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CMA Music Fest 2015: 25 Must-See Acts

From superstars to up-and-comers, the acts that will make “country’s biggest party” one to remember

CMA Music Fest 2015

Carrie Underwood and Charlie Worsham are two must-see artists at CMA Music Fest.

Debra L Rothenberg/WireImage/Getty; Scott Legato/Getty

What started in 1972 as "Fan Fair" — a 5,000-person event inside Nashville's Municipal Auditorium — has grown into one of the biggest country music festivals in the world. Now called CMA Music Fest and spread out all over downtown Music City, the annual four-day event draws more than 80,000 fans and boasts performances by close to 400 artists.

For the festival's 44th year, superstars including Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban and Brad Paisley will take over the Tennessee Titans' LP Field at night, while rising talent including Kelsea Ballerini, Clare Dunn and Charlie Worsham will warm up the crowds on smaller stages during the day. Here are 25 artists who should be priorities on any music fan's CMA Music Fest agenda.

Muddy Magnolias

Paul Moore

Muddy Magnolias

Male-male duos are a country staple — from Brooks & Dunn to Florida Georgia Line — but the power pair of Jessy Wilson and Kallie North show it isn't only a boys' club. With North's porch-side Mississippi roots and Wilson's asphalt Brooklyn breeding, they bring a sound that melds city grit and Delta dirt, exploding onstage not like two lead singers but more like parts of the same whole — sometimes back-to-back, sometimes sharing a mic, sometimes favoring unison over harmonies. Last year, Rolling Stone Country crowned them CMA Fest's Best Unsigned Duo after an explosive set; this time, they hit the stage with an I.R.S record deal and a set of R&B-tinged country grooves they've been honing with Butch Walker. (Friday, 6 p.m., BMI Tailgate Party at LP Field)