DISClaimer Single Reviews (10/5/11)

Things are definitely looking up.

I can’t remember a recent listening session with so many well-done platters. Jake Owen has the audio production to beat. Mark Willis has the week’s most striking song. Gloriana is glorious. Kenny Chesney’s bringing the star power. David Bradley has humor and good times on his side.

And then there’s the Disc of the Day. The new trio Pistol Annies is comprised of  three deluxe singer-songwriters—Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley.

Their record will take your breath away.
Since those ladies are the only ones with a debut CD today, they also win the  DisCovery Award.

DAVID BRADLEY/If You Can’t Make Money
Writer: Jon Randall/Brad Paisley/Bill Anderson; Producer: Brady Seals; Publisher: Reynsong/Wha Ya Say/House of Sea Gayle/Sony-ATV Tree/Mr. Bubba, BMI/ASCAP; Gecko (track)
—Get a load of those songwriter credits. Too bad they couldn’t find anybody talented to pen this thing. It’s a chugging bopper with plenty of humor in the lyric and a party crowd shouting in the background. A good time was had by all.

JAKE OWEN/Alone With You
Writer: Catt Gravitt/J.T. Harding/Shane McAnally; Producer: Joey Moi &  Rodney Clawson; Publisher: Songs of Maxx/Tunes of R and T Direct/Razor & Tie/Songs Music/A Mighty Seven/Songs for Beans/JTX/Little Blue Egg/Crazy Water/Kobalt, SESAC/BMI/ASCAP; RCA (track)
—Wonderfully atmospheric, with a deep-twang sonic bed, a sexy mood and a swirling melody. This fevered dream of pent-up desire is nothing short of a minor masterpiece. Do you hear that noise? It’s superstardom knocking on Jake’s door.

AMY DALLEY/Coming Out Of The Pain
Writer: Dalley/Sizemore; Producer: New Voice Entertainment; Publisher: Bro N Sis/Madjacksongs, BMI; AmyDalley (track) (www.amydalley.com)
—The title tune to Dalley’s new CD comes on like gangbusters with its gunshot percussion and grinding guitars. It’s a driving, female-empowerment song of survival.

SCOTTY McCREERY/The Trouble With Girls
Writer: Phillip White/Chris Tompkins; Producer: Mark Bright; Publisher: Songs of Universal/Jorjax/Big Loud Songs/Angel River/Big Loud Bucks, BMI/ASCAP; Mercury/19 (track)
—Scotty’s sophomore single is a softly drawled ballad of romantic confusion. His vocal performance sounds like the teen he is, but Bright’s production is a model of sophistication.

MATT GARY/Beautiful Life
Writer: Frank J. Myers/Gary Baker/Nicky Chinn; Producer: Frank Myers; Publisher: Sixteen Stars/Frank Myers/HoriPro/WB/On the Bluff/Ten Ten/Nicky Chinn, BMI/ASCAP; 17/Quarterback (www.mattgarymusic.com)
—There’s hard times all around, but when you have love, nothing else matters. This soaring, propulsive rocker practically begs you to turn it up.

Writer: Kenny Chesney/Brett James; Producer: Buddy Cannon & Kenny Chesney; Publisher: none listed, ASCAP; BNA (track)
—The track behind him is boiling hot, perhaps a little too much so. The song and his vocal performance are both totally classy.

Writer: Barry Dean/Luke Laird/Brett Eldredge; Producer: Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton & Brent Rowan; Publisher: none listed; Blaster (www.nealmccoy.com)
—The whistling and finger-snap opening correctly predict that you’re in for a breezy, good-times tune. Lightweight, but harmless.

GLORIANA/(Kissed You) Good Night
Writer: Tom Gossin/Josh Kear; Producer: Matt Serletic; Publisher: Gossin/Global Dog/Lunalight, ASCAP; Emblem/Warner Bros.
—I remain a fan. Young love has seldom sounded so tuneful, harmonious and downright delicious. Everything about this audio confection pleases me. Play it again.

