This year’s IBMA awards belonged to Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper, who picked up five trophies, but last year’s champs Dailey & Vincent snagged the biggest prizes of all.
Cleveland and company won the Instrumental Group, Instrumental Performance and the Fiddler, Bass Player and Mandolin Player of the Year awards. Dailey & Vincent triumphed as the Entertainers of the Year, as well as winning the Vocal Group of the Year and the Gospel Recorded Performance honors.
But the 20th anniversary of these bluegrass awards, staged Thursday (10/1) at the Ryman Auditorium, wasn’t really about who won or lost. It was about outstanding music. For those of you who gripe about the lack of true “country” in today’s country music, I hereby direct your attention to the world of bluegrass. The event featured stunning performances by The Lonesome River Band, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, The Dan Tyminski Band and more.
Kathy Mattea and Hot Rize co-hosted, drawing from a usually witty script and interspersed with appearances by the band’s honky-tonk alter ego Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers. Presenters included Dixie & Tom T. Hall, Andy Leftwich, Cia Cherryholmes, Claire Lynch, Ronnie Bowman, Alecia Nugent, Chris & Sally Jones and Ricky Skaggs & Sharon White.
“I don’t have much voice this week,” whispered Tyminski when he was ironically named Male Vocalist. When he also won Album of the Year, presenters Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas humorously spoke for him while he moved his lips.
Female Vocalist winner Dale Ann Bradley turned Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” into a bluegrass romp. In a nice twist of fate, her honor was presented to her by her producer, Alison Brown. They hugged.
“This is one of the greatest thrills of my life, to be here tonight,” said Steve Martin. He meant it. And he was wildly cheered by the capacity audience, for his The Crow CD has dramatically raised bluegrass music’s profile. In addition to presenting, Martin performed with The Steep Canyon Rangers. His CD won awards for liner notes and artwork.
When Jamie Dailey & Darrin Vincent won for their gospel performance of “On the Other Side,” they called songwriters Jimmy Fortune, Kevin Denney and Tom Botkin to the stage. “This is killer, right here,” said Cleveland when his band won the Instrumental Performance award. During the evening the blind fiddler thanked his parents for transporting him to competitions and festivals.
Doyle Lawson inducted The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. He noted that the group was founded by the late Ezra Cline in 1937 in West Virginia. “The group weathered a lot of personnel changes,” he noted, adding, “I wonder what that feels like.” Lawson’s Quicksilver has long had a rotating cast. Surviving Lonesome Pine members Melvin Goins, Paul Williams and Bobby Osborne accepted and got a standing ovation.
One of the most interesting performances occurred when Danny Paisley & Southern Grass and Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice took the stage together. Both were nominees as Male Vocalist and Emerging Artist. Each performed separately and then as a big, merged band.
The Recorded Event trophy went to The Daughters of Bluegrass. There are 31 women on this record, and more than a dozen of them trouped to the stage to accept en masse.
Among my favorite performances of the show was “Ring the Bells” by The Gibson Brothers. Dailey & Vincent drew gasps with a tour de force, a cappella gospel number punctuated by long sustains in perfect harmony. The Grascals were quite moving on “Satan Knew My Grandma Well.” Mattea and Hot Rize sang her hit “Untold Stories,” which the group’s Tim O’Brien wrote. One of the most memorable instrumentals of the night came from an all-star lineup consisting of Stuart Duncan, Rob Ickes, Ronnie McCoury, Jim Mills, Missy Raines and Bryan Sutton. Between them, they account for 44 IBMA Awards. Speaking of McCoury, The Del McCoury Band turned in a eyebrow-raising bluegrass-rockabilly performance of the Jerry Lee Lewis classic “Break Up.”
“The only reason I’m here is this group,” said John McEuen when inducting The Dillards into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. “I’m flabberghasted,” said Doug Dillard in accepting. “I want to thank God for giving us bluegrass music. Keep this music alive forever.”
The packed-to-the-rafters crowd was notable for its whoops and hollers throughout the show. This was especially notable during the instrumental by Cleveland & Flamekeeper.
