We got to see a great deal of good music last night. The official IBMA showcase presentation in the main ballroom featured one strong act after another, and we managed to catch one after hours show before the travails of a day at IBMA sent us scurrying for the covers.
First up was Meantime, from The Slovak Republic. They are fronted by Daniela Hroncova, a talented vocalist and one of the primary songwriters in the band. They are popular in central and eastern Europe, and they are hoping to build an audience in the United States as well. The band’s sound – both in performance and in their choice of songs and arrangements – is decidedly modern, and they were very well received in the hall.
They were followed on stage by Grass Cats, a band that has existed in many different forms since 1997 as a vehicle for North Carolina singer, songwriter and mandolinist Russell Johnson. Their short set featured several of Russell’s songs, including Home To Carolina, which has spent a number of months on the Bluegrass Unlimited’s National Bluegrass Survey.
Any time Steve Gulley is singing, it’s time to pay attention, and last night was no exception. I had been looking forward to seeing Grasstowne live at IBMA, so when they took the stage next, my ears were perked up. The combination of Gulley with Alan Bibey on mandolin and Phil Leadbetter on dobro is the basis of this new group, still less than a year old, but with quite a reputation already in place.
As you might expect, they put on a strong show, mixing songs from their solo projects and the band’s debut CD, The Road Heading Home.
We also caught John Reischman & The Jaybirds, a Canadian band that performed an interesting mix of old time, bluegrass and folk music. John is known from his time as a member of The Tony Rice Unit and the Good Ol’ Persons. I was unfortunately beset with a computer issue while they were on stage, and wasn’t able to focus on their show, but they were very enthusiastically received in the room.
Dale Ann Bradley closed the evening’s showcase, and was joined by Mike Bub on bass and Ramona Church on banjo. Her set was mostly drawn from here current CD, Catch Tomorrow. There are few singers in bluegrass who can captivate an audience the way she can, and the band was sharp and on top of their game.