One of the latest in the long line of pandemic-related reschedulings is the Arkansas Country Music Awards (ACMAs), already forced into unprecedented measures in just the third year of its existence. Originally slated for a June 1 night of ceremony, it was announced in April that this year’s festivities would be pushed back to Aug. 3. It seemed to many at the time that this two-month delay would mean that we all would be able to enjoy the beloved award show as usual. But as this summer turned into one plagued by pandemic even more so than the spring, the 2020 ACMAs had to find further adaptations. While still occurring on Aug. 3 at 8 p.m., this year’s event will be virtually based, streaming live on ArkansasMusic.org.
But we haven’t let this get us down. We may not be together in person at this year’s event, but we will be in spirit, anxiously tuning in at 8:00 p.m. sharp to see who is bringing home the gold. There are 27 categories this year, each filled with exceptional country music talent. Here at AY About You, we have our eyes on a few of the headliners.
Entertainer of the Year
Nominees: Blane Howard, Bonnie Montgomery, Erin Enderlin, The ShotGunBillys, Whistlin’ Dixie
This is just the first in a myriad of packed-house nominees this year. Last year’s Male Vocalist of the Year, Blane Howard, Female Vocalist of the Year, Erin Enderlin, and two-time Americana Vocalist of the Year, Bonnie Montgomery, make up the proverbial heavyweights of this year’s class vying for the Entertainer of the Year honors.
In 2019, the winner of this category was Phil McGarrah & Runnin’ on Empty, and 2018’s award went to Zac Dunlap Band.
Country Artist of the Year
Nominees: Cory Jackson, David Adam Byrnes, Erin Enderlin, Kelsey Lamb, Lance Carpenter
Both Cory Jackson (2018) and Lance Carpenter (2019) have won this accolade before, and either is deserving of the recognition again this year. But Erin Enderlin, a nominee in seven different categories this year, should serve as a formidable foe to the reigning champions. Up-and-comers David Adam Byrnes and Kelsey Lamb are equally as capable of playing “spoiler” to the favorites.
Songwriter of the Year
Nominees: Casey Penn, Don Presley, Erin Enderlin, Mary Steenburgen, Phil McGarrah
It’s hard to imagine Enderlin not taking home the honors for Songwriter of the Year again this year, as she has won the award for the past two years. In her time, she has written songs for not only herself but for a number of historic country music artists. But she is joined in nomination this year by a very talented roster in Casey Penn, Don Presley, Academy-Award winner Mary Steenburgen and Phil McGarrah.
Female Vocalist of the Year
Nominees: Ashleigh Rogers, Bonnie Montgomery, Erin Enderlin, Kelsey Lamb, Savannah Morris
Two past winners are back for more in Bonnie Montgomery (2018) and Erin Enderlin (2019), and that might be where one would feel compelled to stack their chips. But Kelsey Lamb could be the breakout of this year’s ACMAs with as many nominations (four) as Montgomery; Savannah Morris is no stranger to this stage, a nominee for this category last year; and Ashleigh Rogers could make some waves as the dark horse.
Male Vocalist of the Year
Nominees: Austin Pool, Blane Howard, Butch Suitt, David Adam Byrnes, Lance Carpenter
It would be hard not to see this as Howard’s award to lose, as the Hot Springs native has won in this category two years in a row. But could this third time be the charm for Carpenter or Byrnes? Each is also nominated for overall Country Artist of the Year with Howard.
Album of the Year
Nominees: Faulkner County, Erin Enderlin; Forever, Bonnie Montgomery; One More Bridge to Cross, Butch Suitt; The Other Side, Maybe April; Renegades, Outlaws and Gypsys, Josh Newcom
Chalk this one up as yet another category that we feel no envy for having to select just one winner from. Enderlin and Montgomery are capable of winning any award they are nominated, but the rest of this year’s class is just as deserving of their inclusion as nominees.
Enderlin won this category in 2018 for her album Whiskeytown Crier, and Joanne Cash in 2019 for Unbroken.
Song of the Year
Nominees: “Girl at the Bar,” Kelsey Lamb; “I Can Give You One,” David Adam Byrnes; “Months Now,” Bree Ogden; “Thinkin’ Bout You,” Anna Brinker and Adam Cunningham; “Tonight I Don’t Give a Damn,” Erin Enderlin.
Another stacked slate of award circuit regulars from which to choose. Lamb, Enderlin and Byrnes continue their multi-categoried campaigns, but coming-out parties could ensue for Bree Ogden or for Anna Brinker and Adam Cunningham’s duet.
