Closing Notes from Raleigh

honda Vincent & the Rage perform on the 2013 IBMA Awards - photo by Jessica BoggsIBMA 2013 will always be remembered as the year Tony Rice spoke. But there were plenty of other noteworthy events that deserve to be featured. Here are some of them:

RHONDA’S BACK. After a long hiatus, Rhonda Vincent was back at IBMA this year. The seven-time female vocalist of the year took part in the awards show, including a pre-show trip down the red carpet in killer shoes (killer in a good way for how they looked, killer in a not-so-good way for her feet). She also hung around the exhibit hall later in the week, wearing sandals. Let’s hope it’s the start of a string of regular appearances.

ANOTHER RECOVERY. Tony Rice’s isn’t the only recovery worth talking about. Tom Adams, three-time IBMA banjo player of the year, is back on the five-string after an extended fight with focal dystonia in his right hand. During the struggle, Tom was able to play the guitar but not banjo. But this year, he was able to start playing again, and was honored for instrumental recorded performance of the year for Foggy Mountain Rock, which he recorded on an Earl Scruggs tribute album with Dan Tyminksi, Ron Stewart, Dennis Crouch, Clay Hess and Randy Kohrs.

ON A ROLL. The Gibson Brothers made it four years in a row of multiple wins at the IBMA awards show. They were voted entertainers of the year for the second straight year and vocal group of the year. Plus, they took home song of the year for They Called It Music, which Eric Gibson wrote with Joe Newberry, and Eric was chosen as songwriter of the year.

In 2012, in addition to the entertainer trophy, they won Gospel song of the year for Singing as We Rise, written by Joe Newberry. In 2011, the upstate New York band was honored for vocal group of the year and album of the year for Help My Brother, and in 2010 they won song of the year and gospel song of the year for Ring the Bell.

TOUGH TO CHOOSE. Eric and Leigh Gibson have been talking about recording an album to honor some of the great brother bands through the years – the Louvin Brothers, Jim and Jesse, the Osborne Brothers, the Delmore Brothers and others. But they continue to write their own material for the next bluegrass album, so it’s not a slam-dunk in which order they’ll appear. This much is clear, though: Based on their music and their track record in recent years, any future band that decides to record the best brother bands across time will definitely include material from the Gibson Brothers.

The GeeBees, as some friends refer to them in shorthand, aren’t the only Compass Records act to ponder how to approach their next record. Claire Lynch is in the same boat. She and her band have talked openly about recording an all-swing tunes project, but the Dear Sister album remains atop or near the top of various roots music charts and she just won her third female vocalist statue, so there’s some discussion about doing a more traditional Claire Lynch Band record first, followed closely by the swing project. With the title cut of her current release still going strong – and eligible for next year’s IBMA awards – don’t be surprised if the band squeezes out one more conventional CD before the swing tunes are released. (I have no inside knowledge here, just making an educated guess.)

HAPPY CAMPER. That guy who roamed the halls of the Raleigh conference with a big smile on his face while seeming to stand a bit taller? That was Stan Zdonik, who left the board after a lengthy stint as vice chairman and the last three years as chairman, all while running the Joe Val festival and working as a college professor. Stan deserves credit for speaking frankly about IBMA’s dismal finances and pushing the organization and its board to turn things around. The move to Raleigh and the move toward financial stability both happened on his watch. That’s a strong legacy.

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About the Author

David Morris

David Morris, an award-winning songwriter and journalist, has written for Bluegrass Today since its inception. He joined its predecessor, The Bluegrass Blog, in 2010. His 40-year career in journalism included more than 13 years with The Associated Press, a stint as chief White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, and several top editing jobs in Washington, D.C. He is a life member of IBMA and the DC Bluegrass Union. He and co-writers won the bluegrass category in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 2015.