jason Alexander, director)
Vocal event of the year: “Find Out Who Your Friends Are,”