Best Bandleader: Chris Stapleton
Chris Stapleton didn't try to cram in as many songs as possible into his 25-minute set at Nissan Stadium. Rather, he did the opposite: stretching out Traveller tracks into lengthy, blues-based jams. "Outlaw State of Mind," in particular, was a musical journey, ending with Stapleton ferociously strumming his guitar and creating some very non-country feedback. He also did something few main-stage performers make time for — introduce his band. Which he did by singing their names, finishing, rightly so, with wife and vocalist Morgane Stapleton, who is indispensable to Stapleton's sound. Fans anywhere outside of the first few rows, however, wouldn't have known it, since the CMA Fest cameras stayed static on Stapleton for his entire set. Next year, production should take a cue from Bonnaroo and blanket the Jumbotrons with varied, dynamic shots. The fans who make CMA Fest their annual pricey pilgrimage certainly deserve to see all of it.