By People Staff
October 13, 1997 12:00 PM

CLINT BLACK HAS A SIMPLE EXPLANATION FOR WHY THIS year’s Country Music Association Awards looked more like the Oscars than the gussied-up hoedown of years past. “Country went shopping,” said Black, in Donna Karan, while his wife, actress Lisa Hartman Black, wore Versace to the 31st annual awards at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. Whether it was Tracy Lawrence in Armani, Deana Carter in Richard Tyler or Faith Hill in Vera Wang, designer duds only underscored the point made by singer Lorrie Morgan (in a sexy, navel-baring outfit) that country music has at last been recognized “as being a little more fashionable than hay bales.”

But if the awards were only a bit country (cowboy boots outnumbered stilettoes), they were also a little bit rock and roll. When Sting warbled a duet with Toby Keith of the hit “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying,” host Vince Gill asked, “Hey, Sting, can we call you Stang?”

After the show, record companies feted the stars all over Nashville. Actor Dean Cain (TV’s Superman and country singer Mindy McCready’s fiancé) was among 300 revelers at the RCA bash who feasted on blackened scallops, pesto pasta and chocolate fondue. “It’s sort of the same game [as Hollywood],” said Cain, who added that Nashville is more laid back. “At the CMA awards six women shared a dressing room. You cannot have that in Hollywood.”