Writer: Miranda Lambert/Ashley Monroe/Angaleena Presley; Producer: Frank Liddell & Mike Wrucke; Publisher: Sony-ATV Tree/Pink Dog/Reynsong/Ayden/Ten Ten, BMI/ASCAP; Columbia (track)
—The Pistol Annies CD leads off with this bluesy, moody title tune that grabs you by the ears and doesn’t let go. This thing hisses like a rattlesnake ready to strike. All three of these gals have smokey, sensuous vocal chops with attitude to spare.

MARK WILLS/Crazy Being Home
Writer: Chris Lindsey/Brad Warren/Brett Warren/Robin Lindsey; Producer: Chris Lindsey; Publisher: none listed; Gracie/Starlight (track)
—This is what is so great about country music. No other genre tells stories this powerfully. And what other style would even think to write a song about a soldier’s post traumatic stress disorder? Strong stuff. Wills walks it like he talks it: He has gone to Afghanistan seven times to sing for the troops.

Lehning Joins Adams and Reese

Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law attorney Ryan M. Lehning has joined the Adams and Reese Nashville Music Row office as Special Counsel and a member of the Special Business Services Practice Group.

Lehning, who has been practicing law since 2002, previously served as Senior Counsel for SoundExchange in Washington, DC, the collective designated by the United States Copyright Office to collect and distribute royalties for digital audio sound recording performances to performing artists and record labels. Prior to that, he served as Counsel for Sony BMG Music Entertainment in New York, where he worked with the record company’s law department handling copyright, trademark, e-commerce, new media and other intellectual property matters. Lehning received his J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center in 2002, and earned his Bachelor of Arts in English and French from Belmont University, in 1997.

Lehning’s practice focuses on domestic and international IP matters, both with new media and the new and old copyright laws. Ryan has worked for a broad scope of clients in the music, film, television, software and book publishing industries. He has experience providing counsel to major copyright owning trade associations and companies with respect to emerging technology issues primarily associated with secondary liability, copyright licensing, digital distribution and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. He is the former co-chair of the Washington, DC Chapter of the Copyright Society of the United States of America, and he is a former board member of the Alliance of Artists and Recording Companies (AARC).

“The Lehning name is legendary in the music industry, and we are delighted to bring the last Lehning to Music Row to join his family and ours, where his talents belong,” said Linda Edell Howard, Adams and Reese Entertainment and New Media Team Leader and a Partner in the Music Row office.


Bentley Joins “Wounded Warrior Project” With Tour Launch

Multi-Platinum singer/songwriter Dierks Bentley has joined forces with country radio and Believe in Heroes™, a Wounded Warrior Project™ (WWP) initiative, for his 2011 Country & Cold Cans Tour. Bentley will host pre-show parties with fans across the nation at select tour dates leading up to Veterans Day November 11, 2011. The tour begins Thursday, October 6 in  Lacrosse, WI.

Aiming to support and honor wounded veterans who have sacrificed, each pre-show party will be a chance for fans to give back to veterans and win prizes from Bentley including ticket upgrades, merchandise and autographed limited edition handwritten lyrics of the new single “Home.”

“I meet so many service men and women at our shows, so I love being able to support the Wounded Warriors Project and honoring the heroes who have served our country,” says Bentley. “This program fits perfectly with the message of ‘Home,’ so we are going to do what we can between now and Veterans Day to really honor these people.  I hope fans will plan to get there early and be part of it!”

The 2011 Country & Cold Cans Tour, with special guests Jerrod Niemann and Eli Young Band, continues through Nov. 19 in Denver, Colorado. For a full list of tour dates and more info on upcoming “Believe in Heroes” events, visit: www.dierks.com or www.woundedwarriorproject.org.


Bobby Karl Works the IBMA Awards

Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers

Chapter 376
Photos: Alan Mayor

Justice was finally served at this year’s IBMA Awards.

