Sure As The Sun: Arkansas Country Music Awards 2021 Live
It’s been a “Wide River to Cross,” but “People Get Ready,” because the Arkansas Country Music Awards (Arkansas CMAs) will be live and in-person once again, much to the enjoyment of performers, fans and nominees. Making this a year to remember, the event will be held on June 7 at the Reynolds Performance Hall at the University of Central Arkansas. An extensive lineup of performances and awards is chock-full of Arkansas talent — the best kind, really.
Country music enthusiasts are in for a treat as legendary names — such as Debby Campbell, daughter of Glen Campbell; Amy Helm, daughter of Levon Helm; and Billy Dean will be in attendance. Additionally, the three Lifetime Achievement honorees from 2020 will be recognized alongside the 2021 recipients. The nail-biting outcomes of the other categories are also to be announced at the event.
The process of nominating an artist to selecting a winner may seem like a gray area, but Charles Haymes, vice president and co-host of the Arkansas CMAs, is here to explain every detail. “There’s a three-week period that’s open for nominations in all of the categories,” Haymes explains. “Fans or country music professionals can go in and fill out a nomination ballot. When the time ends for nominations, there are executive checks of criteria, as in checking that the song nominated did come out in this year, the vocals did release during this time, and so on. Once everything meets the criteria for that particular category, the nominations move on to be reviewed by special committees. These committees are made up of music professionals, and they have ballots with links to all of the information they need to know about the nominee.”
He shares that these committees never meet in person, so they don’t have the opportunity to discuss with one another. One committee person does not know who another committee person is.
“They select the final five in each category, and the ones with the most votes become the final five of each category,” Haymes says. “When the final nominations are announced, the final ballot goes out to the committees, and each person makes their final selection per category. There is then a two-week period online, March 1-14, where fans can go in and vote. The nominee with the most votes from fans counts as one committee person’s vote.”
Understanding this process gives more perspective on how and why some artists, individuals and teams may be chosen over others.
The team behind the Arkansas CMAs show has really turned up the heat for this comeback year with 26 categories, six Lifetime Achievement honorees and about 20 performances. Pushing through the obstacles and tragedies of the past year, this event celebrates the Arkansas voices that carried us through. We’ve been walkin’ these streets so long, it’s time to start feelin’ good.
Entertainer of the Year
Nominees: David Adam Byrnes, Erin Enderlin, Jabe Burgess, Lance Carpenter, Maybe April
Starting off hot and anyone’s game is the Entertainer of the Year award. This award has had a different recipient every year since the start of the award show back in 2018. So there really is no way of telling which of these five nominees will take the title home — especially when each nominee is up for many other categories.
Americana Artist of the Year
Nominees: Grace Stormont, Maybe April, National Park Radio, Pam Setser, Ten Penny Gypsy
Maybe April was the 2020 recipient after a two-year reign from Bonnie Montgomery. Grace Stormont, nominated in four other categories next to this one, is an artist to give ear to. National Park Radio, Pam Setser and Ten Penny Gypsy round out the competitive group as worthy nominees also deserving of recognition.
Bluegrass Artist of the Year
Nominees: Arkansauce, Butch Suitt, Possum Trot, Spillwater Drive, Tacie and the Sunshine Band
Always a fun group of nominees, the Bluegrass Artist of the Year is another category that is unpredictable. None of the 2021 nominees have yet to land this title, so this will be the year for one talented group.
Country Artist of the Year
Nominees: Bailey Hefley, David Adam Byrnes, Erin Enderlin, Jabe Burgess, Ward Davis
Looking at the rundown of past winners and nominees in all categories, it’s evident that Erin Enderlin is a champion. 2020 Country Artist of the Year, 2018 and 2020 Album of the Year, 2019 and 2020 Song of the Year, 2019 Female Vocalist of the Year and 2018, 2019 and 2020 Songwriter of the Year, Enderlin has the receipts proving she is the one to beat. Bailey Hefley and David Adam Byrnes each bring their own wins to the table, while Jabe Burgess and Ward Davis are definitely rising names to watch out for.
