Del McCoury is a bluegrass Hall of Famer and repeat host of the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards show. Jim Lauderdale is a beloved Nashville songwriter whose wide range of projects and songs includes Grammy Awards in bluegrass and a veteran emcee as well, having hosted the Americana Honors & Awards for more than a decade. Their personalities are as big as their resumes, so they'll make memorable co-hosts of the 30th IBMA Awards, set to take place in Raleigh this Thursday night. WMOT gathered a crowd in August and held a public conversation with Jim and Del about their journeys in music, their shared history on banjo and the upcoming awards.
LISTEN TO JIM AND DEL'S CONVERSATION IN FULL HERE.
The peer-voted IBMA Awards have been criticized over the years for rewarding too few outstanding artists too many times, but nobody disputes that the serial winners are indeed the top musicians in their field. They’ve helped inscribe the history books with: Alison Krauss (4x female vocalist and 2x entertainer of the year), Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder (8x instrumental group), Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver (8x vocal group), Bryan Sutton (11x guitarist), Russell Moore (5x male vocalist), Michael Cleveland (11x fiddle player), Missy Raines (7x bass player) and Rob Ickes, whose fifteen dobro player of the year awards between 1996 and 2013 constitute a record among IBMA winners. More recently, the awards have helped bolster the rise of women in instrumental fields where they’d been under-represented, notably Sierra Hull’s three mandolin player prizes and Molly Tuttle’s pair (so far) on guitar.
This week’s String also includes a voice from an IBMA constituency that’s been pre-eminent and heavily cultivated since the organization’s inception, and that’s young fans and artists. Jaelee Roberts is a Nashville native, daughter of two bluegrass industry professionals, and a freshman at MTSU. She’ll be showcasing as a songwriting artist during the Bluegrass Ramble, and she’s the head of the IBMA Youth Council, a committee that gives rising artists chances to play in groups and play for audiences. She says in her interview (which starts at about 44:00) that she’s learned a good deal from senior musicians who go out of their way to get youth not just into their instruments but up on stage. “I think this is honestly the only genre of music with artists that do that. And I think that really shows something. It gives hope to a lot of people that are maybe not encouraged or need that little push. It’s so inviting.”
Moments And Musicians To Watch:
Alison Brown, co-founder of 25-year-old Compass Records and an IBMA Award winning banjo player, will deliver the World of Bluegrass Keynote Address on Tuesday evening. She told The Bluegrass Situation this week that among her themes, she’ll talk about the experience of her label in the streaming economy: “It hasn’t really been our experience that having bluegrass on Spotify has meant that we sell less bluegrass in physical form. And it only really supports the artists’ efforts because maybe the older audience is used to consuming physically but the young audience is used to consuming through streaming and digital. So if you’re not present in that space, you’re never going to expand your audience into that younger demographic, and obviously an artist needs to grow their audience.” (Tues. 4 pm)
Nashville’s Stephen Mougin, guitarist with the Sam Bush Band and owner/producer at Dark Shadow Recording, will offer an hour of band coaching in front of a live audience. These public boot camps have in the past proven electrifying, as we watch artists modify their sound and intensity their strengths in real time. (Tues. 1 pm)
Greg Reish, director of the Center for Popular Music at MTSU will join archivists and musicologists from two other universities to talk about the mission and method of historic preservation for recordings, documents and artifacts. (Wed. 10 am)
Official showcases during the Bluegrass Ramble include some of the most provocative emerging talent from across the U.S. and beyond. There’s been a good deal of buzz about Canadian bands the Slocan Ramblers, a quartet that’s played Merlefest and Rockygrass, and The Dead South, a Juno Award-winning power folk outfit from Saskatchewan. Alex Leach is a young trad-minded singer who taps the mountain strains of Ralph Stanley. Gina Furtado makes her breakaway from band work to lead her own quartet and release the bold-voiced new album I Hope You Have A Good Life. Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons represent more of an old-time songster side of the bluegrass family. Mile Twelve, comprised of virtuosic players from Boston’s music school scene, are up for Emerging Artist and Album of the Year at the IBMA Awards.
The Wide Open Bluegrass Festival caps off the week with a massive street fest (open to the public) and the Red Hat Amphitheater (free general admission with reservations and reserved tickets). The main stage includes Balsam Range with members of the NC Symphony on Friday night, plus this year’s super-group is called The Ringers, featuring Jerry Douglas, Dan Tyminski, Ronnie McCoury, Christian Sedelmyer and Todd Phillips. Saturday evening features a tribute to female folk and bluegrass pioneers Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard, as well as a Del-ebration, marking the 80th birthday of Del McCoury with special guests, including Dierks Bentley and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.