Country awards shows can be a tricky endeavor to pull off. Which way do you lean? Do you feature all the stars of today? How many collaborations should you wedge in? And how do you properly honor the rich history of country music? If you didn't happen to tune into the 56th CMA Awards last night on ABC then you missed one of the rare nights that country music arrived at a sweet spot. Because last night, country music finally got it right.

Three hours is a long time to watch. But last night's show seemed to fly right by. There were so many compelling moments! The collaborations were spot on. Brothers Osborne with The War and Treaty nearly burned the house down with their Rolling Stones tribute. Ashley McBryde brought along Brandy Clark, Caylee Hammack, Pillbox Patty, and Jon Osborne for an amazing performance of a Linda Ronstadt classic. And how great was it to see Patty Loveless back on the CMA stage performing a haunting ode to Kentucky along with Christ Stapleton? Goosebump moments. All of them.

It was also a night where you could truly see the changing of the guard in country music. Sure you had the likes of Luke Bryan, Carrie Underwood, and Miranda Lambert still going strong. But a new group of country stars is about to take over the genre. Artists like Lainey Wilson, Carly Pearce, Cody Johnson, Ashley Mcbryde, and Hardy just to name a few. And make no mistake about it. That is healthy for country music. There is plenty of room for our favorites like Carrie, Keith, Luke, and Mr. Combs. But a new crop of stars is here and they sound amazing.

But perhaps the thing that country music does the best is honoring it's past. Last night's show began with a tribute to the late Loretta Lynn. Her daughters teared up in the audience as Carrie, Miranda, and Reba sang some of her greatest hits. It was a fitting honor to the first woman to win the CMA for Entertainer of the Year. There was the Alan Jackson tribute as he was awarded the Willie Nelson Lifetime achievement award. AJ appeared truly taken aback by the love in the room. But it was also little moments in the show like JoDee Messina showing up with Cole Swindell. Ricky Skaggs singing and playing with Carly Pearce. I love it when country music acknowledges its roots, and I'm guessing that viewers of a certain age loved it too.

After watching last night's three-hour show I had a distinct feeling of pride. Pride to work in the field of country music. This genre is filled with established stars and also brimming over with newcomers destined to make their mark. All we have to do is sit back, watch, and listen.

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