For the past five years, no one has helped to raise the profile of bluegrass music more than Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers. The International Bluegrass Music Association voters at last recognized that fact by naming the act its Entertainer of the Year.

“Maybe people bought a ticket to see me; maybe they didn’t know what bluegrass music is, but they leave [the shows] loving it,” said Martin. He jumped up and down with his trophy like a kid with a new toy at Christmas before wisecracking, “I want to thank the other nominees, and thank them for losing.” On a more serious note, he added, “We have loved, loved playing this music across the country.”

Cinderella’s coach turned back into a pumpkin for The Boxcars. They went into the show leading the field with seven nominations, but had to settle for a little less than three. The Boxcars won the Emerging Artist award, Instrumental Group of the Year and finished in a tie for Banjo Player of the Year between the group’s Ron Stewart and The Grascals’ Kristin Scott Benson. The group also offered one of the evening’s weakest stage performances of the night.

Michael Clevelend

Michael Clevelend & Flamekeeper took two trophies. Cleveland won Fiddle Player of the Year, and the band won Instrumental Performance of the Year for its “Goin’ Up Dry Branch.” The other double winners were The Gibson Brothers and the veteran trio of Doyle Lawson, J.D. Crowe and Paul Williams. The former won the Vocal Group and Album honors.

“I’d like to thank my singing partner and older brother Eric,” said Leigh Gibson. “I don’t think either of us would sound that great without the other.”

Lawson, Crowe and Williams took home statuettes for Recorded Event and Gospel Recording for their splendid work on “Prayer Bells of Heaven.”

“I wasn’t expecting this,” said Crowe. “This is great. Especially at the Ryman. This is where it [bluegrass] all started.”

“We had a great time recording this, and we’re gonna do another,” promised Williams.

Repeating winners characterized much of the evening. In addition to Kristin Scott Benson (her fourth Banjo) and Michael Cleveland (his ninth Fiddle), they included Blue Highway’s Rob Ickes (his 13th Dobro), Flamekeeper’s Marshall Wilborn (his third Bass), Bryan Sutton (his sixth Guitar), Adam Steffey (his eighth Mandolin) and 111rd Tyme Out’s Russell Moore (his fourth Male Vocalist).

“Wow!” said Moore. “I’m honored that you feel this way. I thought you were crazy last year. This confirms it….I’ll do my best to make you proud.”

Dale Ann Bradley

Dale Ann Bradley won Female Vocalist in 2007, 2008 and 2009. She returned this year.

“Everybody that’s bought a ticket and fed us soup, beans and cornbread, God love you,” she exclaimed.

Inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame were George Shuffler and Del McCoury. Shuffler’s innovations as a “walking” bass stylist, “cross picking” guitarist, harmony vocalist and comedian in the bands of The Stanley Brothers and Reno & Harrell were noted.

“If I thought it [bluegrass music] was going to catch on like it did, I’d have tried to do it a little better,” he told the capacity crowd.

George Shuffler

McCoury was inducted by his sons Ronnie and Rob. “I guess every kid thinks their dad is a hero, and we’re no exceptions to that,” said Ronnie. “He gives 100%, every night.” Added Rob, “Every kid wants to be like their dad. When I was 8 years old, I took a notion to take up the banjo.” At the time, Del was working as a logger. He’d come home from work exhausted, yet still made time to teach Rob his instrument.

Del was one of many during the show who saluted the 100th anniversary of the birth of Bill Monroe. He joined Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys in 1964 and graduated to his own band in 1968. His sons joined him in the 1980s, and they moved to Nashville in 1992. The Del McCoury Band has more IBMA awards than any other group. In 2006, it won a Grammy, and in 2010 Del was given an NEA National Heritage Award. “But this is the Big One,” said Rob.

Del’s warm, rambling acceptance speech was sweet, countrified and amusing. “Positively, the state of bluegrass music is better than it’s ever been,” he concluded.

