IBMA Travelogue #3

Our own intrepid correspondent, Richard Thompson [bluegrassmercury], is with us in Nashville, having traveled from the UK to attend the IBMA convention this week. This is his first trip to IBMA in 20 years, and we thought that his impressions and considerations would be of interest both to others who are likewise in attendance, and our many readers who would love be there.

bluegrassmercury – Travelogue #3
by Richard F Thompson

Richard F. Thompson aka bluegrassmercuryFor bluegrass fans, one of the delights of Nashville is the Station Inn, located in a rather ordinary single-storey building on 12th Avenue South, within easy walking distance not far from upper Broadway.

The interior consists of a low-ceilinged room lit mainly by neon signs, although a small raised stage area is well lit. There’s a small bar at the rear and rest rooms adjacent. Souvenirs are on display for sale to the right of the bar. Food and alcohol is available as well as soft drinks. It’s a no smoking venue, which is, as far as I am concerned, a definite plus point.

On this past Saturday evening (9/27), the Station Inn showcased the talents of Ronnie Bowman, a former member of Lost & Found and the Lonesome River Band and described by USA Today as “one of bluegrass’s most tender voices.” He was accompanied by his wife, Garnet (harmony vocals), Jimmy Stewart, formerly of Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, playing Dobro ®, Donica Christensen (banjo), Daryl Schumacher (mandolin) and Greg Martin (bass).

Ronnie Bowman at The Station Inn - Darren Schumaker, Garnet Bowman, Ronnie Bowman, Donica Christensen, Jimmy Stewart and Greg Martin (hidden)Bowman has written many excellent songs even before going solo and those songs provided the backbone of the evening’s entertainment.

Kicking off with Drifting With The Tide, Bowman moved quickly onto a song that he has recently recorded, Truck Driver’s Queen, The Matterhorn, Allen Mills’ Love Of The Mountains, another song that he has cut recently, Here I Am, Old Country Town, from the Lonesome River Band’s award-winning Rebel CD, Closer To Heaven and finished a near-35 minute set with Will I Be That Lucky Man?

Ms. Bowman maintained the excellent standard of singing with a song that she has been singing since the time that JD Crowe and the New South did it, Tennessee Blues.

The second set opened with Cold Virginia Night, Sweet Marie and It’s Gettin’ Better All The Time, before Rob McCoury stepped up to the stage for a brief guest spot, working the mic like the top professional that he is, as Bowman went back in time with great versions of Little Cabin Home On The Hill and then Will You Be Lonesome, Too?, from his first solo album.

Providing an interlude between two slow songs Jimmy Stewart chipped in with a rousing showcasing of the Jimmy Martin favourite Freeborn Man.

It was pretty loose, but all very enjoyable nonetheless and met with the approval of a demanding audience.

The band returned to continued loud applause to do a two song encore.

From North Carolina, Bowman is said to sing like a country boy, but there was no doubting his bluegrass credentials this evening.

Christensen’s banjo playing was an artful display, sensitively supportive of the vocals. On the other hand Schumacher produced some hot licks in his solos and Stewart provided a mixture of both, all anchored by Martin’s solid rhythm work on bass.

It is clear that it wasn’t just Karen and I who enjoyed our evening out as a knowledgeable audience was clearly well satisfied with what it heard.

Would I go again? Yes, definitely. The Station Inn has world-wide renown and it isn’t too preposterous to describe the visit as a pilgrimage. Others should follow in my footsteps.

A complete list of off-site events during IBMA week can be found here on Bluegrass Today.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.