Female Vocalist of the Year
Nominees: Erin Enderlin, Grace Stormont, Mae Estes, Pamela Hopkins, Sarah Jane Nelson
The massive amount of talent nominated for this category each year never fails to highlight how technical this selection can get. These five women earned their nominations, and there is no telling which way the wind will blow.
Male Vocalist of the Year
Nominees: Cory Jackson, David Adam Byrnes, Jabe Burgess, Lance Carpenter, Tyler Kinch
The 2020 winner of this category, David Adam Byrnes, is back for another round. Nominated in four other categories this year, Byrnes is looking at a good year. Lance Carpenter has also returned to the lineup as a nominee, so there is a strong chance this will be his year to take the title of Male Vocalist.
Acoustic Act of the Year
Nominees: The Creek Rocks, Grace Stormont, Lee Street Lyrical, Mallory Everett, Ryan Harmon
Raw and classic, Acoustic Act of the Year brings out the barebones of country music. As this category has not had a consistent winner or nominee list, a new name will join the winner’s circle this year.
Vocal Group of the Year
Nominees: Diane Berry/Joe Wade Smith, Hayefield, Maybe April, Nik & Sam, The Salty Dogs
Celebrating the groups and duos that may not always receive the recognition they deserve, this category is another that’s had a different winner each year. The Zac Dunlap Band (2018), The Reeves Brothers (2019), and Anna Brinker and Adam Cunningham (2020) have all paved the way for another nominated group to join their ranks.
Album of the Year
Nominees: Black Cats and Crows by Ward Davis, produced by Jim ‘Moose’ Brown; The Country Blues by Billy Don Burns, produced by Charlie Ammerman, Thomas Gramuglia, Billy Don Burns, Jeff Williams, Mike Randolf and Aaron Dethrage; Horses and Steel by Kenny Drain, produced by Kenny Drain; Neon Town by David Adam Byrnes, produced by Trent Willmon; Rain and Whiskey by Anna Brinker, produced by B.J. Taylor and Kevin Sokolnicki.
Choosing one album from the list nominated must not be an easy feat. Each album above encompasses the dedication and talent put forth by a whole team of writers, producers and, of course, the performers. Hats off to the professionals that had to make the hard decision and choose our 2021 Album of the Year winner.
Song of the Year
Nominees: “Dianne’s Song,” written by Jabe Burgess, Steve Williams and Mark Alan Springer, performed by Jabe Burgess; “Great Again,” written by Justin Wilson and Brice Long, performed by Lance Carpenter; “On Your Own,” written and performed by Grace Stormont; “Recycled,” written by Autumn McEntire, Hannah Blaylock, Mae Estes and Josh Matheny, performed by Mae Estes; “Say it Again,” written by Lydia Dall, Morgan Johnston and Joe Tounge, performed by Kelsey Lamb.
The Song of the Year is a well-sought-after award that gives recognition to the songwriters that pour time and talent into memorable lyrics. Each year brings a fresh set of songs, one of which will be deemed as No. 1.
Songwriter of the Year
Nominees: Charley Sandage, Erin Enderlin, Jason Lee Campbell, Kenny Drain, Phil McGarrah
The champion and three-time Songwriter of the Year winner, Erin Enderlin, remains on the list of nominees for her fourth year. She’s stiff competition, but the four other nominees have obviously earned their places next to her and may give her a run for the title.
Video of the Year
Nominees: “Everything but Us” by Jabe Burgess, directed by Noah Coffey III; “Lost Boy” by The Render Sisters, directed by Joe Sikkema and Pam Tillis; “Old School” by David Adam Byrnes, directed by Dylan Rucker; “She Knew Better” by Abby Lindsey, directed by Lexy Burket; “Water” by Lauren Richmond, directed by B.J. Taylor and Brent Wheeler.
