“Good evening, music lovers!” effused Sam Bush, to a packed-out barn of bluegrass fans and industry folks who’d gathered at the Loveless Barn just outside Nashville last night (August 14) for a special edition of Music City Roots, the weekly radio show that celebrates the music of Nashville like no other. It was the third consecutive year that the International Bluegrass Music Association threw its annual Award Nominees Announcement in conjunction with the show, which featured an all-bluegrass line-up instead of its usual eclectic offering.
“The Loveless Barn and Music City Roots is just a great place to have a bluegrass party,” said IBMA Executive Director Nancy Cardwell. “It’s the opportunity to put the spotlight on the awards, the nominees and the music itself, and live-stream it around the world through their website, and then follow it up with a great night of bluegrass music!”
Before the concert, which featured nominees Flatt Lonesome, Donna Ulisse, The Steeldrivers and Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out along with Bush, Sam and Music City Roots host Jim Lauderdale presented the nominations announcement to the gathered guests, artists, press and fans. Folks were also listening via the Music City Roots website, Sirius/XM satellite radio channel Bluegrass Junction with veteran radio host Kyle Cantrell, and special viewing parties from venues in Raleigh, North Carolina, site of the upcoming awards show on September 26 as well as the World of Bluegrass business conference and Wide Open Bluegrass fan festival September 24-28.
Those gathered were clearly thrilled by IBMA Vice Chair Jon Weisberger’s announcement that Tony Rice and Paul Warren are the latest inductees into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame. Warren’s family, including his son Johnny, who’s been playing fiddle for Jerry Douglas’ outfit The Earls of Leicester lately, were in the audience for the presentation.
After Music City Roots artist interviewer and IBMA Board member Craig Havighurst announced the recipients of the Special Award nominations and those receiving Distinguished Achievement Awards, Bush and Lauderdale returned to the podium for the performance nominations. Afterwards, a flurry of activity ensued – newly-minted nominees were asked questions by the press, and congratulated by friends and well-wishers, while ticketholders for the evening’s sold-out show filed in. Sponsors and guests headed to the reception, where dinner from the adjacent and legendary Loveless Café waited.
Jamie Dailey and Darren Vincent were found waiting to go on the air with Bluegrass Junction. Vincent insisted that the duo had been nominated for “Plumber of the Year,” despite the apparent absence of the category from the announcements. Despite that particular omission, Dailey has been nominated in the Male Vocalist category, while the pair has been named in the Vocal Group and Entertainer of the Year categories. They have won all of the categories in the past; the latter two, three times each in 2008, 2009 and 2010. They admit that it is a challenge to keep themselves at a level that they want and know their fans expect them to be.
“We work hard every year trying to re-do our show, at least twice a year,” says Dailey, “to bring something fresh to the crowd. We’re constantly working on it, trying not to get into a rut, trying not to get complacent.”
Vincent adds, “It’s hard to do. We work hard at it; we pray about it, we study. It’s a job. I know it’s entertainment, but we take it seriously, to do the best we can for our fans.”
Darin and Brooke Aldridge received their first nomination in the Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year, for the George Shuffler-written, When He Beckons Me Home. They gave Bluegrass Today an exclusive interview from their home in North Carolina.
“That song was actually the first demo Brooke and I did together after we met,” Darin explained. “It’s been with us a long time. It goes back to both of our families and churches, and it’s a big thing for George Shuffler to be the songwriter on it. It’s an honor to be in that category with him being the songwriter.”
“We get a lot of requests for the song,” Brooke added. “It has a really positive message and we like it that a lot of people get to hear it.”
Tim O’Brien, rehearsing in Ireland for some shows with local artist Arty McGlynn, was very surprised with his double nominations, in the Male Vocalist and Recorded Event of the Year categories. Along with Marty Raybon, O’Brien has vocal experience in the country genre, and he gave some interesting insight as to how he hears and approaches the different styles.
