CMA Music Festival 2017: 26 Best Things We Saw

From Miranda Lambert's fiery main-stage return to Luke Combs' star-making turn

Alex Williams
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Scott Legato/GettyImages20/26

Alex Williams

There are many different kinds of country at CMA Fest – pop country, rap country, even, Lord help us, EDM country – but when Alex Williams, with his low-slung baritone, Waylon Jennings tattoo and songs about "illegal substances," took the stage at Hard Rock on Thursday, it just country, plain and simple. CMA Fest might be the polar opposite of the gritty biker bars that Williams has been playing for years, but he didn't edit his set – full of outsider lyrics and "Mama Tried" vamps – for the fluorescent lunchtime crowd. With a record due in August produced by Julian Raymond (Glen Campbell) on Big Machine, he's groomed to be the label's Sturgill Simpson or Chris Stapleton. It's an unpredictable turn of events for the home of Florida Georgia Line, but a good thing indeed. M.M. 

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