Again, the frustration of not being able to catch all the showcase performers…
Downloading the Gold Heart photos last night, I missed Darin and Brooke Aldridge and Spring Creek, both of whom I had hoped to see. Darin and Brooke just announced last week that their next CD will be released on the Mountain Home label, probably early in 2010. There are more details and a YouTube clip of one of the new songs on the Mountain Home web site.
I had run into Taylor Sims of Spring Creek earlier in the day, when he stopped to speak with Alan Munde, who had been his teacher when Taylor and the other members of the band were enrolled in the bluegrass program at South Plain College in Texas. The pride was obvious on Alan’s face, meeting up with a former student at IBMA who was moving up in the bluegrass business.
I did make it back to the showcase stage in time to see The Josh Williams Band. Wow!
Josh has always been a confident performer, not to mention a fine singer and guitar player. He shone as a member of Special Consensus and Rhonda Vincent’s band, and has three solo projects under his name. All this before he has reached the age of 30. He debuted his own band at IBMA last year, and the difference over the past year is starkly dramatic.
His band consists of musicians from Williams’ home state of Kentucky, who are also long time friends close to his age. Jason McKendree was on banjo, Randy Barnes on bass and Scott Napier on mandolin.
I can’t think of the last time I heard a four piece band this strong – rhythmically solid and sonically powerful – since maybe the early editions of Lonesome River Band in the 1990s. Their sound is crisp, precise and in-your-face. With Josh’s easy charm and million dollar smile, it makes for a very engaging performance. The guys obviously have fun on stage, and Josh is perfectly comfortable with the attention on him.
He seemed sincerely appreciative for the chance to appear on an official showcase, and thanked the crowd repeatedly for the opportunity. The Josh Williams Band, whose debut CD won’t be released until next year on Pinecastle, was nominated as Emerging Artist of the Year for Thursday’s IBMA Awards, something that again elicited a grateful mention from the stage.
The only song from the show that I recall Josh specifically mentioning as being on the new album was his brilliant version of The Last Song, a classic from the Jimmy Martin repertoire. This song requires a skilled and confident vocalist, and Josh absolutely owned it. Another standout was the Mark Mathewson song Mordecai, from Josh’s 2004 CD, Lonesome Highway.
A big part of achieving success at IBMA is being ready to take full advantage of your shot at such a big stage. Josh showed last night that he and his young band are ready, willing and able.