Carrie Underwood wins country music's top award

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Carrie Underwood was named entertainer of the year Sunday at the 44th Academy of Country Music awards, securing her status as country's hottest star on a night that felt like a changing of the guards.

Underwood became only the seventh woman in 39 years to win country entertainer of the year, snapping Kenny Chesney's four-year winning streak while also receiving the trophy for top female vocalist.

"I've had a lot of good moments in the past four years but this one takes the cake," a tearful Underwood said in accepting the entertainer of the year award.

"Thank you God. I never thought I'd be nominated, I never thought I would win. I don't know what to say. I've got nothing," the 26-year-old star said before letting out an emotional scream and spinning as she walked off stage.

Underwood has become country music's biggest star in the four years since she exploded onto the charts after winning TV's American Idol competition, but had been passed over for the top award. She was exultant Sunday night.

"I feel like I just won American Idol all over again," she said in accepting the top female vocalist award.

But if it was Underwood's big night, she must have heard 19-year-old sensation Taylor Swift hot on her heels.

Swift, who performed her single "You're Not Sorry, won album of the year for her multi-platinum smash "Fearless" and was also presented with a special "crystal milestone" award for selling the most albums of any country artist in 2008 -- a moment she clearly wasn't expecting.

"Oh my, thanks so much. I didn't know this was going to happen actually" Swift said in accepting the award.

Trace Atkins won single of the year for "You're Going to Miss This" and Rascall Flatts was named top vocal group.

Julianne Hough, who was first introduced to most Americans on the hit reality TV show "Dancing with the Stars" and released her self-titled debut country album in 2008, was named top new artist of the year.

(Editing by Philip Barbara)

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