Echoing Del, let me add that the music is not only better than ever, it is also highly diverse. The performances Thursday night (9/29) at the Ryman (now billing itself as “America’s Theatre,” with an “re,” if you please) seemed designed to disprove anyone who says, “Bluegrass all sounds the same.”

Del McCoury and family

Tones ranged from the smooth triple fiddling of Dailey & Vincent to the jazzy, minor-key sound of Sierra Hull & Highway 111. Balsam Range was lilting, flawless, melodic, deeply moving and harmony soaked on “Trains I Missed,” which won Song of the Year for Nicole Witt, Giles Goddard and Walt Wilkins.

Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver rose the hair off your head with the heat-lightning speed of “Gone Long Gone.” Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers provided humor with “Me and Paul Revere,” told from the point of view of the horse. The Gibson Brothers brought back sibling harmony. Lawson, Crowe and Williams offered jubilant, hearty gospel. The Grascals were softly meditative on “I Am Strong.” At the song’s finale, they were joined by two tiny girls who are patients at St. Jude’s Childrens Research Hospital and at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. Everybody choked up.

The Grascals

The three-plus hour show was hosted by Mr. Fabulous, Sam Bush. His band saluted Monroe with a tight “Roll On, Buddy.”

“I’m especially proud to be hosting in this special year,” said Bush. “We’ve got some great performers for you, representing the state of the art, 2011.” He wryly recalled Monroe’s response to Bush’s  “newgrass” music: “I hate that.”

“Our music is in good hands for another 100 years,” he remarked about the Monroe centennial. “Thank you for letting me be your ‘cruise director’ once again.”

Either applauding or presenting (or both) were Gary Paczosa, Barry Mazor, Tim Stafford, Tim O’Brien, Tom Roland, Tony Trischka, Dan Tyminski, Dan Hays, Ron Cox, Jay Orr, Sonny Osborne, Beth Gwinn, Eddie Stubbs, Vernell Hackett, Deborah Evans Price, Claire Lynch, Cody Kilby, Carl Jackson, Laurie Lewis, Sammy Shelor, Pete Wernick, Alison Brown, The Cleverlys and Louisa Branscomb, plus most of the IBMA Distinguished Achievement honorees Roland White, Greg Cahill, Bill Knowlton, Lilly Pavlak and Geoff Stelling.

This year’s World of Bluegrass convention and Bluegrass Fan Fest had an aggregate attendance of 20,000. That works out to around 1,500 per day for the convention and 6,000 per day for the fest. The fun continues all this weekend at the Convention Center.

Charlie Cook On Air

Why Is There No Country Station In New York?

Arbitron says that there are almost 16 million people in the New York Metro area. I counted 97 stations getting some mention in a recent ratings month. Some were out of market but still collected listening in the NY metro.

Really? 16 million people and 97 stations (some getting listening only from a family in Queens) and no room for a Country station? To be fair, four of the 97 stations are programming country but none are major players or registering significant levels.

None of the big boys are willing to step up and give Country Radio a shot in New York? Clear Channel is the most successful company when it comes to programming Country. They have some of the smartest programmers in the format. Gregg Swedberg could jump in there and be hugely successful.

CBS has Country stations in Chicago and Detroit and outside of LA in Riverside and they do well. They have people who could do it. Though looking at their stations I don’t know who would change format. Those two companies are killing it in New York. Maybe WWFS would do better in Country, though a 3 million-plus cume is not something to walk away from any time soon.

Emmis, who should still be kicking themselves for flipping KZLA/Los Angeles before PPM years ago, has two Urban stations down the rankings ladder a bit. They have smart Country guys in Indianapolis with Bob Richards and Charlie Morgan. They could do it.

I suspect Cumulus will try and fix WPLJ before giving up that legendary signal and staff. Cox has a Long Island station that might be a player in Country Radio.

In LA Saul Levine used to feel that if KKGO did too well someone else would come along and challenge Go Country. I would tell him that the station could be top 10 in AQH (which it was a couple of years ago and is again) but that the low cume numbers would keep others from jumping in the format.