“Bluegrass kind of demands a certain stance as a vocalist,” he ponders. “You sing a little higher in your range, you check the vibrato at the door, and you also want to put the same drive in it that all the instruments do. But when I listen to some of my favorite singers from outside the genre – Jerry Lee Lewis, or Paul Brady – I hear a lot of the same things. And you can swing a bluegrass song sometimes. The song dictates and inspires. You have to find your own way into a song, and make it your own regardless of the genre. All of that said, I’m a bluegrass singer mostly because that’s the majority of what I’ve done the past 30 years.”
“It’s like a fine wine, it gets better with age!” declares Russell Moore. He’s talking about the multiple nominations for his group, IIIrd Tyme Out, including his repeat nomination in the Male Vocalist category. Moore has won that category more than any other artist, a total of five times including the past three years. “The older we get as a band, the longer we’re out here, you’d think the ‘new’ would wear off and they would find someone else that they want to wave the banner for. There are a lot of great musicians and bands in bluegrass music, and you think, ‘This is the year they’re going to move on.’ So it’s really gratifying, it really is.”
Balsam Range has seven nominations to their credit, including Entertainer of the Year, Vocal Group of the Year, Song of the Year (for both Any Old Road [Will Take You There] and Papertown), Album of the Year (Papertown), Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year (Row by Row) and Recorded Event of the Year (Terry Baucom’s What’ll I Do with Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Wyatt Rice, Steve Bryant & Buddy Melton). Melton and Darren Nicholson were taken aback by the recognition.
“It’s a shock,” says Nicholson. “You play this music your whole life, and you always dream of being recognized at this level. It’s really exciting. It inspires you to want to work harder.”
Says Melton, “When you go about it as a group, as a team effort, those big categories that focus on the band mean a lot. It means a lot to be recognized as team, because that’s how we go about things.
“It’s great to see that what we’re doing is being accepted. It gives us a shot in the arm and helps us believe in what we’re doing. We love to share it. We love to meet people. We just want to keep getting out there and working.”
Marty Raybon has two nominations, in the Male Vocalist category and in the Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year for his version of the classic, Beulah Land. He paused a moment to reflect positively on the IBMA World of Bluegrass events moving to Raleigh for the first time.
“I think it’s going to be really special. You can have a bluegrass festival in the middle of a cow pasture, and the people and the music are going to make it good. I might have to travel seven hours to get there now, but I’m a musician, that’s what I do. It might be here, it might be there, but I’m just proud to be a part of it.”
The Spinney Brothers of Nova Scotia, Canada, have been heavily on the road this summer, as have many bands. They are en route to the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival, taking place this weekend in Pennsylvania, and pulled over to listen to the IBMA announcement. After going to the IBMA World of Bluegrass events since 1995 and playing music for 20 years, they were elated to hear their name called in the Emerging Artist group. As the lone international nominee in the entire field across all categories, vocalist and banjo player Rick Spinney spoke later in a phone interview about carrying the “I” in “International Bluegrass Music Association” mantle.
“It feels really good, because we do work extremely hard as an international band. We’re proud to represent Canada, but we’re proud to represent the music itself,” he says. “Being a full-time act, we want to give other bands in Canada the realization that you can play bluegrass music and make a living at it, you can treat it as a business and still have a lot of fun and entertain a lot of people. In a small way, we’re trying to make our mark in a positive aspect. That’s why we titled our album No Borders, because when it comes to bluegrass music, there are no borders anymore, and to be recognized at this moment by the IBMA is certainly the height of what we’ve been doing so far.”
Jesse Brock, who was named Mandolin Player of the Year in 2009 and is in the category again this year, stopped by to tell us that he has just joined The Gibson Brothers after enjoying a couple of years on the road with Audie Blaylock & Redline. Beyond Bill Monroe’s obvious influence, Brock points to some other, perhaps less obvious choices for helping him craft his own style of playing.
“Doyle Lawson, Dempsey Young,” he lists, “…and of the newer generation, Adam Steffey and Ronnie McCoury. Jesse McReynolds is under-rated, I think, and is a master at his craft. It’s hard to have longevity in this business, and hard to stay young-minded to where you can continue on and do a good job. It’s such an honor to still be here.”
The IBMA Awards, hosted by North Carolina’s own Steep Canyon Rangers, will be presented on September 26th with a live stream accessible through Bluegrass Today.