57th CMA Awards @Nashville Bridgestone Arena, November 8 2023

Jelly Roll said it best of all when he pointed to the irony at the heart of his New Artist Of The Year award.

Aged 38, he’s the emerging — and heavily tattooed — face of country music.

Lainey Wilson can relate.

After 12 years on Music City’s often unforgiving merry-go-round, the biggest winner on ‘country music’s biggest night’ hopes the genre’s finally taking her to heart.

Of course, country never claimed to be a young person’s game.

But in Roll, Wilson, Chris Stapleton, Old Dominion and more there’s evidence aplenty that good things come to those who wait.

And the new breed of country star has never been more diverse.

There’s reformed criminal and ex-rapper Roll.

Husband and wife team The War And Treaty fuse soul and blues with country and rock.

Old Dominion are defiantly old school.

Brothers Osborne pack a new rock punch.

And Hardy takes it even further with lyrical heft as heavy as the metal-inspired half of The Mockingbird & THE CROW.

A keen focus on the future has always been central to the CMA Awards but there are plenty of nods to country’s glorious past.

A terrific tribute to Jimmy Buffett was anchored by Kenny Chesney, Mac McAnally, Alan Jackson and Zac Brown Band.

Tanya Tucker threatened to steal the show alongside the evergreen Little Big Town.

And there was time to celebrate Tucker’s fellow Country Music Hall Of Fame inductees Bob McDill and Patty Loveless.

If Wilson and Roll scooped most of the top awards then it was the magnificent Ashley McBryde who proved the big prizes don’t always reflect the cream of the country crop.

A simmering version of Light On In The Kitchen (a Music Video Of The Year contender) underlined the 40-year-old’s peerless class.

And McBryde — another late bloomer — surely deserved more from her three nominations.

That The War And Treaty lost out to Brothers Osborne in the Vocal Duo Of The Year category was a little less contentious.

And yet Mr & Mrs Trotter took the 57th awards to a dizzying new level with a genuinely joyous version of That’s How Love Is Made.

The War And Treaty will be winners one day.

As Roll will testify, time is on their side.