This post is a contribution from David Morris, one of our 2010 IBMA correspondents. Photos for this post are from Roy Swann.
Thursday night’s IBMA awards ceremony had a distinctly retro feel, with Hazel Dickens and Earl Scruggs on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium, Bill Monroe among the nominees – as a songwriter – and a familiar cast of characters cycling on and off the stage to collect multiple awards.
There were few surprises and even fewer new names among the winners. Even the emerging artist winner, the Josh Williams Band, is headed by a past winner of IBMA statues. He collected the guitar player of the year award for the third straight year.
Dailey & Vincent continued their run of IBMA successes with four wins, including vocal group and entertainer of the year, both for the third straight year, and album of the year for the second time in three years. Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper picked up three repeat awards – instrumental group of the year for the fourth consecutive time, fiddle player of the year for Cleveland for the eighth time and bassist of the year for Marshall Wilborn for the second straight year.
Chet O’Keefe had the biggest night among newcomers to the Ryman stage. His song Ring the Bell, the first cut of his writing career, won song of the year and gospel song of the year for the Gibson Brothers.
Adam Steffey also made two trips to the stage, for mandolin player of the year and instrumental song of the year. It was Steffey’s seventh mandolin prize, and now that he’s hooked up to the Boxcars, more are likely in the offing. Steffey all but suggested he didn’t think he was worthy. “If you walked into a mandolin store, like Baskin-Robbins 31 flavors, I’d be vanilla,” he said. “There’s nothing I do that’s anything special.”
In the no-surprise here category, Rob Ickes claimed his fifth straight dobro award and 12th overall. Other repeat winners were Russell Moore, vocalist of the year for the third time, Kristin Scott-Benson, banjo player of the year for the third-straight time, and Claire Lynch, who ended Dale Ann Bradley’s three-year run by winning her second female vocalist title. But the last, Lynch joked, was “back in the 1900s.”
Even some of the entertainment had a retro feel – Dailey & Vincent reviving the Statler Brothers, Alison Krauss and Union Station and the Whites reprising tunes from the O Brother Where Art You movie a decade ago and AKUS and the Whites paying tribute to the 10th anniversary of O Brother Where Art Thou movie of a decade ago, and the Claire Lynch Band offering My Florida Sunshine which had been written and performed by Monroe. The song was a nominee for song of the year.
The biggest throwbacks of the night, though, were the appearances by Scruggs and Dickens. Scruggs, looking frail, first came out when his late wife Lousie was inducted into the bluegrass hall of fame. He reappeared later with his sons and guests, including Dierks Bentley, picking a clean guitar lead while seated at center stage.
Dickens, a co-presenter with Peter Rowan, showed her sense of humor remains sharp. When Rowan asked if she remembered the rush she used to get standing on stage, Dickens said, “I still have that rush, being next to you.” And when Rowan said “and the winner is” before realizing he didn’t have the emerging artist envelope, Dickens said, “whoever accepts.”