That is why no one is going Country in New York. KKGO has found some loyal Country Music fans. We had some two years ago that were contributing a lot of the station’s listening, and it’s happening again. The station is well-programmed and is getting long time exposed. BUT the cume is not in the elite category, and it never was. Heck, KKGO has the second (or third) highest cume in the format and is 25th in its own market.

Cume has become even more significant in the PPM ratings and if the format cannot collect enough cume it is never going to be consistently successful. Lose that family that is contributing to the ratings and you lose a great deal.

Now there is a difference between New York and LA. New York is 20% Hispanic and LA is 40% Hispanic. That said, walk the streets of New York and you hear a hundred different languages. Not a real positive for Country Music, because there are not a lot of foreign language countries where Country Music does well.

Ed Salamon, the father of big city Country Music Radio, used to say that this diversity was a benefit to Country because if English was your second language at least the format told stories and listeners could connect with the story. Well, New York is certainly the most diverse city in America.

There has been success with Country Music Radio in New York. Ed was very successful at WHN in the ‘70s. I learned a great deal about big city Country Radio working for him there at WHN.

The late Dene Hallam had success in New York with the first FM playing Country Music there.

Later WYNY had some success. Michael O’Malley did a fine job with the station and when he left I spent about a year there and we had a strong station with great talent until the parent company sold some of the signal off and they lost a Country stronghold in New Jersey.

The fourth attempt failed miserably. The Tri-cast was signal challenged and never really took hold.

Of course there are New York stations that play Country Music. Scott Shannon is a real friend of the format on WPLJ but it is obviously kept to the pop influenced portion of the genre.

Look at the EOY finalists for the CMA show. One of the acts gets consistent play on WPLJ. New York radio listeners are shut out of Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean and (most of) Keith Urban. These are our big guns and they are silenced on the radio.

The Band Perry got some AC and CHR play in the last year, but the other four CMA New Artist nominees are not on the radio in New York. This is not the way to grow the format.

In the past the CMA has taken a lead in supporting Country Radio in LA and NY. Whatever can be done in the future would be beneficial for all of us.

New York Country Radio would have to be a little different today than it was in the past. A current-based format has to be current with CHR turnover. That would grow the cume and then programmers would have to work on keeping the listeners longer. But building a foundation that is dependable is not going as easy as doing it in Dallas or Atlanta.

Without outing him, as he works at a Country Station in a BIG market, my friend used to comment that he has never ridden a tractor, doesn’t travel dirt roads and doesn’t fish or hunt. True, but he drinks Tequila, knows a crazy girl or two and has drunk dialed in the past. It all works.

IEBA Conference Opens Sunday

Nathan Hubbard

The International Entertainment Buyers Association conference opens Sun., Oct. 2 in Nashville, running through Tues., Oct. 4.

Nathan Hubbard, CEO of Ticketmaster at Live Nation Entertainment, will speak to IEBA attendees on Tues., Oct. 4 at 11:00 a.m. as part of the annual conference. He was named to the position after the conclusion of the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger in January 2010. Previously, he was CEO of Live Nation e-commerce, overseeing all digital, ticketing, and e-commerce initiatives for the company and handling the launch of Live Nation Ticketing in January 2009. He joined the company in 2006 following Live Nation’s purchase of Musictoday, where he was CEO.

Numerous showcases have been previously announced. Just revealed is the WME showcase set for Mon., Oct. 3 at 9:45 PM. Wynonna Judd kicks off the evening at War Memorial Auditorium with a reworked show including a new band. Also taking the stage will be The Band Perry, Jerrod Niemann, Lee Brice, Neal McCoy, Eric Paslay and Tyler Farr.

Details at ieba.org.

Familar Faces Grace “Most Beautiful” List

Cover girl Julianne Hough.

Nashville Lifestyles’ “25 Most Beautiful People” list includes several familiar faces from Music Row.