New list of performers, new list of directors. This year’s Video of the Year award will be a first for both sides of the video production. Music videos are the visual accompaniments to the songs we love. The videos, with endless opportunities for additional elements, are another way for artists to show the story they’re sharing with their listeners. No telling which video will have that extra something that impresses the judges; the outcome of this category has us all on the edge of our seats.
Full List of Nominees
ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
David Adam Byrnes
AMERICANA ARTIST OF THE YEAR
National Park Radio
Ten Penny Gypsy
BLUEGRASS ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Tacie and the Sunshine Band
COUNTRY ARTIST OF THE YEAR
David Adam Byrnes
INSPIRATIONAL ARTIST OF THE YEAR
The FlatLand Gospel Band
The Villines Trio
FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
Sarah Jane Nelson
MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
David Adam Byrnes
ACOUSTIC ACT OF THE YEAR
The Creek Rocks
Lee Street Lyrical
VOCAL GROUP OF THE YEAR
Diane Berry / Joe Wade Smith
Nik & Sam
The Salty Dogs
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
The Country Blues by Billy Don Burns. Produced by Charlie Ammerman, Thomas Gramuglia, Billy Don Burns, Jeff Williams, Mike Randolph and Aaron Detharge.
Horses and Steel by Kenny
Drain. Produced by Kenny Drain.
Neon Town by David Adam Byrnes. Produced by Trent Willmon.
Rain and Whiskey by Anna Brinker. Produced by B.J. Taylor and Kevin Sokolnicki.
SONG OF THE YEAR
“Dianne’s Song,” written by Jabe Burgess, Steve Williams and Mark Alan Springer. Performed by Jabe Burgess.
“Great Again,” written by Justin Wilson and Brice Long. Performed by Lance Carpenter.
“On Your Own,” written and performed by Grace Stormont.
“Recycled,” written by Autumn McEntire, Hannah Blaylock, Mae Estes and Josh Matheny. Performed by Mae Estes.
“Say it Again,” written by Lydia Dall, Morgan Johnston and Joe Tounge. Performed by Kelsey Lamb.
SONGWRITER OF THE YEAR
Jason Lee Campbell
VIDEO OF THE YEAR
“Everything But Us” by Jabe Burgess. Directed by Noah Coffey III.
“Lost Boy” by The Render Sisters. Directed by Joe Sikkema and Pam Tillis.
“Old School” by David Adam Byrnes. Directed by Dylan Rucker.
“She Knew Better” by Abby Lindsey. Directed by Lexy Burke.
“Water” by Lauren Richmond. Directed by B.J. Taylor and Brent Wheeler.
MUSIC PRODUCER OF THE YEAR
SOUND ENGINEER OF THE YEAR
PROMOTER OF THE YEAR
Bill and Linda Lovett
Cliff and Susan Prowse
RADIO STATION OF THE YEAR
KCYT “96.7 The Coyote,” Springdale
KDXY “The Fox 104.9,” Jonesboro
KSSN “US 96,” Little Rock
KQUS “US 97,” Hot Springs
KZHE “KZ-100,” Magnolia
RADIO DJ OF THE YEAR
Amy G, KABF, Little Rock
Big Dan Hentschel, KAMO, Rogers
D.J. Taylor, KSSN, Little Rock
J.R. Runyon, Y107, Conway
Lisa Lindsey & Jim Weaver, KKYR, Texarkana
PUBLICATION/BLOG/PODCAST OF THE YEAR
Acoustic Music Talk with Brad Apple
If That Ain’t Country
The Vine Brothers Songwriter Series Presents:
VENUE OF THE YEAR
The Collins Theatre
George’s Majestic Lounge
Jimmy Doyle Country
Kings Live Music
Ozark Mountain Hoe-Down Music Theatre
YOUNG ARTIST OF THE YEAR
The Render Sisters
BASS PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Big Shane Thornton
DRUMMER OF THE YEAR
FIDDLE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
GUITAR PLAYER OF THE YEAR
STEEL/DOBRO PLAYER OF THE YEAR
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT 2021 RECIPIENTS
The Original Rhodes Show
The Lifetime Achievement 2020 recipients are also being recognized at the 2021 event: