2019 IBMA Momentum Award winners

Cane Mill Road performs on the 2019 IBMA Momentum Awards – photo by Frank Baker

This afternoon, during a luncheon gala, the International Bluegrass Music Association announced the winners of their 2019 Momentum Awards. These honors are given to bluegrass artists in the early stages of their careers, to offer a boost as they are moving up in the industry.

Always well attended, the ballroom of the Raleigh Convention Center was filled with movers and shakers of every stripe, and a large contingent of younger members of the bluegrass business, there to support their friends.

Before bestowing the awards, we were treated to a set from The Price Sisters, one of this years Bluegrass Ramble Showcase acts, who demonstrated their distaff variation on the old time brother duets. Real highlights were Lauren Price Napier performing a dead-on version of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Breakdown on mandolin, and Lincoln Hensley’s fine banjo picking throughout the set.

Interspersed among the award presentations were additional musical sets by Cane Mill Road and The Slocan Ramblers, both also Bluegrass Ramble artists invited by IBMA to showcase this week before the assembled industry folks. Both turned in strong shows, with Cane Mill Road following the example of early pioneers of progressive bluegrass like New Grass Revival, offering fresh takes on a couple of their songs, plus a jammed up version of Summertime. Slocan Ramblers delivered a more focused, song-oriented program, with powerful vocals and banjo from Frank Evans. Their original numbers show a strong influence from old time Appalachian music, a bit surprising for a Canadian band.

Bennett Sullivan won the Industry Involvement Award for his work on the Tunefox app with his partners Jiri and Kuba in the Czech Republic. Tunefox helps instrumentalists learn new licks and incorporate them into their playing.

The Mentor of the Year award went to Anni Beach, who we have written about several times for her work among central American immigrants and native Americans in Arizona, teaching them to play bluegrass and old time music through her Jam Pak Productions.

Two Instrumentalists of the Year are chosen for the Momentum Awards, and this year’s winners were Daniel Amick, mandolinist with High Fidelity, and Tray Wellington, banjo picker with Cane Mill Road.

AJ Lee, former singing partner of Molly Tuttle, took the Vocalist of the Year trophy. She was a longtime member of The Tuttles with AJ Lee growing up in California, and now fronts her own group, AJ Lee and Blue Summit.

The final award, Band of the Year, went to Cane Mill Road, which seemed particularly appropriate following their powerful show about 30 minutes earlier.

Congratulations to all the winners!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.