Brooks & Dunn, Paisley and Parton among the early winners at country's CMA awards

Monday, November 6th 2006, 8:12 pm
By: News On 6

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Brooks & Dunn's inspirational song ``Believe'' won three awards, including single and song of the year, during the 40th Annual Country Music Association Awards Monday night.

The duo, who hosted the show, also won music video of the year for ``Believe'' and opened the night by performing ``Building Bridges'' with guests Vince Gill and Sheryl Crow.

``This has been another huge year for country music,'' Kix Brooks said. ``Tonight, we're here together to show off what it's really all about, and that's the greatest music on the face of the earth.''

Brad Paisley, who was shut out last year despite six nomination, went into the night with a win this year. Before Monday's show, he and Dolly Parton won musical event of the year for their spiritual song ``When I Get Where I'm Going.'' It was Parton's first CMA award since 1996.

``I thank her so much for raising the bar on this song,'' Paisley said of the music icon, who was not there to accept. ``Anytime Dolly Parton sings on a song it becomes instantly better in every way.''

The show returned to Nashville after one year in New York City. Brooks & Dunn and Paisley led all nominees with six each.

Other multiple nominees included Kenny Chesney and ``American Idol'' winner Carrie Underwood with four each, and Rascal Flatts and Dolly Parton with three apiece.

All three of Parton's nods come for her vocals on Paisley's ``When I Get Where I'm Going.'' The song is one of three spiritually themed tunes up for awards, the others being Brooks & Dunn's ``Believe'' and Underwood's ``Jesus Take the Wheel.''

Much offstage talk centered on two high-profile nominees: Sara Evans and Keith Urban.

Evans is going through a very messy divorce. Urban checked himself into rehab last month for alcohol abuse.

Evans dropped out of the reality TV show ``Dancing with the Stars'' and filed for a divorce a few weeks ago, alleging that her husband committed adultery, was verbally and emotionally abusive, drank excessively and frequently watched pornography in their home.

Her husband Craig Schelske denied the allegations in court papers and said Evans filed for the divorce a day after he discovered her ``intimate relationship'' with another man and the two argued about it.

Evans, 35, is nominated for female vocalist of the year and was to sing her hit, ``Real Fine Place To Start.''

Urban, however, did not attend. He canceled his CMA appearance after announcing last month that he had checked into a rehabilitation treatment center. The revelation came less than four months after the Grammy-winning singer's marriage to actress Nicole Kidman.

Urban is nominated for four CMA awards: entertainer of the year, single of the year (``Better Life''), song of the year (``Tonight I Wanna Cry'') and male vocalist.

Another side story to the gala was the Dixie Chicks. The trio has one of the best-selling albums of the year with ``Taking the Long Way,'' yet failed to receive a single nomination.

Many country fans criticized the Chicks after lead singer Natalie Maines told a London audience in 2003 on the eve of war in Iraq that the trio was ``ashamed'' President Bush was from their home state of Texas.

Country radio stations dropped them from their playlists and have been slow to welcome them back.

This year's show also is notable for superstar George Strait's induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Strait, 54, broke onto the charts in 1981 with ``Unwound'' and is still having hits. He was to perform his latest No. 1 single, ``Give It Away.''

The nominees and winners are determined by the 6,000 members of the CMA.