If Gwyneth Paltrow was looking for a good place to bridge the gap, she found one.
Though Miranda Lambert had the real night to remember, all eyes were on the Oscar winner at the 44th Country Music Association Awards, which lately has become a warm, friendly place for artists who are drifting from pop (Sheryl Crow), rock (Kid Rock) and has-been (Darius Rucker) territory into the country realm.
Or, in Paltrow's case, promoting a movie and, perhaps, courting a record deal.
Happily, the Country Song star didn't embarrass herself warbling the title track from her new film, costarring Leighton Meester (on hand to introduce pal Taylor Swift ) and Tim McGraw, who swooped in at the last minute Wednesday to present the night's top honor, Entertainer of the Year, to...Brad Paisley?
It sure seemed like momentum was building in either Lambert, who was also celebrating her 27th birthday, or Lady Antebellum's direction (they would have been the first group to win since the Dixie Chicks in 2000). But you can't ever count the touring tour de force that is Paisley out.
"My hero, Little Jimmy Dickens, has a saying: If you see a turtle on a fence post, it had help getting up there. I feel just like a turtle on the fence post at this point," Paisley said in thanks.
"It sounds like a cliché when you say thanks to the fans," he continued, "but the great thing about country fans is, when you say fans, I don't even mean mine. You guys are loyal to everyone in this room. It's the most amazing loyal fan base in the world."
He also thanked actress wife Kimberly Williams-Paisley for "saving me from despair."
But it was Lambert, who led the field with nine nominations, who added three CMAs to her trophy trove and made four trips to the podium, for Female Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year, Music Video of the Year and Song of the Year, which was awarded to writers Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin.
(Barring ties, she only could've won seven times anyway—she was up twice for Single and Music Video of the Year.)
"Revolution has truly caused a revolution in my life this year," Lambert said. "Thanks to the country music industry. It's my baby, it's what I do, it's what I live for. Thanks for loving it, too."
Nice trick, ABC, leaving Paltrow's debut for last, but in the end she was just another artist at the the annual lovefest, which features far more performances than award categories.
Among other humorous musings, including a downer of a running joke about the Nashville flood, cohosts Paisley and Carrie Underwood paid musical tribute to tiny wedding rings in honor of tonight's king and queen of the ball: Lambert and her fiancé, Blake Shelton.
"Actually, in all truth, after they got engaged, they sent me a picture of it," Underwood said, presumably speaking of Lambert's ring, "and it is beautiful and big, just perfect, gorgeous."
"OK, I have to do it—that's what she said," added Paisley.
Shelton saved face in front of his future missus, winning CMAs for Male Vocalist of the Year and Musical Event of the Year for "Hillbilly," featuring Trace Adkins—a couple of engagement gifts you just can't register for.
"After the night Blake and Miranda are having, I think we can expect a baby in about nine months," Paisley quipped.
And as Nicole Kidman sat through her umpteenth country award show since marrying Keith Urban, Katherine Heigl was also in the house with hubby Josh Kelley, whose brother Charles Kelley is one-third of Lady Antebellum, winner for Vocal Group of the Year.
"Thank you to my brother...for making me to move to Nashville six years ago, I love you," he said as the trio accepted for Single of the Year for the wistful "Need You Now."
Speaking of crossover stars, Crow presided over a tribute to grand dame Loretta Lynn, Kid "Detroit's leading cowboy" Rock sang "Born Free" and Kelly Clarkson showed up to duet with with Jason Aldean on "Don't You Wanna Stay."
Here's the complete list of winners from the 44th Country Music Association Awards:
Entertainer of the Year: Brad Paisley
Female Vocalist of the Year: Miranda Lambert
Male Vocalist of the Year: Blake Shelton
Vocal Group of the Year: Lady Antebellum
Vocal Duo of the Year: Sugarland
New Artist of the Year: Zac Brown Band
Album of the Year: Revolution, Miranda Lambert
Single of the Year: "Need You Now," Lady Antebellum
Song of the Year: "The House That Built Me," Miranda Lambert (Songwriters: Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin)
Video of the Year: "The House That Built Me," Miranda Lambert
Musical Event of the Year: "Hillbilly Bone," Blake Shelton featuring Trace Adkins
Musician of the Year: Mac McAnally, guitar