“To celebrate 12 years of Nashville Lifestyles, I cannot think of a more fitting personality than Juilanne Hough for our cover. Like the magazine, she has grown in so many ways, with the release of Footloose showcasing even more of her talents and interests,” explained Publisher Stacie Standifer.

Ranking among the most lovely are GAC’s Suzanne Alexander, singer/songwriters Jay O’Shea and Sherrie Austin, Christian artists Jason Crabb and Andrew Fromm, Luke Bryan’s wife Caroline Bryan, and entertainment journalist Heather Byrd. Each of these people and many more wer profiled and photographed for the new issue. See it at nashvillelifestyles.com.

The Civil Wars Case Study

(L-R): moderator Christopher Moon, Shawn Fowler, Asha Goodman, Lori Kampa and Charlie Peacock. Photo by Kevin Brown

The industry took note when the first album from indie act The Civil Wars debuted with sales of 25K units. In the almost eight months since, Barton Hollow has passed the 180K mark, currently averaging more than 3K per week (Nielsen Soundscan).

The band’s team members discussed the success story last week at one of SoundLand’s educational Field Trips, held at The Belcourt Theater. The Civil Wars weren’t attendance; about that time they they were taking the stage in London, opening for Adele at Royal Albert Hall.

Producer Charlie Peacock explained that The Civil Wars came to him as a group poised to break through. Particularly, they needed no help honing their sound. “It was already fully formed,” he said. “I just had to take a picture of it.”

Joy Williams and John Paul White had experience on their side; both had been working solo careers when they were paired randomly at a songwriting camp. That collaboration led to The Civil Wars.

Prepping the album release, the band spurred good word of mouth by giving away free copies of a live recording and selling a successful EP. Their team orchestrated radio and touring efforts, which were fueled by the hard work of Williams and White. Via a special agreement with Dualtone, the label’s Lori Kampa promoted the band to radio without signing them.

Around the February 1 release, The Civil Wars scored a visit to The Tonight Show and stepped up to the plate with a sizzling performance (see video below). Helping secure that slot was publicist Asha Goodman of Sacks & Co. “It was a dream band to work,” she said. “There were so many compelling things going on.”

Not the least of which was the music. Attorney John Strohm, who also counts rising artist Bon Iver as a client, says that what both his indie success stories have in common is undeniable music.

Even The Civil Wars’ team was a little surprised by the debut week. Shawn Fowler of Tone Tree Music had distributed physical copies to indie record stores, but the big debut left shelves empty for two weeks. Eventually the project grew to big box outlets. To date, it has sold about 70% digital and 30% physical.

Panelists report that five genres are now claiming the act, including country, where the band is up for a CMA award, and has a video in rotation on CMT.

After the release, Strohm received several calls from major labels. The attitude, he said, was generally, “Congratulations, now you’ll be needing our resources.” But The Civil Wars passed, preferring the flexibility, ownership/control, and boosted income of life outside the label system.

“It was an experiment,” sums Strohm. “But it was successful, so it was encouraging.”

Country’s Album TEA Party

The largest and final sales quarter of 2011 is almost upon us and the list of planned album releases is mostly revealed (except for a few possible last minute surprises).

The above graph is intended to help readers quickly grasp how album sales are trending. Last week for example (week ended 9-18-11), country hit its highest YTD gain of the year showing an increase of 9.8%.

This week the YTD country number has ebbed slightly to 9.6%. (Last year for the week ended 9/19/2010 country was ahead 4.5%.) Unlike last year’s jam packed release schedule, the upcoming album calendar doesn’t seem to have as many blockbuster artists as last year. Lady Antebellum recently hit stores with first week numbers of 347k and LeAnn Rimes’ new set was released this week. Upcoming product is due over the next few months from Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina, Martina McBride, Toby Keith, Vince Gill and Miranda Lambert. Of special note will be the just announced Nov. 21 release of a special CD/DVD live set from Taylor Swift.

