IBMA recipient disappointment

All right, someone has to say this. I became a bluegrass fan in the early ’90’s during late high school. Being new to the genre, it took awhile to figure out what artists I was interested in following. One of the early guides which I used (and never failed me) was that every year I faithfully purchased each album that won Album of the Year, Instrumental Album of the Year, and Recorded Event of the Year. In this way I was introduced to albums such as Ronnie Bowman’s Cold Virginia Night and Larry Perkins’ A Touch of the Past, both of which became some of my favorites favorites and which I probably would not have become familiar with if not for the awards. It seems to me that for the first ten years or so, these awards were given to albums because they were great recordings which contributed significantly to the art form. In more recent years it appears that the IBMA has moved away from awarding albums strictly for their artistic merit and rather awarding albums for more political reasons. Maybe it started with Ricky Skaggs and then Dolly Parton “returning” to bluegrass (and thus worthy of an award). It continued with the unfortunate two-year “O Brother” fallout (what makes that a bluegrass album??) I feel that the only album from this year that was truly worthy of one of the awards was Michael Cleveland’s album, which is indeed great. The Celebration of Life album is fine, but consists mostly of material previously recorded by these artists, and moreover has the feel of something thrown together fairly quickly. While the album was produced for a great cause, would it have been nominated, let alone won, without that subtext? And as far as the Daughters of Bluegrass album, my apologies to those involved, but in my humble opinion as a consumer, it’s just not that great. It is inconceivable that these albums would win awards and the Bryan Sutton album would miss out.

One other issue: in the awards for individual performers, what good does it do anyone to have a performer win a particular award as many as 8 times??? Has anyone ever proposed the idea that once a perfomer has won an individual award three times then they become ineligible to ever be nominated in that category again? I love Jim Mills’ playing as much as the next guy, but to see him win the award for a sixth time communicates a feeling of utter stagnation in the world of bluegrass to a lowly consumer such as myself. What about nominating players such as Charlie Cushman, who seemed to break through to the top level in the past year while appearing on multiple important recordings?

I want to continue to stress that my perspective is that of a consumer. I am not a professional, do not aspire to be, and consider myself simply a fan. In the past I interpreted the IBMA awards as the bluegrass industry speaking as one and saying, “here are the very best recordings of this music which were made in the past year, based on technical merit, artistic accomplishment, originality and just good taste.” Now I feel that the awards have become something different and I don’t agree with this direction. Flame away.

  • gkoserowski

    Im just going to address the musicians winning repeat awards. While I understand your point, it is unusual to suggest that the best musicians should not be the ones to win the awards. Its NOT ABOUT giving someone else a chance. IT IS ABOUT success and the hard work it takes to perfect your craft. Personally I couldn’t care if Jimmy Mills won 15 times in a row. If he’s the best picker out there that year, then yes he should WIN! Now it is true that from time to time the folks that vote may collectively decide to vote for someone else, for some reason other than what the award was intended for or some other project and yes in these situations the best picker or the best project might not win. But this is really a rare exception. Most times they get it right, just remember that everybody has a different opinion and everybody’s opinion is valid. Putting a cap on success (hey your not the best, but the best won too many times and we want to give you a chance to win) is just social engineering and its not good for bluegrass.

  • For the most part, I would have to agree with the thoughts and feelings of the original poster, ewertj. Very well communicated.

    I was however going to make the same comment as gkoserowski regarding the multiple wins. I believe the best musicians should win the awards for the “best” categories. That being said, I always wonder how the nominees get nominated in the first place? Indeed, I often find myself asking how so and so could be nominated for such and such while there are several well deserving artists that go unrecognized year after year.

  • ctrcityrp

    I completely understand both of the original post’s major points, however they are logically inconsistent.

    If you want the IBMA’s to say ‚Äúhere are the very best recordings of this music which were made in the past year, based on technical merit, artistic accomplishment, originality and just good taste.‚Äù (pasted from that post), then you should not mind if there are multiple winners, so long as that winner qualifies within this definition.

    On the contrary, if you want to give new musicians a chance (in an effort to avoid even the appearance of stagnation, which is itself a very logical goal), then a past multiple winner would be disqualified, even if his music best fits within the definition set forth above.

    In sum, both are great things to strive for, but you can only have one or the other.