Country’s old, new shine

Jamey Johnson took home song of the year honours and Rascal Flatts won their seventh in a row for top vocal group at the Academy of Country Music Awards, but Sunday’s ceremony was highlighted by performances that ranged from extravagant to poignant, perhaps none more so than John Rich’s angry anthem Shuttin’ Detroit Down

LAS VEGAS — Jamey Johnson took home song of the year honours and Rascal Flatts won their seventh in a row for top vocal group at the Academy of Country Music Awards, but Sunday’s ceremony was highlighted by performances that ranged from extravagant to poignant, perhaps none more so than John Rich’s angry anthem Shuttin’ Detroit Down.

“I’d like to dedicate this song tonight to all the hard working taxpaying Americans from coast to coast who love this country as much as I do,” Rich said to the audience while holding a guitar tagged with the sticker “Made in the U.S.A.”

“We wrote this song specifically for you,” he said before launching into his searing song that feeds into taxpayer resentment about the bailouts on Wall Street.

His performance roused the crowd at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, but his wasn’t the only one.

Teen sensation Miley Cyrus performed her new song as she danced atop a high staircase on stage, Heidi Newfield sang her song Johnny and June, inspired by the late Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, around an appropriate ring of fire, and Carrie Underwood unveiled a burgundy dress during her performance so overwhelming that it took up most of the stage.

Taylor Swift had four nominations going into Sunday’s show, but for being the top-selling artist in country and pop music, she got a special, unexpected honour after she performed the ballad You’re Not Sorry following a magical entrance courtesy of magician David Copperfield.

McEntire stopped her and presented her with a special ACM Crystal Milestone Award for bringing so many young people to country music.

Sugarland broke Brooks & Dunn’s lock on the vocal duo award, while Dancing with the Stars champ Julianne Hough took the top new artist trophy during Sunday’s Academy of Country Music Awards.

“Thank you for dreaming back every time we dream,” said Sugarland’s Kristian Bush. The duo kept Brooks & Dunn from winning the category for the 14th straight year.

A tearful Hough, who added country singer to her Dancing with the Stars credentials, thanked “Everybody that has followed me from the beginning and believed in me.”