IBMA Travelogue # 7

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 # 7
By Richard F Thompson
Nashville, Tenn. Wednesday, October 1

Bill CliftonToday’s activities meant that I didn’t have to rise as early as yesterday, but I had to have my wits about me if I was going to benefit from the mentor sessions that I had booked.

My first session was with Ted Lehmann and Dobro ¬Æ player Mike Witcher, both there for tips on photography, rather than writing. I remember that Ted was rather envious of my 200mm lens, but it was interesting to see some samples of his photographic work. Witcher’s work includes the picture on the cover of the Lonesome River Band CD ‘No Turning Back’; their latest release.

Jon Weisberger had a look at some of my writing from the 1980’s and 1990’s and we had a very good in-depth chat about writing and interviewing people. Weisberger has just released his first solo CD, If This Road Could Talk. The common factor is Weisberger wrote or co-wrote all 12 songs; rather than having him sing on all tracks, he plays upright bass.

Deb Bledsoe and Caroline Wright (both of Bluegrass Now magazine) guided me through the styles suitable for the Internet contrasting that with those for the printed page.

Although each session was short, I came away with some very good food for thought.

In a break in my session schedule I was able to have brief chat with Jamie Dailey, telling him that I expected him to be taking home lots of awards on Thursday night. Isn’t fortune telling easy?

The showcase brunch began at 11:00am, so Karen and I met and waited to be directed to a table. I was absolutely delighted to find already seated there another long-time friend, the lovely Penny Parsons, who was next to Mark Freeman of Rebel Records. I hadn’t seen either earlier in the week. It was great to see Penny again.

Brunch was good and I had my first taste of Moon Pies; delicious, but fattening.

The bands showcasing at this time were the incredibly slim Alecia Nugent, Sawmill Road, a Nevada-based group led by Steve Spurgin, and Lonesome River Band. I noticed Valery Smith, Miss Dixie Hall, Pete Kuykendall, Ken Irwin, John Sheldon (of the Scottish Bluegrass Music Association), John and Brance, and Shin Akimoto all enjoying the entertainment, apparently as much as we did at our table.

Before leaving England I enquired of Mike Lawing of the International Bluegrass Music Museum (in Owensboro) whether he would be in Nashville at the same time as me and whether would like me take some old copies of British Bluegrass News magazine with me to Nashville. He was very receptive to the suggestion. Now, about 40 magazines are heavy and I had been carrying them since I left the hotel! So, at this point my main objective was to see whether he was at the IBMM booth in the Exhibit Hall. He wasn’t there, but Gabrielle Gray was. Initially, she was unclear about what I had for her, but sat down together and told her about the magazines as she made notes. I was taken aback by her statement that those who make donations to the IBMM are made members for a year. Aren’t bluegrass people so very gracious?

We decided to have a meal in Commerce Street Grille, which is actually part of the Renaissance Hotel. Having had lots of snacks during the week, it was a welcome change. Our choice was enhanced remarkably when we noticed two fellow diners; Lynn Morris and her husband, Marshall Wilborn, both long-standing friends. We were delighted to see that Lynn was well enough to participate in the Awards Show the following evening.

The evening official showcases featured The Farewell Drifters, Balsam Range, Blue Highway and Kathy Mattea. Disappointingly, Ernie Thacker was not well enough to play a set, but Special Consensus filled in admirably.

At the after hours showcases we enjoyed sets by Danny Paisley & The Southern Grass; Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper; Josh Williams Band; Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out; Don Rigsby & Midnight Call; Audie Blaylock & Redline; Jimmy Gaudreau and Moondi Klein; and Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice. I guess that you can tell where my preferences in bluegrass music lie.

One of the highlights of the evening – and it comes under the category of being in the right place at the right time – was Gaudreau and Klein’s rendition of a Bill Clifton song When You Kneel At Mother’s Grave, dedicated to an enraptured Clifton, who was in the audience.

For the second night running we missed seeing Steep Canyon Rangers. Oh well! Another day?

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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.