A Few Notes on ‘ACM Presents: Superstar Duets’

  • With his flat-brimmed cap, camo leggings, and visible/audible unease, Sam Hunt destroyed “Fast As You.” Not in a good way. At all.
  • Dwight’s still got it.
  • Someone should let Alan Jackson do fast songs other than “Chattahoochee” sometime. Cole Swindell is passable but unnecessary. He really likes that cap.
  • “Swingin'” or any other way, John Anderson still sounds great.
  • I wouldn’t mind if Miranda and Patty Loveless recorded a duets album. Their two performances (“Blame It On Your Heart” and “Dear Diamond”) were the strongest of the night.
  • Another highlight: Jake Owen predictably nailing “What We Ain’t Got.”
  • Differences in lighting/makeup made all the more senior artists look older in the backstage chat segments than they looked out front.
  • Performing “Stranger in My House” with Ronnie Milsap, Luke Bryan evidently sat behind a second piano solely for the sake of visual symmetry. The song was a good match for him – fortunate given that Milsap didn’t sound quite as robust as expected – but all his pointing and gesticulating to punctuate words made the whole ‘Luke Bryan at piano’ element seem farcical and needlessly distracting.
  • Deana Carter’s voice has changed a good bit since “Strawberry Wine.” It has been nearly 20 years, so I guess that’s to be expected. She and Kimberly Perry don’t harmonize so well, but this is one of those songs where the audience tends to take over the choruses anyway.
  • I don’t know if there’s a more puzzling duo + song pairing than Hunter Hayes and Brett Eldredge uniting for a Marty Robbins medley. It made me nostalgic for Keith Urban’s much better Marty Robbins medley on one of the other ACM specials.
  • The Dierks Bentley/Kip Moore/Ashley Monroe salute to Waylon made no intuitive sense, but was held together by Dierks. Who came up with these artist and song combos?
  • Nice to see Kenny Chesney salute George Jones, but Chesney does not have the range for “One Woman Man.” Would have preferred “Tennessee Whiskey” or “I Always Get Lucky With You” or a medley or…
  • Joe Nichols trying to sing “Nothin’ But the Taillights” in Clint Black’s key was generous but uncomfortable. Part way through, I thought “Man, I haven’t seen Clint Black on one of these shows in a long time.” That was followed, in short order, by “Actually, I can’t remember the last time I saw Joe Nichols on one of them, either…” Clint Black is still in strong voice.
  • Brandy Clark seems to handle any singing task with aplomb, but I can’t help but feel it a waste to take one of the most distinctive, original songwriters of our time and put her on the national stage to do hoary old “Islands in the Stream” with Lady Antebellum.
  • “But that’s the idea,” I hear you saying. “It’s people collaborating on older songs.” Not necessarily so. How did Reba sneak a solo performance of “Going Out Like That” in there? And didn’t she just do that same song (in just that same way) on the ACM Awards proper last month? She must have major pull with the ACM people.
  • Brantley Gilbert, holding down another coveted solo performance slot, was largely indecipherable. He seems to have made the cut by virtue of the ACM’s standing Every Show Must Have a Military Moment ordinance – a nice idea that often comes off hokey in execution.
  • For a guy who enjoyed a huge run of hits, Randy Owen has a sizable chip on his shoulder. But still sounded much better than Mike Eli singing “The Closer You Get.”
  • Paired for “Jackson” a la Johnny & June, Sara Evans was stellar but Darius Rucker was just okay. Love when Evans sings real country-sounding stuff.
  • Darius came back stronger to close the show with “Family Tradition,” which he has been including in live shows for years. All the practice showed.
  • All things considered, the special was worth watching to see some oft-passed-over folks like John Anderson, Patty Loveless, Clint Black, etc., get broadcast time. It’d be nice if the ACM foldedĀ more of its legacy artists and less of Nick Jonas into its regular awards shows. And not just in big, Guinness Records-chasing anniversary years, but as a simple matter of course.

Did you watch the show? What’d you think?

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  1. Andrew says

    I really wish Clint Black would start recording again. He’s done a couple of my all-time favorite albums. Drinkin’ Songs And Other Logic was so good but in the 10 years since it came out he’s mostly disappeared aside from touring.

  2. A.B. says

    Agreed with the Patty Loveless and Miranda Lambert one.

    I see that Marty Stuart and Eric Church along with FGL and David Lee Murphy weren’t on. If I remember correctly, those were supposed to be the last to tape the second night. Did the storms that were happening cut them out? I’m fine with not seeing FGL, but I would have loved to have seen Marty and Eric duet.

    • says

      Huh, that’s interesting. Found a note on David Lee Murphy’s site saying that FGL’s gear got damaged in the storm. Can’t find anything on what happened with Marty and Eric.

      • Rick says

        You’re right C.M. Wilcox. We were there and the rain came with little warning. When the rain hit on the second night the crew scrambled to cover everything but it appeared that ALL of Eric Church’s and FGL’s equipment (which was staged outside, behind the stage) was not covered in time and was left to the elements. We asked about it and were told that their equipment was a total loss. What a total bummer…

          • Rick says

            Yeah, here’s a pic I took of the stage area during the storm…you can see that the fence is blown over (but I didn’t get a shot of the area behind the white tent, where the equipment was staged).

              • A.B. says

                I’m beginning to think it should be required that at every outdoor gig at least one crew member should be in charge of looking at the radar every few minutes even if there’s no rain predicted.

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