Gone Country: If you’re a fan of traditional country, watch this year’s CMAs

It looks like ABC is trying to win back the older country fan demographic with its televised special of the 50th annual Country Music Awards Nov. 2.

FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2015, file photo, country music legend George Strait poses for a portrait in Las Vegas. Strait will honor singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale with a lifetime achievement award at the Americana Honors and Awards Show on Sept. 21, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Al Powers/Powers Imagery/Invision/AP, File)

FILE – In this Sept. 22, 2015, file photo, country music legend George Strait poses for a portrait in Las Vegas. (Photo by Al Powers/Powers Imagery/Invision/AP, File)

The special, which will feature performances from modern country stars like Chris Stapleton, Thomas Rhett, Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris and Kacey Musgraves, will also feature a performance lineup full of older stars and Entertainer of the Year winners.

Among those older stars are Charley Pride, George Strait, Vince Gill, Alabama, Reba McEntire, Charlie Daniels, Randy Travis, Ricky Skaggs, Roy Clark and Dwight Yoakam.

Kenny Chesney, whose new album comes out Friday, isn’t on a performance list but is scheduled to receive the CMA Pinnacle Award, which has only been awarded to Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift in the past.

Read more: ‘Sparks Fly’ at Taylor Swift’s only 2016 concert at Formula One Austin

The performance additions seem like the latest move by the CMA to get older viewers to tune in. Last year’s ceremony set an all-time-low in ratings but was still ABC’s highest-rated night of TV in 2015 up to that point, according to Variety.

Another effort by the Academy to bring back older fans: A “Forever Country” music video featuring a Who’s Who of traditional and contemporary stars. The video is a medley of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” and Dolly Parton’s version of “I Will Always Love You.” It debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Chart, becoming only the third song on that chart to do so.

There’s still some questionable appearances on the performers and presenters list, Pentatonix and Elle King chief among them. But the list overwhelmingly skewers towards the older generations that made the CMAs the prestigious awards show that it is today: Pride (1971), Strait (1989 ,1990, 2013), Gill (1993, 1994), Alabama (1982, 1983, 1984), McEntire (1986), Skaggs (1985), Clark (1973), Brooks & Dunn (1996), Jackson (1995, 2002, 2003), McGraw (2010) and Brooks (1991, 1992, 1997, 1998) have all won Entertainer of the Year in the past.

The nominees for this year’s ceremony are decidedly more contemporary. The only old guard member who is nominated for any awards is Tim McGraw. But that’s not a bad thing. This year has seen a huge rise in press and radio traction for traditional and alternative country. The 2017 CMAs might see a nominee list that includes Margo Price, Sturgill Simpson, John Prine, Jon Pardi, Cody Jinks and Brent Cobb. At least, I hope so. George Strait hopes so, too.

But for 2016, if you’re a country fan who wants to see some of the  greats perform, ABC at 7 p.m. CST is the place to be.

Here’s the full list of performers, broken down by demographics:

Older Entertainer of the Year Winners

  • Charley Pride
  • George Strait
  • Vince Gill
  • Alabama
  • Reba McEntire
  • Ricky Skaggs
  • Roy Clark
  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Alan Jackson
  • Tim McGraw
  • Garth Brooks

Older Stars

  • Randy Travis
  • Charlie Daniels
  • Dwight Yoakam
  • Martina McBride
  • Trisha Yearwood
  • Clint Black

Contemporary Stars

  • Chris Stapleton
  • Thomas Rhett
  • Jason Aldean
  • Jennifer Nettles
  • Elle King
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Brad Paisley
  • Little Big Town
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Dierks Bentley
  • Eric Church
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Maren Morris
  • Keith Urban
  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • Luke Bryan
  • Florida Georgia Line

Maybe Surprise Performers Who Haven’t Been Announced Yet

  • Willie Nelson
  • Dolly Parton

I wrote down my predictions of who I think will win Nov. 2. Let me know what you think, and follow me on Twitter the night of the ceremony. I’ll be live-tweeting.

Gone Country aims to thoughtfully explore the country music genre and where it’s headed, with a focus on national trends and buzzworthy news of the week. For info about album releases and concerts, check out this week’s Country Music Roundup.

Questions, comments, suggestions? Let me know on Twitter @jakeharris4 or through email at jharris@statesman.com.

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