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30 Must-See Acts at CMA Music Fest 2014

From the breakfast shows to the late-night jams, the artists you need to check out in Nashville this week

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Since its inception in 1972 as Fan Fair, CMA Music Festival, as it became known in 2004, has showcased everyone from Willie Nelson and Garth Brooks to Faith Hill and Taylor Swift. Even country interlopers Bret Michaels and Lenny Kravitz have showed up to play – with mixed results. But with hundreds of acts performing over CMA Fest's four official days this week, June 5-8th, figuring out who deserves a listen can be as daunting as trying to navigate the perennially hot-and-humid festival in cowboy boots (Hint: stick with sneakers). Here are the 30 performances that we'd go a country mile to see. By Chelsea Crowell, Beville Dunkerley, Adam Gold, Joseph Hudak, Katy Lindenmuth, Marissa R. Moss and Wendy Newcomer

Chris Stapleton performs

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Chris Stapleton

When/Where: Thursday, June 5th, Bud Light Stage

Who: The writer behind such monsters as Luke Bryan's "Drink a Beer" and Josh Turner's "Your Man," with a voice that rattles windows

Why You Can't Miss Him: Stapleton's writing is masterful, but his huge country/blues voice — think Gregg Allman by way of the Kentucky coal mines — is what will really blow your hair back and make you literally feel every word he sings. As the former lead singer of "blues-grass" band the SteelDrivers, Stapleton is also a three-time Grammy nominee. While his debut single as a solo artist, "What Are You Listening To," didn't make much of a dent at country radio — undeniably radio's loss — the hirsute Stapleton has been opening shows for Dierks Bentley, making many fans ask, "Who is this guy?!"

Lorrie Morgan Pam Tillis perform

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Pam Tillis & Lorrie Morgan

When/Where: Sunday, June 8th, Chevy Riverfront Stage

Who: Nineties superstars who have teamed up to launch the deliciously devilish Grits & Glamour tour

Why You Can't Miss Them: Yes, fans, there really was a time when women were played on country radio… about 25 years ago. Morgan and Tillis have only gotten better through the years and their songs are still relevant. Go for the nostalgia of hearing enduring Number Ones like Morgan's "Something in Red" and Tillis' "Maybe It Was Memphis." But stay for the clever duo's new music from their 2013 Dos Divas album, including their knowing, moving ode to female empowerment, "I Am a Woman."