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Vince Gill Still Reigns As King of Country Music

He hosted and garnered top prize at 28th award show in Nashville

VINCE GILL won his second consecutive Entertainer of the Year award and received the Male Vocalist award for the fourth year in a row Wednesday night at the 28th Country Music Association awards.

Gill, who hosted the awards show telecast nationwide on CBS from the Grand Ole Opry, has hit it big with songs such as ``I Still Believe in You'' and ``When I Call Your Name.''

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Pam Tillis was named Female Vocalist. The daughter of Mel Tillis and a prolific songwriter, she switched from rock music to country, where her first four singles climbed into the top 10 and her debut CD, ``Put Yourself in My Place,'' went gold.

Single of the Year honors went to ``I Swear,'' sung by John Michael Montgomery, who also won the Horizon Award.

Brooks and Dunn won their third Vocal Duo award. Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn have been a duo since 1990 and are best known for their ``Boot Scootin' Boogie,'' which helped launch the line-dancing craze.

The group Diamond Rio, who spent the early '80s as struggling singers at Opryland, won their third consecutive Vocal Group honor. The six musicians comprised the first group to hit a top spot with a debut single record, ``Meet in the Middle.''

``Common Thread: the Songs of the Eagles'' was chosen as Album of the Year. The multiartist album featured 12 country music acts.

``This type of album really shows the link between rock and country music,'' says its producer, James Stroud, emphasizing the current trend in country music.

Merle Haggard was honored onstage for his election into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Haggard's ``Okie from Muskogee'' in 1970 and ``Working Man Blues'' are two of his best-known hits, turned out when he started his career after serving time in San Quentin for an unsuccessful burglary attempt.

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Haggard has earned 43 CMA nominations, more than any other country music star. Asked about current country music in a backstage interview later, Haggard said, ``I think we're experiencing some sort of perfected music right now. I don't mean to put it down, but I think it's going to come back to what it used to be: bare talent rather than electronics.''

Other CMA awards included:

* ``Chattahoochee,'' written by Alan Jackson and Jim McBride, won ``Song of the Year.''

* Reba McEntire and Linda Davis won the Vocal Event award with a rendition of ``Does He Love You?''

* Martina McBride won Music Video of the Year for ``Independence Day,'' based on the theme of a female victim of domestic abuse.

* Fiddler Mark O'Connor won Musician of the Year for the fourth consecutive year.

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