The annual honors of the Country Music Association (CMA Awards) in recognizing the best and brightest of the country music industry have made their mark over the past decade as being the most memorable of awards festivities. The 2019 celebration on November 13 was certainly no exception, and the female trio of co-hosts was exceptional right out of the gate.

Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley have become fixtures as favorite partners for the CMA Awards, famous for their on-the-spot, musical parodies of the current socio-political situation, and always with a tinge of topical headlines.

This year, supposedly, Paisley was on vacation with his family, creating a perfect opportunity for Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire to join alongside Underwood and remind the world what true superstardom sounds like. From the cavalcade of dresses to their collections of current and past anthems of female chutzpah, these ladies brought it.

All for a special lady

Leave it to the other networks to have better pyrotechnics, the most dancers, and the CGI graphics spinning through their awards shows. Country music and the CMA Awards, especially, let the songs and the memories make the moment.

When Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood, and Reba McEntire compared their milestone CMA Awards against the artistry and life of Loretta Lynn, sitting front and center, decked out in lavish green, the opening number was destined to be a treasure.

The legendary Lynn has made few public appearances since suffering a stroke in 2017. A fall resulting in a broken hip the following year further impeded recovery for the 87-year-old icon. As Jennifer Nettles led into “You're Looking at Country,” Loretta Lynn nodded in recognition.

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Loretta Lynn was penning her indelible songs of strength and choice for women, like “The Pill” and “Fist City” while she was raising her brood and becoming the first female to take CMA Entertainer of the Year in 1974. Carrie Underwood has twice been nominated for the prestigious trophy, including this year, but only Taylor Swift has taken the honor as a woman since Lynn’s trailblazing honor.

Tanya Tucker came forth with a dazzling “Delta Dawn,” followed by Sara Evans with “Born to Fly,” and the perfect, timely, and tremendous resonance of Martina McBride on her pre-#MeToo call to action, “Independence Day.” The showcase of talent had every prominent female of country music filling the stage, and the deafening appreciation of the audience was completely sincere.

Martina McBride made comments last month about having to refresh her choices on Spotify 15 times before female artists came up to fill her playlist. It's a bet that last night's performances will be popping up all over social media today.

Never enough Reba in red

Reba McEntire is chronologically in the middle of the pack between Carrie Underwood and Dolly Parton, according to birth date, but the singer can still hit the big notes and stay sizzling in her favorite color. She strutted through a lighted walkway for a revival of her song, “Fancy.” She started the verses bundled in a plush lavender robe.

Throwing that off, the first red satin outfit fit just fine. By the time she got to her stage marker, she shimmied in another red number that suited the stroll down memory lane to a T. Reba will be eligible for social security soon, but her spirit doesn't know that. She still has the stuff she showed 40 years ago.

Little Big Town broke social mores and cultural expectations with their 2014 song, “Girl Crush.” The group culminated a rendition of the song in this ceremony, focusing on inclusion and diversity.

Ashley McBryde was part of the lineup of artists on stage, and her acceptance remarks as Best New Female Artist, featuring comment from John Prine that “you’re no Reba” reflected her earnest gratitude for “guidance and wisdom.” Country music is finally allowing every artist an opportunity to carve a unique image all her or his own.

Pink and Chris Stapleton created another soul-rendering moment with their subtle yet so emotional duet of “Love Me Anyway,” which is featured on Pink’s “Hurts 2B Human” album.

It seems strange to see Chris Stapleton singing with anyone other than his wife, Morgane, onstage, but this pairing is perfectly exquisite musically.

Kacey Musgraves and Willie Nelson teamed for one of the most tender, cross-generational presentations ever performed on the CMA Award stage. The two artists seemed kismet as they delivered “Rainbow Connection,” and altered the ending to include the closing line from mass Musgraves’ “Rainbow”: “It'll all be alright.” Their audience and peers were in tears.

The year's biggest name gets no nod

The guys did get their moments on stage, too, mostly loud and “letting them have it” apart from slower offerings from Thomas Rhett (whose two daughters stole the show from the audience), Keith Urban, and Dan + Shay.

One oddity was an all-star tribute to Kris Kristofferson and Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” with no trace of the songwriter, even from the audience or on video, and no retrospective preview. The ensemble did a fine job, but something is missing without a touch from the original.

Billy Ray Cyrus and Lil Nas X were shown countless times throughout the evening in the audience. The collaborators who created the biggest country crossover song ever, and certainly for this year, were never given the opportunity to take the stage in a performance. Lil Nas X was given a swift mention as a winner. The irony is that his “Old Town Road” is being played at every concert around the country, country music or not, as the song memorized by everyone as the song for putting everyone in the mood to sing along.

Lil Nas X is left to sing alone and count his download money on CMA Awards night.

All's well that ends well, and this 2019 CMA Awards party was intended as a showcase for the girls, and they succeeded.

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