Wednesday night at IBMA

Joe Diffie

You know that we had a busy IBMA when it’s Sunday morning before I have a chance to post comments on the Wednesday night showcase performances.

Sugar Hill hosted a reception late Wednesday afternoon, and I enjoyed speaking with a number of folks, including music writer, author and Wall Street Journal columnist Barry Mazor. His new book, Meeting Jimmie Rodgers, was published earlier this year, and he has a couple of new projects in the works that will be of interest to bluegrass lovers. Sorry… can’t share details yet.

I also spoke with Barry Bales, who said that the next Alison Krauss & Union Station CD which he had told us earlier would be completed in August, has been pushed back a ways. He told us that once they finished the songs they had chosen to cut, a number of them just didn’t seem strong enough, so they are heading back to the drawing board to find some new material. No predictions yet on when the album might see the light of day.

From the Sugar Hill soiree we headed to one hosted by Rural Rhythm Records. It featured sets by several of their artists, plus a special announcement. More on that later.

I made it down to the ballroom for the main stage show just in time for Joe Diffie’s set. Joe had a string of country hits in the 1990s, both as a songwriter and a singer, but he is returning now to his bluegrass roots for Rounder Records, with a new CD expected early in 2010.

NewFound Road served as Diffie’s band, with Chris Ward on fiddle and Cory Walker on resonator Guitar. Joe stuck with music from his upcoming Rounder album, and his voice was strong and definitely bluegrass. He is a very solid performer and his re-embrace of bluegrass is a welcome one, judging from the reaction on Wednesday night.

We’ll try to get some details about this CD next week.

Despite being completely worn out, I slipped downstairs to catch a couple of the late night sets. The Jeff & Vida Band was one that I had been looking forward to hearing at IBMA, and their showcase on Wednesday did not disappoint. The group is fronted by Jeff Burke and Vida Wakeman, whose original material is the basis for their recordings and live shows.

Theirs is an eclectic sound, combining buegrass, old time and traditional country in a quirky-cool mix. The band includes Jake Schepps on banjo, Justin Hoffenberg on fiddle, Greg Schochet on guitar and Will Downes on bass. Jeff plays mandolin and Vida guitar, with both sharing vocal duties. I enjoyed their music very much.

Before falling over from exhaustion, I also caught part of a set by Toy Hearts, who traveled from England for a US tour, culminating at IBMA this week. The focus here is on the Johnson sisters, Hannah on mandolin and vocals, and Sophia on guitar. They are lovely and talented young ladies, and the group made quite a mark with several appearances over the past few days.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.