Turning Tracks Into TEA (track equivalent albums)
For 2011, digital country track downloads YTD total 109 million. (Unfortunately Nielsen Soundscan did not release this number for 2010.) Calculating TEA albums (10 tracks = 1 album) country track sales account for about 10.9 million more albums. YTD country album sales for 2011 total 28.1 million through the week ended 9/25/11; so if one adds the 10.9 million TEA sales it would equate to almost a 40% increase!

Why do we still measure country sales only in terms of digital and physical albums? What about tracks? Business is a lot better than the graph at the top of the page would have you believe, if you don’t ignore track sales…

DISClaimer Single Reviews (9/28/11)

The hills are alive with the sound of bluegrass.

This week at the Convention Center, it’s round-the-clock picking and singing at the IBMA World of Bluegrass confab. Among the week’s highlights are the presentation of the IBMA Awards at the Ryman Auditorium on Thursday evening. The discs in this week’s column all belong to nominees.

The record to beat for Album of the Year belongs to Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers. I don’t know how it will fare at the Ryman, but in this publication it is the Disc of the Day.

For my DisCovery Award, I am choosing IBMA Emerging Artist nominees Darin & Brooke Aldridge.

Writer: Paul Simon; Producer: Doyle Lawson; Publisher: Paul Simon, BMI; Mountain Home (track) (www.doylelawson.com)
—These guys just don’t know how to make a bad record, and their current Drive Time CD is no break in their streak of excellence. It kicks off with this lickety-split bluegrass take on Paul Simon’s rousing 1975 hand clapper, originally recorded with Phoebe Snow and the Jessy Dixon Singers (Jessy passed away on Monday at age 73). Quicksilver is nominated this week as the bluegrass Vocal Group of the Year, and on his own, Lawson is nominated for Gospel Performance and Recorded Event for his collaboration with fellow stars Paul Williams and J.D. Crowe.

Writer: Shawn Lane; Producer: Blue Highway; Publisher: Cat Town, BMI; Rounder (track) (www.bluehighwayband.com)
—The title tune of Blue Highway’s current album is a tender ballad of nostalgia for creaking floorboards, rain on the roof, rustling leaves and the song of a mockingbird. Lead singer Tim Stafford remains a heart-piercing vocalist, and the moan of the Dobro that echoes his phrasing is audio poetry. The group is nominated for IBMA Vocal Group and Instrumental Group of the Year. Rob Ickes is once again up for Dobro Player of the Year. He practically owns this category, having won every year in 1996-2000, in 2003 and 2004, then again yearly from 2006-2010.

Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Rounder (track) (www.stevemartin.com)
—This track is nominated for Bluegrass Instrumental Performance of the Year at Thursday’s IBMA Awards. It is a sprightly, merry thing that bubbles right along. The Rare Bird Alert CD also includes such delights as “Atheists Don’t Have No Songs,” “Women Like to Slow Dance” and a remake of Martin’s 1978 hit “King Tut.” It is an Album of the Year nominee, and the band is up for Entertainer of the Year. He might not be the greatest banjo player in history, but this multi-media superstar is a huge benefit to the bluegrass genre.

Writer: Murray E. Cannon; Producer: Josh Williams; Publisher: Universal Sawgrass, BMI; Rounder (track)
—Last year’s Emerging Artist winner and a three-time Guitarist of the Year has an album titled Down Home that is a perfect jewel. He has been making records since he was 10 years old, but it is his first truly mature work. This take on the Vern Gosdin classic showcases lovely harmony singing. Other highlights include his version of The Delmore Brothers’ “Blue Railroad Train,” a dandy bluegrass arrangement of “Streets of Bakersfield,” a remake of Jimmy Martin’s “The Last Song,” a revival of Earl Scruggs’ “Polka on the Banjo” and songs by Tom T. Hall and Tommy Jackson, plus Carl Jackson’s title tune. On Thursday, Williams again competes for Bluegrass Guitarist of the Year and is also up for Male Vocalist.

