It was the year of the Earls of Leicester, who took 6 of the 17 trophies, including the coveted Entertainer of the Year. They became so blasé about winning, that Barry Bales cast one to the floor during his acceptance speech.
Not really… he merely knocked it over coming to the podium, but he confirmed that it did, indeed, break. “They don’t make ’em like they used to,” was his refrain.
Other than the Earls, Balsam Range and Becky Buller were the belles of the ball, receiving 3 and 2 awards respectively.
The emotional highlights came during the inductions of Bill Keith and Larry Sparks into the Hall of Fame. As recently as last week it wasn’t certain that Bill would be able to attend and accept in person, as his health has been failing. But he followed a lovely introduction from Jim Rooney and Alan Munde with a bracing remembrance of the many people who have assisted him along the way.
Sparks had the signal honor of being inducted by Alison Krauss, who shared a truly lovely encomium to her favorite bluegrass singer, consisting largely of his own words. In accepting, he provided his trademark blend of bravado and humor, after which he and his band, joined by Krauss, laid down spot-on renditions of several of his hits, including John Deere Tractor and Tennessee 1949.
A complete list of winners follows:
- Entertainer of the Year: The Earls of Leicester
- Female Vocalist of the Year: Rhonda Vincent
- Male Vocalist of the Year: Shawn Camp
- Vocal Group of the Year: Balsam Range
- Instrumental Group of the Year: The Earls of Leicester
- Song of the Year: Moon Over Memphis, Balsam Range
- Album of the Year: The Earls of Leicester, The Earls of Leicester, Jerry Douglas, producer
- Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year: Who Will Sing for Me, The Earls of Leicester
- Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year: The Three Bells, Jerry Douglas, Mike Auldridge, Rob Ickes
- Emerging Artist of the Year: Becky Buller
- Recorded Event of the Year: Southern Flavor, Becky Buller, with Peter Rowan, Michael Feagan, Buddy Spicher, Ernie Sykes, Roland White, and Blake Williams
- Banjo Player of the Year: Rob McCoury
- Bass Player of the Year: Tim Surrett
- Dobro Player of the Year: Jerry Douglas
- Fiddle Player of the Year: Michael Cleveland
- Guitar Player of the Year: Bryan Sutton
- Mandolin Player of the Year: Jesse Brock
Congratulations one and all!