They also erupted several times during the finale. Osborne, Williams and Goins joined Hot Rize in a “Pain in My Heart” tribute to The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers. All three of the senior citizens are still in excellent voice. The show-closing Dillards tribute, “The Old Home Place,” demonstrated that the veteran group can also still “cut the mustard.”
“I think we have some of the best musicians in the world in this music,” said Rob Ickes in accepting his 11th consecutive Dobro Player of the Year IBMA honor. Amen to that, pal.
Spotted in the admiring crowd were David Preston, David Crow, Dan Keen, Joey & Rory, Jerry Salley, Perry Howard, George Walker IV, Scotty Cline, Vernell Hackett, Stan Hitchcock, Keith Bilbrey, Lance Leroy, Lynn Robin Green and Carl Jackson.
International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame – The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, The Dillards
Distinguished Achievement Award Recipients – Hylo Brown, Pati Crooker, Jody Rainwater, Dick Spottswood, Joe Wilson
Entertainer of the Year – Dailey & Vincent
Male Vocalist of the Year – Dan Tyminski
Female Vocalist of the Year – Dale Ann Bradley
Album of the Year – Wheels, The Dan Tyminski Band, produced by Dan Tyminski, Rounder Records
Vocal Group of the Year – Dailey & Vincent
Instrumental Group of the Year – Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper
Song of the Year – “Don’t Throw Mama’s Flowers Away,” by Danny Paisley & the Southern Grass (artist), Chris Stuart & Ivan Rosenberg (writers)
Recorded Event of the Year – “Proud to Be a Daughter of Bluegrass” featuring Dale Ann Bradley, Heather Berry, Lisa Martin, Gloria Belle, Sierra Hull, Rhonda Vincent, Lisa Ray, Linda Lay, Sally Jones, Jeanie Stanley, Carol Lee Cooper, Sonya Isaacs, Becky Isaacs Bowman, Michelle Nixon, Jeanette Williams, Sophie Haislip, Louise Tomberlain, Mindy Rakestraw, Lizzy Long, Frances Mooney, Lorraine Jordan, Annette Kelley, Lilly Lieux, Dixie Hall, Judi Marshall, Melissa Lawrence, Beth Lawrence, Rebecca Frazier, Donica Christensen, Lisa Maning & Jenni Lyn Gardner (artists); Dixie Hall, Paula Wolak & Frances Money (producers); Blue Circle Records
Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year – “Jerusalem Ridge,” Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper (artist), Bill Monroe (writer), Jeff White & Michael Cleveland (producers), Rounder Records
Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year – “On the Other Side;” Dailey & Vincent (artists), Jimmy Fortune, Kevin Denney & Tom Botkin (writers); Jamie Dailey & Darrin Vincent (producers); Rounder Records
Emerging Artist of the Year – The SteelDrivers
Instrumental Performers of the Year:
Banjo – Kristin Scott Benson
Fiddle – Michael Cleveland
Dobro – Rob Ickes
Mandolin – Jesse Brock
Bass – Marshall Wilborn
Guitar – Josh Williams
Bluegrass Event of the Year – Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival; Oak Hill, New York; July 2008
Bluegrass Broadcaster of the Year – Katy Daley; HD Radio WAMU 88.5 Channel 2, 105.5 FM & www.bluegrasscountry.org; Washington, D.C.
Print Media Person of the Year – Roger Siminoff; Siminoff’s Luthiers Glossary, Banjo Newsletter and Bluegrass Breakdown
Best Liner Notes for Recorded Project – Steve Martin (writer), The Crow, Steve Martin (artist), 40 Share Productions (label)
Best Graphic Design for Recorded Project – Greg Carr & Salli Ratts (designers), The Crow, Steve Martin (artist), 40 Share Productions (label)
The International Bluegrass Music Awards are voted on by the professional membership of the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA), which serves as the trade association for the bluegrass music industry. The IBMA Awards Show is the centerpiece of the World of Bluegrass week, including the industry’s Business Conference and Bluegrass Fan Fest, September 28 – October 4 in Nashville.