Bobby Karl Works IBMA Awards

Chapter 348

(L-R) Dailey & Vincent band member Joe Dean, Jamie Dailey, band member Jesse Stockman, manager Don Light, Darrin Vincent, band member Jeff Parker, publicist Karen Byrd, band member Christian Davis, sound engineer Key Chang.

The bluegrass demographic looks like it is becoming more diverse than ever. Judging by the crowd at the 21st annual International Bluegrass Music Awards at the Ryman (9/30), bluegrass still skews somewhat older. But more than ever, the genre’s fans were hard to pigeonhole. Thin young people mingled with heavyset seniors. Cowboys sat next to hippies, progressives were alongside rednecks. The audience included fans from Europe, Australia and Japan as well as a tiny smattering of African Americans.

No matter who they were, there was no consensus about proper award-show attire. Garb ranged from t-shirts and bluejeans to evening gowns and brocade wraps, from sport coats to sport shirts. Within yards of one another were a middle-aged guy in khaki shorts and a woman roughly his peer in a strapless floor-length gown with a pouffy organza stole.

No matter who they were or what they wore, they were treated to a triumphantly musical, 3 1/2 hour show. Let’s state the obvious: This is one genre where you have to be able to really play and really sing.

Dierks Bentley and an all-star bluegrass assemblage were a great show opener with “Fiddlin’ Around.” Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver did a lickety-split, harmony-drenched version of Paul Simon’s “Gone at Last.” What a brilliant cover idea. Dailey & Vincent’s version of The Statler Brothers’ “Elizabeth” was perked up when Statler Jimmy Fortune walked out in mid-song to take over lead vocals on the song he wrote.

The Claire Lynch Band’s cover of Bill Monroe’s “My Florida Sunshine” was embellished with crisp triple fiddles, including Michael Cleveland’s. Celebrating the 10th anniversary of O Brother Where Art Thou were Alison Krauss & Union Station (“Valley to Pray”), The Whites (“Keep on the Sunny Side”) and Dan Tyminski (“Man of Constant Sorrow”). Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out did “Carolina’s Arms.”

The Del McCoury Band were tighter than tight on “Hello Lonely.” The Sam Bush Band did his co-written “The Ballad of Stringbean and Estelle.” Earl Scruggs, 86, led on acoustic guitar when he performed “You Are My Flower” with Gary Scruggs singing lead, plus Randy Scruggs, Jon Randall, Dierks and Rob Ickes accompanying. Earl is the last surviving architect of the bluegrass sound. I, for one, got teary eyed.

The evening was studded with outstanding collaborations. In addition to the Dierks, Claire and Scruggs events. The Josh Williams Band teamed with fleet-fingered Tony Rice on The Delmore Brothers chestnut “Blue Railroad Train.” Darrell Scott fronted Blue Highway to sing his “Bleeding for a Little Peace of Mind.” The evening’s finale was The John Hartford String Band joined by Alison Brown, Tut Taylor, Sam Bush, Tim O’Brien, Peter Rowan, Jerry Douglas and Jamie Hartford for “Gentle on My Mind.” Let the record show that all of these performances were greeted by wild ovations.

Winners? Winning biggest were Dailey & Vincent, with trophies for Entertainer, Vocal Group, Recorded Event and Album. But not far behind were Michael Cleveland (Fiddler, Instrumental Group), Josh Williams (Emerging Artist, Guitarist), The Gibson Brothers (Song, Gospel Performance) and Adam Steffey (Mandolinist, Instrumental Performance).

Many were IBMA repeaters, Steffey has won Mandolin Player of the Year five previous times. Rob Ickes continued his dominance on Dobro. He has won 11 prior IBMAs, including the last five years in succession. Michael Cleveland has won on fiddle eight times previously. Kristin Scott Benson of The Grascals won her third straight Banjo Player of the Year honor. This was Dailey & Vincent’s third consecutive win as both Entertainer and Vocal Group. Marshall Wilburn repeated his 2009 win as Bass Player.

But Russell Moore was a first-timer as Male Vocalist. The Gibson Brothers’ trophies were their first since winning Emerging Artist in 1998. Claire Lynch hasn’t won Female Vocalist since way back in 1997.

“Wow: That’s absolutely sweet,” said Male Vocalist Moore. “This has sucked every bit of the spit outta my mouth. Shoot, I’ll even thank the ones who didn’t vote for me. Everything’s good.” “My very first cut when to Number One, and that’s amazing to me,” said awestruck Song of the Year winner Chet O’Keefe (“Ring the Bell”).

Josh Williams did not have an album out this year, so he was clearly shocked to win Emerging Artist. “Oh my gosh, I love you guys so much,” he said before choking up. “I can’t tell you what this means to me. This is truly a dream come true.” He and his wife are expecting a baby in December, and he thanked his unborn son.

“It’s indeed a great honor to feel bona fide,” said Claire. “You are my family. I’m truly delighted and grateful.” When Dailey & Vincent Sing The Statler Brothers won Album, Jamie Dailey said, “This was my dream record. I listened to The Statler Brothers from the time I was a 9-year-old kid. I really wanted to do this tribute record.”

“We are touched beyond words,” he added when picking up the Entertainer trophy. “We are all brothers and sisters in this business.”

That sentiment was echoed by Steffey: “One thing about this music that I would not trade for anything, and that’s the friends I’ve made. I love this music.” He was humbled by his win, stating, “If you walked in a mandolin store and there were 31 flavors like Baskin Robbins, I’d be vanilla. I don’t think there’s anything special about what I do.”

Louise Scruggs was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame by Eddie Stubbs. “Mom didn’t let that Man’s World define her,” said Gary. “She did as much as anybody, maybe more, to elevate bluegrass music,” added Randy. I’ll be more blunt. There would not be a bluegrass industry if it were not for Louise Scruggs, who passed away in 2006. It was a poignant touch that she and Earl first met at the Ryman.

John Hartford was inducted into the Hall by Tim O’Brien. “John represented the past, the present and the future of all music, and he was one of ours,” said Tim. “He was a special combination of wise and childlike.” Tim concluded by quoting “Gentle on My Mind,” saying, “I can still see you in my memory, by the rivers, on the backroads, ever smiling, ever gentle on my mind.” Hartford died in 2001, and Tim sang the song at his funeral.

“The only thing that could make this better would be if Dad could be here. He would know what to say,” said daughter Katie Hartford Hogue. As it turned out, he did. John left behind a quote that says, “Bluegrass is America’s last small town. Everybody knows everybody. And you don’t have to lock your doors.”

The show was ably hosted by Jerry Douglas, Sharon White and Cheryl White. At one point, Jerry donned a long silver wig to mock the locks of Ricky Skaggs. Presenters included Kenny & Amanda Smith. Recalling their first date, Kenny quipped, “She said the three words that would melt the heart of any man: ‘You wanna pick?’” Presenters Eddie & Martha Adcock referenced his headline-making recent brain surgery wherein he played his banjo during the operation.

Also taking the stage to hand out honors were Michael Martin Murphey, Hazel Dickens, Peter Rowan, The Grascals, Buck White, Aussies The Davidson Brothers, Dan Tyminski, Missy Raines, Melodie Cannon, humorous Rodney Dillard and Alison Krauss.

For a complete list of winners click HERE.

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About the Author

Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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