NASHVILLE Tenn. (Reuters) - Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves were the early winners at this year's Country Music Association Awards (CMA) on Wednesday, as politics and the absence of megastar Taylor Swift came in for mention in the televised ceremony.
Lambert, who leads all nominees with nine nods on the success of her acclaimed album "Platinum," picked up the album of the year award as well as single of the year for her wistful hit, "Automatic."
The Texan, who will vie for her fifth consecutive female vocalist of the year award, also shared the musical event of the year award with Aussie singer Keith Urban for "We Were Us."
Musgraves' "Follow Your Arrow" won the songwriters' award song of the year. She shared the award with fellow songwriters Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally.
Noted for its gay-friendly message and references to marijuana, "Follow Your Arrow" is a thematic outlier in the conservative-leaning country music world.
The audience applauded a playful reference to the Republican Party's takeover of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday.
"This award means so much because our genre was built on strong, simple songs about real life," said Musgraves, 26. "The fans and people who connected with it took it farther than I thought it ever could go."
Florida Georgia Line won vocal duo of the year for the second consecutive year, while Dierks Bentley's uptempo breakup song, "Drunk on a Plane", took home best music video.
Performers at the 48th CMA ceremony include hosts Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley as well as Blake Shelton, Eric Church, Musgraves and pop singer Ariana Grande, who performed the song "Bang Bang" alongside group Little Big Town.
The show started with Kenny Chesney performing his hit "American Kids", followed by a duet by pop singer Meghan Trainor with Lambert, singing a country version of Trainor's No. 1 hit "All About That Bass."
Paisley and Underwood's introduction drew attention to the absence of Swift, who has shed her country roots for pop music, with a comical song about "Postpartum Taylor Swift Disorder."
The duo sang "Quarantine" to the tune of Dolly Parton's classic, "Jolene", poking fun at nurse Kaci Hickox, who defied her Ebola quarantine order.
Paisley drew criticism on social media for a joke referencing TV sitcom "Black-ish", about an upper-middle-class African-American family.
"If you were looking for 'Black-ish' tonight, yeah, this ain't it. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy White-ish," Paisley joked, about the mostly white world of country music.
Country music veteran George Strait will seek to defend his entertainer of the year title, the ceremony's biggest honor, against Lambert, Shelton and singers Keith Urban and Luke Bryan.
Swift, whose pop album "1989" topped the charts this week, picked up a nomination for female vocalist of the year.
The CMA awards show, which competes with the springtime's Academy of Country Music Awards for prestige and TV audience, is one of the top promotional events on the country music calendar.
(Writing by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Bernard Orr)