Sara Evans, Warren Brothers Relaxed At ACM Rehearsals

Preparations underway for 36th annual awards show.

UNIVERSAL CITY, California — Neither Sara Evans nor the Warren Brothers — Brad and Brett — can be considered veterans of network TV, but they don't have jitters about their performance together Wednesday night on CBS.

With three award nominations between them, Evans and the Warrens have earned the right to strut their stuff in front of a national audience. On a set complete with disco ball, they will perform "That's the Beat of a Heart" near the end of the 36th annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the Universal Amphitheatre.

"We're gonna mess up, just so Sara looks bad, and play a joke on her," Brad Warren vowed before going to the stage to rehearse the song with Evans.

"We play this song every night, and Sara doesn't," added Brett Warren, who sings the lead vocal for which Evans supplies harmonies. "But she's awesome. She's a great singer."

"You've done one TV show, you've done 'em all," Brad chimed in. "It's a little bit nerve-racking, technically, but this is an easy song for us to do."

Teaming with the Warren Brothers, who are nominated for Top Vocal Duo, takes a lot of pressure off her, said Evans, who is up for Top Female Vocalist, her first major award nomination. "Who knows if we'll even make it through the song," she said with a chuckle, "'cause they are crazy."

The jabs came fast and sharp between these duet partners. "If anyone screws up, it'll be her, because we're used to playing it. I just want to make that clear," Brad cracked.

And Evans, a little later, gave it right back. "If anybody messes up, I know it'll be them; it'll make me look good, no matter what."

Country's most famous duet partners at present — Tim McGraw and Faith Hill — won't be performing together or separately, but they will attend the show, and they will have prominent seats, the better to get to the stage in the event either should win an award. Among other things, Hill is up for Entertainer of the Year, competing with Brooks & Dunn, the Dixie Chicks, Toby Keith and George Strait. Curiously, McGraw is not nominated in the entertainer category, but he is vying for Top Male Vocalist and Hill for Top Female Vocalist. Their pairing on "Let's Make Love" is one of the entries opposite Evans and the Warrens in the Vocal Event of the Year field.

Rehearsals for Wednesday's show got underway Sunday, when Brad Paisley, Dwight Yoakam and Billy Gilman each took a turn on the Universal Amphitheatre stage. Host LeAnn Rimes, who'll perform "Can't Fight the Moonlight" (RealAudio excerpt), went through her paces on Monday and was scheduled to put in a little more time Tuesday (May 8), to make sure she's totally prepared. The 18-year-old singer has hosted only one other awards show, a TNN Music City News ceremony several years ago. Only 15 at the time, she worked with co-host Randy Travis.

"She has a great sense of timing," said R.A. Clark, in his second year as producer of the show. "We've surrounded her with some good writers, and she's got some good stuff."

Clark has responded to criticism of last year's show by paying special attention to technical matters. "The thing that's different this year on the television show itself is the production value," he promised. "The screens we have, the dancers, the pyrotechnics, the band, the sound — we've really upgraded all that this year."

Three or four numbers will feature special effects, Clark said, but he's not revealing which ones, or when they'll come in the show. "You gotta watch," he said. "You gotta watch."