The 42nd annual Country Music Association, CMA, Awards were handed out November 12 in Nashville.  VOA's Mary Morningstar has this wrap-up on "Country Music's Biggest Night."

The first of nine trophies handed during the show went to George Strait, who took home the Single of the Year Award for "I Saw God Today."  George has been nominated by the Country Music Association 75 times, and has now won a record 22 awards.  He also won this year's Album of the Year award for Troubadour.  George offered his thanks to everyone involved in the making of the album and to his many fans.

"Wow! I want to thank the CMA, everyone that voted for mem," Strait said. "Thank you Tony Brown for producing such a great album.  I love this album and really appreciate everybody who bought it and heard it.  All the great songwriters that were a part of it.  All the great musicians that played on it and played so great, played their hearts out.  All you fans, you're the greatest.  Everybody says they've got the greatest fans.  Well, I've really got the greatest fans.  Thank you very much."

Sugarland's performance of "Stay" was a highlight of the last year's CMA Awards show.  The ballad was the first song written entirely by the duo's lead singer Jennifer Nettles.  Jennifer was recognized for her songwriting abilities by winning the Song of the Year honor.  She's the first female artist to win that category since K.T. Oslin in 1988.  Jennifer said she's grateful for writing a song that received such an emotional response.

"Well, thank you very much.  I love writing songs and I love performing them and I love the fans that come out to our shows to see what we write," she said.  "I just thank you so much for this award.  To the CMAs, of course.  To my label, Mercury [Records, everybody there that works these songs at radio.  Damon Moverly, all the radio staff, thank you so much for what you do.  And, the radio stations for playing it, all the PDs [Program Directors] out there.  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  It's just been a gift from the beginning and it was a gift to write and I hope it was a gift and touched your hearts and thank you for this very much."

Sugarland also repeated its 2007 win for Duo of the Year.

The live three-hour telecast featured 19 performances by many of today's biggest Country stars.  They included George Strait, Keith Urban, Taylor Swift and co-hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood.

The Eagles marked their first televised performance on an awards show at last year's CMA Awards.  They returned to perform again in 2008.  This year, the Eagles earned their first Vocal Group of the Year nomination in more than three decades, but lost to Rascal Flatts, who have won the category six consecutive times.

This year, the Horizon Award was renamed New Artist of the Year.  One of the biggest upsets of the night came when last year's Horizon Award winner, Taylor Swift, announced new trio Lady Antebellum the 2008 New Artist of the Year.  The trio faced James Otto, Kellie Pickler, Rodney Atkins and Jason Aldean in that category.  

Four of the five candidates vying for Male Vocalist of the Year repeated their nominations for the second year-in-a-row.  Brad Paisley won the award last year and again this year, beating out Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Keith Urban and Alan Jackson.  Brad also won the Music Video of the Year award for his 12th Number One single, "Waitin' On A Woman."    

One surprise guest on the awards show was Leslie Ponder, widow of Army Master Sergeant James Ponder from Franklin, Tennessee, who lost his life while fighting in Afghanistan.  Leslie gave a poignant introduction to Carrie Underwood, who sang her current Number One hit "Just A Dream."  Following her performance, Carrie was named the CMA's Female Vocalist of the Year for the third year-in-a-row.  She was overcome with emotion when she accepted the award.

"Thank you Country music.  I came here, I got here through an unconventional way and you guys didn't have to accept me at all.  Everybody in town, everybody in Nashville, everybody in the Country music community has been so great," Underwood said.  "Thank you Country radio for playing my songs.  Everybody, Arista Nashville, Arista New York, mom, God, thank you so much.  Simon Fuller, if it weren't for you I wouldn't be up here at all, so thank you so much.  Ann Edelblute, everybody I know, thank you fans. You guys are amazing."  

Kenny Chesney went into the race with a leading seven nominations.  But, he had to wait until the end of the show to hear Country star Shania Twain announce his name as a winner.  Kenny earned the CMA's Entertainer of the Year award for the fourth time since 2004.  "Don't Blink," is his Number One song from his nominated album, Just Who I Am: Poets and Pirates.