DISClaimer: IBMA Contenders Showcase Sterling Tracks

town-mountain

Town Mountain

Today’s stroll through the field of bluegrass includes many of this year’s contenders for awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA).

For instance, three of the IBMA’s contenders for Emerging Artist of the Year are here. I’m voting for Town Mountain. The band is probably too wild and wooly to win, but in any case, I am giving it a DisCovery Award from this column.

The Disc of the Day award is a tie between current bluegrass kings The Earls of Leicester and the upstart O’Connor Band. Despite the presence of hardcore grass tracks such as Bill Monroe’s “Jerusalem Ridge” and The Osborne Brothers favorite “Ruby, Are You Mad at Your Man,” not to mention the traditional “Fishers Hornpipe,” the O’Connors do stray onto other turf on their excellent new CD. Maybe that’s why I like it so much.

The IBMA Awards will be presented on Sept. 29 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

DOYLE LAWSON & QUICKSILVER/Burden Bearer
Writers: Tammy James Robinette; Producer: Doyle Lawson; Publisher: MJ and 8, BMI; Mountain Home
-These fellows are (again) nominated as Vocal Group of the Year by the IBMA. Deservedly so: You will not find a more thrilling quartet of harmony singers this side of paradise. This is the title tune of the group’s current CD of bluegrass-gospel tunes. It will make want to shout, “Hallelujah!” The set mixes traditional songs with newly composed barn burners like this one.

THE INFAMOUS STRINGDUSTERS & LEE ANN WOMACK/I Believe
Writers: Infamous Stringdusters/Josh Shilling; Producer: Chris Goldsmith; Publishers: Peace Kings/Infamous Stringdusters/Josh Shilling, ASCAP/BMI; Compass (track)
– The idea behind the band’s Ladies & Gentlemen CD is to pair the band’s playing with female singers ranging from Mary Chapin Carpenter and Claire Lynch to Joan Osborne and Joss Stone. Music City’s Womack is lilting and soulful on this spiritual meditation with a rippling banjo/Dobro backing track.

 

THE LONELY HEARTSTRING BAND/The Tide
Writers: G. Clements/P.M. Gonigle; Producers: DAvid Travers-Smith & The Lonely Heartstrings Band; Publishers: none listed; Rounder (track)
– This new single/video from the band’s debut CD Deep Water is a wistful, folkie, mid-tempo, softly endearing outing. Imagine Simon & Garfunkel backed by bluegrass instrumentation and you’ll have the general idea. Highly recommended. This Boston band is nominated as Emerging Artist of the Year at the IBMAs.

THE BOXCARS/When Th Bluegrass Is Covered With Snow
Writer: Tip Sharp; Producer: The Boxcars; Publisher: Fayette, BMI; Mountain Home
-This track is riding high at No. 4 on the current Bluegrass Unlimited chart. It trips along in speedy grassy fashion with perfectly placed instrumental flourishes that make up for the group’s somewhat bland singing. The song appears on the group’s CD Familiar With the Ground, which also contains “Hogan’s Goat,” which is nominated as an IBMA Instrumental Performance of the Year.

THE EARLS OF LEICESTER/The Train That Carried My Girl From Town
Writers: none listed; Producer: Jerry Douglas; Publisher: none listed; Rounder (track)
– It ought to be illegal to have this much talent in one band. The Earls are the sensations of the bluegrass world with IBMA nominations as Entertainer, Vocal Group, Instrumental Group, Male Vocalist, Banjo Player, Dobro Player and Bass Player of the Year. This splendid track kicks off the group’s new Rattle & Roar CD. This is bluegrass music as it was meant to be played and sung.

 

TOWN MOUNTAIN/Comin’ Back To You
Writers: R. Greer/M. Bumgarner; Producers: Dirk Powell/Town Mountain; Publishers: Meat on the Bone/Two Chairs, BMI; LoHi (track)
– This wonderfully rollicking track is characteristic of this ragged-but-right North Carolina outfit. It’s bluegrass with a strong swig of honky-tonk attitude and more than a little boogie-woogie rambunctiousness. The album is called Southern Crescent, and it earned this joyously hard-driving foursome an Emerging Artist of the Year nod at this year’s IBMA Awards. Your ears will thank you for playing this.

JOE MULLINS & THE RADIO RAMBLERS/All Dressed Up
Writers: Jerry Salley/Diane Wilkerson; Producer: Joe Mullins; Publishers: Den What/Christian Taylor, SESAC/BMI; Rebel (track)
– The Ramblers latest is a bluegrass-gospel collection called Sacred Memories. This heartfelt number from it about a working man’s death earned the band an IBMA nomination as Gospel Performance of the Year. Heart-tugging stuff.

 

THE PRICE SISTERS/What Does The Deep Sea Say
Writer: traditional; Producer: Bill VornDick; Publisher: public domain; Rebel (track)
-These gals are twin college students who play mandolin and fiddle. This track on their self-titled debut is played with aplomb, but I thought their vocal harmonies were a tad on the sharp side.

O’CONNOR BAND/Coming Home
Writers: Forrest O’Connor; Producers: Gregg Field/Mark O’Connor/Forrest O’Connor; Publisher: Tall Tree Worldwide, BMI; Rounder (track)
– Mark O’Connor originally signed with Rounder as a 12-year-old fiddle prodigy. His subsequent journey as a stellar Nashville session musician, new acoustic music experimenter and classical composer has led him back to bluegrass, with a strong seasoning of Americana. His return to Rounder is with a family band featuring his troubadour mandolinist son Forrest and the fiddling/singing of both wife Maggie and Forrest’s partner Kate Lee (who has backed Martina, Lady A, Vince, Jennifer Nettles, Rascal Flatts and other Nashville luminaries). The title tune of the band’s album is an anthemic, toe-tapping road tune about heading back to a loved one. The whole collection is just as delicious.

STEVE GULLEY & NEW PINNACLE/Aim High
Writers: Jon Weisberger/Mark Simos; Producer: Steve Gulley; Publishers: Use Your Words/Devachan, BMI; Rural Rhythm (track)
– The title tune of this band’s current CD boasts lightning-quick picking, sky-high tenor singing and a positive-think message. It hit No. 1 on the Bluegrass Today chart in June, but even before it did, New Pinnacle’s forward momentum was propelling the band toward an IBMA nomination as Emerging Artist of the Year.

 

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

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