IBMA announces hosts, performers for 2020 Bluegrass Music Awards

The International Bluegrass Music Association has announced a quartet of top artists to serve as anchors for the all-virtual 2020 Bluegrass Music Awards.

Chosen as co-hosts this year are Sierra Hull, Joe Newberry, Tim O’Brien, and Rhonda Vincent, who will hold down the central part of the program, throwing to pre-recorded live sets and award presentations on tape.

As is usually the case, live performances are on tap from all six Entertainer of the Year nominees, as well as special features celebrating 2020 as the 75th anniversary of the birth of bluegrass. These have been shot in advance on video, in various locations in Nashville and Raleigh.

Other show segments announced by IBMA include:

  • On stage at the Ryman, the Del McCoury Band will perform a classic Bill Monroe song in celebration of the 75th anniversary of bluegrass.

  • In a tribute to Doc Watson, his longtime band mate T. Michael Coleman is joined by all five Guitar Player of the Year nominees for a rousing Black Mountain Rag.

  • In a tribute to J.D. Crowe, his ex-band member Jerry Douglas has collected an amazing lineup of IBMA royalty, including all five banjo nominees, joined by Douglas, Sam Bush, Missy Raines and David Grier.

  • Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper will perform a song from the fiddling virtuoso’s 2020 GRAMMY-winning album, Tall Fiddler.

  • Taj Mahal joins the fun virtually – from Northern California – when he joins Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley with nominated sidemen Mike Bub and Stuart Duncan, performing at the Ryman, for Sittin’ on Top of the World.

  • Becky Buller, Missy Raines, and Alison Brown will perform an original hymn by Buller, Take Me Over Jordan, for the In Memoriam segment.

  • To salute women in bluegrass history and the 20th anniversary of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, four female nominees (including host Rhonda Vincent) will sing the a cappella Down to the River to Pray from the groundbreaking project. 

  • An opening number recreating that night 75 years ago when Flatt and Scruggs joined Bill Monroe on stage at the Ryman Auditorium. 

Everything about this year’s show had to be reimagined on the fly, as North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s shutdown orders would not allow for the convention or the awards show to go on as scheduled in Raleigh. So IBMA had to come up with a plan to host everything online, an entirely new experience with little time to consider options.

But show producer Joanne Gardner Lowell says that all hands have been willing to make adjustments as necessary.

“This show has been a pleasure to produce. When I started talking with the IBMA earlier this year, we were Raleigh bound. I’ve been so impressed by how eager all of the IBMA team and the performers have been to pivot and create an entirely new program with virtual aspects. It’s a testament to how the people in the bluegrass community are focused on pulling together to make lemonade out of the large crate of lemons we’ve all been handed this year.”

If you had watched any of the recent political convention coverage, you can get an idea of how the awards show will run, though with fewer flags and patriotic songs. Oh… and shorter speeches.

A list of nominees for 2020 can be found here.

The best news for bluegrass lovers is that the online version of the IBMA Bluegrass Awards on October 1 will be free to all via the IBMA Facebook page and the World of Bluegrass web site starting at 8:00 p.m. (EDT). Please share the news with anyone who might enjoy a first class presentation of what bluegrass is all about, or invite them to join you for a watch party at your home.

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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.