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Fifth Annual Arkansas Country Music Awards show vast array of talent

And the winner is ... by Sean Clancy | June 5, 2022 at 8:07 a.m.
(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette illustration/Carrie Hill)

Roll out the red carpet, rosin up the bows and shine the trophies. The Fifth Annual Arkansas Country Music Awards is going down Monday at Reynolds Music Hall in Conway.

Nominees are up for awards in 26 categories including Entertainer of the Year, Female Vocalist, Album, Video, Bluegrass and Inspirational. Several of the nominees will perform during the show, as will country hitmakers Lee Ann Womack, Shawn Camp, Jeannie Seely, Allen Frizzell, Jason Coleman and more.

Country music journalist Charles Haymes and 2014 Miss Arkansas Ashton Gill return this year as hosts.

Erin Enderlin is nominated in four categories — Entertainer, Video, Songwriter and Country Artist. The ACMAs have been good to the Conway native, who has received more nominations (28) and taken more wins (11) than anyone in the four years the show has existed. Fun fact: Enderlin has won Songwriter of the Year four times, making her the only person to ever receive the award.

  photo  Ozark native Lance Carpenter leads the pack with five nominations, including Entertainer of the Year, at the 2022 Arkansas Country Music Awards. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Jason Myers)  MOST NOMINATED

But Enderlin is not the most-nominated artist this year. Ozark native Lance Carpenter leads the pack with five nominations — Entertainer of the Year, Male Vocalist, Country Artist, Songwriter and Song. Carpenter knows a little bit about winning: The 40-year-old won Male Vocalist last year and Country Artist in 2019.

Receiving five nominations this year "was a surprise," Carpenter says from Nashville, Tenn., where he has lived since 2011. "I'm always surprised when I find out I've been nominated for something. The chance to represent country music and my home state is a big honor to me."

Nominated for Song of the Year is "God Wears Boots," which Carpenter wrote with Joey Ebach. The track's inspiration came in part from a sign hanging on the back porch of Carpenter's mom's home.

[RELATED: 2022 Arkansas Country Music Awards nominees]

"It says, 'Unless you're God, or George Strait, take your boots off before you come in the house.' I thought, 'Hmmm, God wears boots,' and took that idea to [Ebach]. He thought it was something worth chasing and we recorded it in a day."

The song was released on Carpenter's "Demo Sessions" project from 2021. A new single, "I Bought a Bar," will be released June 24, but on Monday he's performing "One Like That," another track from the "Demo Sessions."

While the Natural State has several country talents making waves in the mainstream — Ashley McBryde, Matt Stell and Justin Moore, just to name a few — the ACMAs recognize independent musicians who are not affiliated with major labels.

"It warms my heart every time I'm nominated," Carpenter says. "What [ACMA President] Nathan Hunnicutt and Charles Haymes and everyone else have done behind the scenes is incredible."

  photo  Singer-songwriter Mae Estes is nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year at the Arkansas Country Music Awards on Monday. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Marisa Taylor)  TOP FEMALE VOCALIST

Like Carpenter, singer-songwriter Mae Estes left Arkansas to pursue her musical dreams in Nashville. She is the reigning Female Vocalist of the Year and is nominated again in that category.

The 28-year-old Estes grew up in Hope and comes from a musical family. She was just 7 when she made her first public performance, singing the national anthem at a rodeo.

"I told my mom, 'Y'all don't have to play that LeAnn Rimes tape, I can do that,'" she says with a laugh. "It was tragic, but that's where it all started."

Her win last year was "incredible," she says. "It was my first award show, so it was a dream come true. And anything in Arkansas just feels even more special. The state, Hope and my family will always be a big part of me."

Estes will perform her latest single, "Thinkin' 'Bout Cheatin,'" during the show and is particularly excited about being onstage in front of one of her heroes, Lee Ann Womack, whose hits include "I Hope You Dance," "The Fool," "A Little Past Little Rock" and others.

"I'm absolutely losing my mind," Estes says. "People like Keith Whitley, Loretta Lynn and Vern Gosdin were big in shaping who I am as an artist, and those were her heroes, too. I just latched on to her and I love the career that she has built."

Womack will perform as part of a tribute to Mark Wright, the Fayetteville native and record executive who produced albums by her, Clint Black, Mark Chesnutt and others.


Wright is being honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award along with Arkansas country legends Lefty Frizzell and Floyd Cramer, and beloved Little Rock country disc jockey Bob Robbins, who died May 21 at age 78.

Robbins spent 34 years at Little Rock radio station KSSN, and worked at 105.1 "The Wolf" since 2013. He was named Broadcast Personality of the Year by the Country Music Association in 1996.

Frizzell, who died in 1975 at age 47, got his musical start when his family lived in El Dorado and became a popular regional act. He went on to record classics "If You've Got the Money (I've Got the Time)," "I Love You a Thousand Ways," "Long Black Veil," "Always Late with Your Kisses" and "Saginaw, Michigan," and influence generations of country musicians.

Cramer, a pianist, grew up in Huttig and played on the Louisiana Hayride. His playing can be heard on hits like "Heartbreak Hotel" by Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline's "Crazy" and "Please Help Me, I'm Falling" by Hank Locklin. He recorded with Charley Pride, Brenda Lee, Roy Orbison, Ray Price and others and had his own hits, including the classic instrumental "Last Date." He died in 1997 at 64 and was inducted into the County Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Cramer's grandson, Jason Coleman, will perform Monday, as will Frizzell's brother, Allen.

  photo  Mountain View bluegrass band Sylamore Special is a first-time nominee at the 2022 Arkansas Country Music Awards. Band members are (from left) Mary Parker, Turner Atwell, Mercy Grace, Gordon Parker and Lillyanne McCool. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Evangeline Grace)  LEGENDS AND NEWCOMERS

Haymes notes that two Nashville legends are also up for Arkansas awards.

Singer Pam Tillis is nominated in the Video category for her work behind the camera as director of The Render Sisters' "Small Spaces," and fellow Grand Ole Opry member Jeannie Seely is among Song of the Year nominees for "Yours," which was performed by Diane Berry and Joe Wade Smith.

There are plenty of newcomers among this year's award hopefuls, including Sylamore Special, a young group from Mountain View up for Entertainer of the Year, Bluegrass Artist and Young Artist. The band formed just last year and is made up of teenagers Mary Parker, Gordon Parker, Mercy Grace, Turner Atwell and Lillyanne McCool.

Their debut single, "This Old Barn," was written by Mary Parker and released in January. The group will perform the track during Monday's show.

"Just to be nominated for one award would have been mind-blowing," she says. "To see our name listed under three nominations was definitely unexpected."

Fifth Annual Arkansas Country Music Awards

  • 6:30-9:30 p.m. Monday, Reynolds Performance Hall, 223 Beatrice Powell St., Conway
  • Admission: $35-$100
  • Information:


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