IBMA Travelogue #6

Our own intrepid correspondent, Richard Thompson [bluegrassmercury], spent a week in Nashville in early October, having traveled from the UK to attend the IBMA convention. It was his first trip to IBMA in 20 years, and we thought that his post-IBMA impressions and reflections would be of interest both to others who were likewise in attendance, and our many readers who would love to have been there.

bluegrassmercury – Travelogue #6

by Richard F Thompson

Nashville, Tenn Tuesday, September 30

summit.jpgKaren and I woke early to another wonderfully hot, sunny day with only a few clouds in the sky, thinking that late nights aren’t a problem. Learning quickly, we stoked up with breakfast and I set off to sign up for some mentor sessions, leaving Karen to attend to some very important technical tasks such as download yesterday’s photographs and re-charging camera batteries. Teamwork, just like with a well-oiled bluegrass band!

I was able to book an appointment for three Mentor Sessions, each giving me the opportunity to talk to experts in my chosen subjects, writing and photography.

My next ‘appointment’ was in the Music City Ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel to observe proceedings at the International Summit. I spent a good two hours learning about bluegrass music as it has developed around the world. The 29 participants reviewed the history of the music, swapping facts at a fast lick. Effectively, they were building a solid foundation from which to move on. As is often said to students of bluegrass, “You can’t go forward if you don’t know where you have been.”

After introducing myself to Fred Bartenstein, who has helped me with information or a comment so many times in the past, I left them to enjoy lunch; it had been a long session for them, having started at 8:30am.

Karen and I grabbed a sandwich and a drink and took a moment to reflect, before heading to the Print Media and Education constituency meeting, where we got to meet our new board representative, Craig Havighurst, who was taking over from Stephanie Ledgin. Stephanie was there to ensure the smooth transition of duties.

From there I visited the Exhibit Hall where we splashed the cash by buying a stack of CDs and DVDs. Well bluegrass music reminds me of warm summertime breezes, a perfect antidote to the long, dark and cold winter nights that will be here very soon. On some DVDs you can even see the summertime sun!

Up on Level 2 (the Exhibit Hall is down on Level 1, for those that have never been to the Nashville Convention Centre) Sierra Hull, Cia Cherryholmes and Ron Block were hosts to a quickly rotating roster of bluegrass songwriters. I remember seeing Louisa Branscombe and Keith Harden & Rick Alan Carpenter. Each of the hosts performed one of their own songs.

Back in the Renaissance ballroom activity resumed with the evening’s artists showcases (8:30pm to 11:00pm). Leading off was the fine Italian quintet, Red Wine; with former country singer and songwriter Donna Ulisse and her band; the Charlie Sizemore Band, performing many of the great songs from his much heralded recent CD release, Good News; Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice; and the effervescent Valerie Smith with her fiddle-playing band-mate Becky Buller, with whom Ms. Smith has a new album, Here’s A Little Song.

Karen made a forlorn attempt to see and hear Dailey & Vincent, but too many people had the same idea and she could barely hear the band let alone see them. So she joined me in enjoying Country Current retiree Frank Solivan with his band, Dirty Kitchen; the very recently formed Summertown Road, resplendently dressed from head to toe in black; David Peterson & His Old Time Country Review, providing an alternative to bluegrass music with a classic country music act; the show stealing Gold Heart, with some very mature music that belied their predominantly very youthful ages; the Claire Lynch Band, whose set of swing numbers was interrupted by a broken guitar string, thus providing Mark Schatz an opportunity to ham bone Get Along Home, Cindy. Great entertainment!

Larry Cordle/Carl Jackson/Jerry Salley closed the evening’s entertainment for us with some of their fine original songs.

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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.