DALE ANN BRADLEY/Somewhere South Of Crazy
Writer: Dale Ann Bradley/Pam Tillis; Producer: Alison Brown; Publisher: Dale Ann Bradley/Vibe Room/Lucky Squirrel/BPJ Administration, BMI; Compass (track)
—This Kentucky soprano is as country as a mountain breeze. She won the IBMA Female Vocalist prize in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and is nominated again this year. This wistful title tune of her current CD features soft harmony work by co-writer Pam Tillis plus guitarist Steve Gulley. And get a load of her supporting cast—Sierra Hull on mandolin, producer Alison Brown on banjo, fiddler Stuart Duncan and Mike Bub on bass. The rest of the album’s repertoire includes the Seals & Crofts pop classic “Summer Breeze,” Reba Rambo’s “New Shoes,” Leslie Satcher’s “Old Southern Porches” and the George Jones oldie “Will You Visit Me on Sunday.”

Writer: Buddy Spicher/Jimmy Martin; Producer: Jeff White & Michael Cleveland; Publisher: Bocephus, BMI; Rounder (track) (www.flamekeeperband.com)
—This toe tapper is my favorite hoedown of the day. Cleveland’s flawless fiddle technique is the envy of his industry, and Flamekeeper totally kicks butt. This track from the group’s aptly titled Fired Up CD is nominated as Instrumental Performance of the Year. The band is competing for Instrumental Group. Cleveland vies for his ninth IBMA Fiddle Player of the Year trophy and the group’s Marshall Wilborn in nominated for his third consecutive Bass Player of the Year honor.

Writer: none listed; Producer: The Grascals; Publisher: none listed; Time Life/Blugrascal (track) (www.mayberrysfinest.com)
—The seven-song Dance Til Your Stockings Are Hot and Ravelin’ album is The Grascals tribute to the music of The Andy Griffith Show. The call-and-response vocals on this bluegrass classic are done in a mellow, tongue-in-cheek style (”Dooley,” “Slippin’ up the holler,” “Dooley,” “Gimme a swaller and I’ll pay you back some day.”) The Grascals are again nominated as IBMA Entertainer of the Year. The group’s Kristin Scott Benson is up for her fourth consecutive Banjo Player of the Year prize, and its “I Am Strong” collaboration with Dolly Parton is nominated for Recorded Event.

Writer: Dixie Hall/Tom T. Hall; Producer: Jerry Salley; Publisher: Good Home Grown, BMI; Moutain Home (track) (www.darinandbrookealdridge.com)
—This husband-wife duet is sometimes billed as bluegrass music’s “sweethearts.” Jerry Salley has produced an album of remarkable clarity and class on these newcomers. On this ballad, Darin’s high tenor is matched by Brooke’s even higher harmony voice. Later in the track, Salley adds a thrilling harmonized third voice. Lovely work. Darin and Brooke are nominated for this year’s Emerging Artist award.

Writer: Michael Keith/Dave Lindsey; Producer: Larry Sparks; Publisher: Palm Island Press/Cross Timbers/Lindsey and Sons, BMI; Rounder (track) (www.larrysparks.com)
—Sparks has a classic, “high lonesome” bluegrass voice. He’s a veteran of five decades in this business, but he’s still in there swinging, since his Almost Home collection is competing for Album of the Year. Its title tune ripples with Appalachian authenticity.

SIERRA HULL/Easy Come, Easy Go
Writer: none listed; Producer: Barry Bales & Sierra Hull; Publisher: none listed; Rounder (track) (www.sierrahull.com)
—The former teen mandolin prodigy is now a student at the prestigious Berklee College of Music. Her current Daybreak CD includes this lilting ode with the autobiographical line, “I’m not a child anymore.” She sings in a tender, daughter-of-Alison soprano, and the mandolin playing that made her a star remains dazzling. This week, she’s aiming for her first Mandolin Player of the Year award, as well as for the Emerging Artist trophy.