Underwood takes top honors at CMT Awards


NASHVILLE - Carrie Underwood was the big winner at the 2007 CMT Music Awards Monday night at Belmont University's Curb Event Center in Nashville, taking home video of the year and female awards for "Before He Cheats." The former award was voted on by fans during the show. Meanwhile Roman White, who directed the video, took director of the year honors.

"It was at CMT last year that I gave my very first acceptance speech," Underwood told the audience. "It's been an amazing last two years."

Kris Kristofferson was presented the Johnny Cash Visionary Award by Cash's daughter, Rosanne Cash. Willie Nelson (who called Kristofferson's songs "a true roadmap of country music"), Don Was, Martin Scorsese, Russell Crowe, Gretchen Wilson and Keith Urban all took part in a video tribute to Kristofferson.

"John was probably the biggest reason that I'm standing here today," Kristofferson said backstage. "Holding this [award] is like some kind of dream that I didn't even have the nerve to dream."

Kenny Chesney, who also performed on the show, took home a "buckle" -- as the awards are known -- with male honors for "You Save Me."

Rascal Flatts won group video of the year for "What Hurts the Most," one of two videos they had in the category. The band opened the musical portion of the show with "Life Is a Highway" from the "Cars" movie soundtrack. In an interactive moment, fans chose the song over two other Rascal Flatts hits.

Meanwhile, Sugarland came away with duo honors for "Want To." "We love that you vote for this -- it makes it that much more special," the duo's Jennifer Nettles said, speaking to the fans.

Seventeen-year-old Taylor Swift won breakthrough video honors for "Tim McGraw," her first release, and Big Machine Records labelmate Jack Ingram won the Wide Open Country category with "Love You." "I cannot believe this is happening right now," the home-schooled Swift told the audience. "This is for my MySpace people and the fans."

The show opened with a parody of Fox Television's "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader," which is hosted by Jeff Foxworthy, who also played host to the CMT awards for the third straight year.

It also featured musical performances by Hank Williams Jr., Martina McBride, Toby Keith and Dierks Bentley, among others. Bon Jovi debuted its new single, "(You Want To) Make a Memory," from the forthcoming album "Lost Highway," which was recorded in Nashville.