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Paisley Wins Top Honor at Country Music's Biggest Night

Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley host the 44th Annual Country Music Awards in Nashville, Tenn., 10 Nov 2010

Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley host the 44th Annual Country Music Awards in Nashville, Tenn., 10 Nov 2010

The 44th annual Country Music Association Awards were presented November 10 in Nashville, Tennessee and it was filled with great performances and a few surprises.

Miranda Lambert celebrated her 27th birthday at the Country Music Association Awards by taking home three presents. They included Video of the Year, an award she shared with director Trey Fanjoy for "The House That Built Me," Album of the Year for Revolution and Female Vocalist of the Year. The Texas native entered this year's CMA race with nine nominations, which set a new record for a female Country artist.

Miranda received the Female Vocalist Award from Loretta Lynn, who she thanked for opening doors for women in Country music.

"The woman that paved the way for all females ever in Country music is standing here beside me and handing me this award. I'm proud that I can now call her a friend," she said. "Thank you so much. Thank you for everything you've done. I'm going to keep going for the other women in this industry, I promise. Thank you so much. I really, really appreciate it."

The Zac Brown Band received the 2010 Best New Artist Grammy Award, so their CMA win for New Artist of the Year came as no surprise. Since 2008, the Georgia-based group has released six singles. Five have reached Number One on the Country chart. Zac Brown gave thanks to the group's fans and family, who have given them the opportunity to live out their dream in Country music.

"Thanks so much to all the fans that believed in us," Brown said. "To all of our team, to our wives especially that believe in us and that we come home to, and everybody here that's given us a shot. It's an honor to live on a legacy, getting to do what we love to do and try to be the best musicians that we can possibly be."

Brooks and Dunn recently ended their two decades together with "The Last Rodeo" tour, but that didn't make them the sentimental favorite for Vocal Duo of the Year. They've won that award 14 times since 1992. CMA voters gave this year's Vocal Duo honor to Sugarland for the fourth consecutive year.

The biggest upset of the night was in the Male Vocalist of the Year category. Favored nominees Brad Paisley and Keith Urban were beat out by Blake Shelton, who won that award for the first time in his career.

The phenomenal success of Lady Antebellum has been one of the biggest stories of 2010. The trio continued its domination by taking home two awards, Single of the Year for "Need You Now" and Vocal Group of the Year. While accepting their Group of the Year award, the three members collectively thanked those who helped further their success throughout the past year.

"Thank you all so much. This has been the most incredible year of our lives. I want to thank Country radio. You all have been amazing for us. Thank you so much," Charles Kelley said.

"I just want to say thank you so much to my bandmates Charles and Dave," added Hillary Scott. "Like Charles said, this year has been unbelievable and I can't imagine two better people, more fun to enjoy the ride with. This is so humbling."

"And to all the [nominated] groups, we're huge fans. Rascal Flatts, Zac [Brown Band], Band Perry, Little Big Town - it's an honor to be in a category with you. To all the fans, thank you," said Dave Haywood.

Other CMA Award winners included Blake Shelton and Trace Adkins, who shared the Musical Event of the Year trophy for "Hillbilly Bone," Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin, winners of the Song of the Year honor for writing Miranda Lambert's first Number One hit "The House That Built Me," and guitarist Mac McAnally, who won his third consecutive Musician of the Year Award.

On the three-hour live telecast, Country music never sounded better. Among the performances was a 50th anniversary tribute to Country legend Loretta Lynn by Miranda Lambert and Sheryl Crow. Loretta made a surprise addition to the performance of her classic hit "Coal Miner's Daughter." Other highlights included duets by Kelly Clarkson and Jason Aldean, Alan Jackson and the Zac Brown Band, and actress Gwyneth Paltrow with Vince Gill performing a duet version of the title song from her upcoming film, Country Strong, which also stars Tim McGraw.

Brad Paisley, who co-hosted the 44th annual CMA Awards with Carrie Underwood, won the night's top honor, Entertainer of the Year. Brad choked back tears as he thanked Country music fans and his late grandfather, who inspired him to become a musician.

"First of all I want to talk to the fans," an emotional Paisley said. "It sounds like a cliché when you say 'thanks to the fans,' but the great thing about Country fans is when you say 'fans', I don't even mean mine. You guys are loyal to everyone in this room. It's the most amazing, loyal fanbase in the world. And my grandfather, tonight for me is about him. This is a man who loved Buck Owens and he loved Johnny Cash and these people. And, he said, 'I want you to learn to play the guitar because this is going to get you through lonely times and you'll never be alone with this.' And, I don't think he ever thought that it would draw 20,000 people. But, I think about him tonight."