The Best New Artist category at the 2012 Taste of Country Awards was near a statistical tie with just 24 hours left to vote, but Casey James's fans stepped up in a big way to push the 'Crying on a Suitcase' singer past his competition. James took almost 39 percent of the vote, beating Hunter Hayes and the Hayniacs by two percentage points.

Brantley Gilbert finished third in the category with nearly seven percent of the vote. Kip Moore was fourth with five percent. The win caps a big year for James, who released his self-titled debut album in March. Thus far he's released two singles, including the Top 20 hit 'Let's Don't Call It a Night' and 'Crying on a Suitcase.'

Some may argue it was a dangerous move to sacrifice his fame from a third place finish on 'American Idol' to refine his career and decide the proper direction for his first album with Sony Nashville. The overwhelming support from voters at the Taste of Country Awards proves that country fans don't forget their favorites.

Congratulations to James and his fans, and to all Taste of Country Award winners. Over a half-million votes were cast between the 10 categories, with winners decided exclusively by fans.

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