In 2018, Zac Dunlap Band won for “Arkansas’ Mine,” and Enderlin won last year for “World Without Willie.”
Video of the Year
Nominees: “Dust on a Diamond,” Bailey Hefley; “I Can Be Your Whiskey,” Erin Enderlin; “Little by Little,” Kelsey Lamb; “Momma’s Bible,” Cam Shelton; “Promise to Love Her,” Blane Howard
Video of the Year is where things can be a little less straightforward. Some of the best songs ever written aren’t necessarily accompanied by award-winning music videos, and vice versa. Saying that, this year’s nominees are each double-threats in being fantastic on both counts, making the choice just as difficult as any. Bailey Hefley and Cam Shelton join this year’s ACMA regulars, Enderlin, Lamb and Howard.
In 2018, Zac Dunlap Band won for “Arkansas’ Mine,” and Joanne Cash won in 2019 for “Back Home in Arkansas.”
Full List of Nominees:
ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
AMERICANA ARTIST OF THE YEAR
The Whispering Willows
BLUEGRASS ARTIST OF THE YEAR
The Roving Gambler Band
COUNTRY ARTIST OF THE YEAR
David Adam Byrnes
INSPIRATIONAL ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Zane and Donna King
FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
David Adam Byrnes
ACOUSTIC ACT OF THE YEAR
Caleb Ryan Martin
The Whispering Willows
VOCAL GROUP OF THE YEAR
Anna Brinker/Adam Cunningham
Nik & Sam
The Salty Dogs
The Whispering Willows
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Faulkner County by Erin Enderlin. Produced by Jim “Moose” Brown and Jamey Johnson.
Forever by Bonnie Montgomery. Produced by Chris Burns.
One More Bridge to Cross by Butch Suitt. Produced by Jon Raney.
The Other Side by Maybe April. Produced by Julian Stacey.
Renegades, Outlaws and Gypsys by Josh Newcom. Produced by Josh Newcom.
SONG OF THE YEAR
“Girl at the Bar” Written by Kelsey Lamb, Taylor Goyette and Jean Nolan. Performed by Kelsey Lamb.
“I Can Give You One” Written by David Adam Byrnes, Justin Wilson and Paul Sikes. Performed by David Adam Byrnes.
“Months Now” Written by Bree Ogden, Cliff Prowse and Susan Prowse. Performed by Bree Ogden.
“Thinkin’ Bout You” Written by B.J. Taylor, James Henry and J. T. Hubbard. Performed by Anna Brinker and Adam Cunningham.
“Tonight I Don’t Give a Damn” Written by Erin Enderlin, Jim “Moose” Brown and Jessie Jo Dillon. Performed by Erin Enderlin.
SONGWRITER OF THE YEAR
MUSIC PRODUCER OF THE YEAR
SOUND ENGINEER OF THE YEAR
PROMOTER OF THE YEAR
Bill & Linda Lovett
Cliff & Susan Prowse
VIDEO OF THE YEAR
“Dust on a Diamond” by Bailey Hefley. Directed by Roman White.
“I Can Be Your Whiskey” by Erin Enderlin. Directed by Ryan Nolan.
“Little by Little” by Kelsey Lamb. Directed by Logen Christopher.
“Momma’s Bible” by Cam Shelton. Directed by Mark Maness.
“Promise to Love Her” by Blane Howard. Directed by Steve Jawn.
RADIO STATION OF THE YEAR
KAMO “Nash Icon” 94.3 (Rogers)
KHBZ “The Z” 102.9 (Harrison)
KHLS “Thunder Country” 96.3 (Blytheville)
KJMX “The Wolf” 105.1 (Little Rock)
KQUS “US 97” 97.5 (Hot Springs)
RADIO DJ OF THE YEAR
D.J. Taylor, KSSN (Little Rock)
Ken Murphy, KABF (Little Rock)
Lisa Lindsey & Jim Weaver, KKYR
Stafford & Frigo, KDXY (Jonesboro)
Western Red, KISR (Fort Smith)
PUBLICATION / BLOG / PODCAST OF THE YEAR
Do South Magazine
Ozark Highlands Radio
*AY About You was gifted this honor in 2019.
VENUE OF THE YEAR
Collins Theater (Paragould)
George’s Majestic Lounge (Fayetteville)
King’s Live Music (Conway)
Round-up Music Show Theater (Brookland)
South on Main (Little Rock)
YOUNG ARTIST OF THE YEAR
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 (Recipients)