International Bluegrass Music Association Awards Musings & Predictions

The International Bluegrass Music Association fetes its finest this week in Nashville.

I have only once been able to partake in the events surrounding World of Bluegrass but those are four days I recall fondly. While I have allowed my membership in the organization to lapse- quite frankly, what I got out of membership in the organization was minimal- I watch (and sometimes judge) its actions from a distance. Perhaps the most celebrated feature of the IBMA is its annual awards show held at the Ryman Auditorium and scheduled for this coming Thursday, September 29.

Every artist nominated for an IBMA award prominently features this recognition in their PR materials. While the Entertainment Tonight/TMZ world knows nothing about the IBMA, bluegrass, and their awards, these tokens of acknowledgement carry significant weight within the community, in no small part because they are industry-based; much like the Grammys, IBMA awards are voted on by professional members of the industry.

Here are my predictions for Thursday evening:

ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR- the most coveted award

The Boxcars- Could come up the middle and be the surprise winners
Dailey & Vincent- won the last three years
The Gibson Brothers- I haven’t seen them live, but almost everyone loves them
The Grascals- won twice before
Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers- I see no reason why they can’t win this one

 Who I would have voted for: Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers My prediction: I’m going out on a bit of a limb and am going to go with The Gibson Brothers to end Dailey & Vincent’s run.

VOCAL GROUP OF THE YEAR- always a matter of much debate but has only been won by four bands over the award’s 21 years, and always won in streaks

Blue Highway- IMO, should have won this award several times already
Dailey & Vincent- current string of three victories
The Gibson Brothers- enjoying their highest profile so far
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver- seven-time winners, but not since 2007
Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out- seven-time winners, but not since 2000- Russell Moore was 2010’s Male Vocalist of the year

Who I would have voted for: Blue Highway My prediction: The Gibson Brothers

INSTRUMENTAL GROUP OF THE YEAR- a bit of a roll of the disc, although recent results would suggest similar ‘string’ voting

Blue Highway- Unbelievably, they’re never won this one although they seem to be nominated annually
The Boxcars- the ‘new’ guys on the block
Sam Bush Band- nothing to argue with here…other than, Are they bluegrass? Sam is hosting this year’s awards show
Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper- MC has won this award the past four years, but will his revolving-door of membership impact voters?
The Infamous Stringdusters- see Sam Bush

Who I would have voted for: Blue Highway My prediction: Blue Highway, finally

EMERGING ARTIST OF THE YEAR- only surprise here is that an Audie Blaylock’s outfit isn’t again nominated

Darin & Brooke Aldridge- a real strong album that received loads of satellite play
Balsam Range- ditto- been around awhile, though
The Boxcars- how can a band with Ron Stewart, Adam Steffey, and Harold Nixon be considered emerging?
Sierra Hull & Highway 111- keeps developing
Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers- a vet leading a strong band

Who I would have voted for: Darin & Brooke Aldridge My prediction: The Boxcars although Sierra Hull could come through. Yes, I’m hedging.

 MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR- anyone could win this one

Jamie Dailey- won in 2008
Leigh Gibson- never won before
Russell Moore- reigning holder and three-times in total
Dan Tyminski- won three times within the “Man of Constant Sorrow” echo
Josh Williams- always promising

Who I would have voted for: Dan Tyminski My prediction: Leigh Gibson, and I’ll be just fine with that.

FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR- a category I always anticipate

Dale Ann Bradley- three time winner, currently at the height of her career
Sonya Isaacs- I got nothing here- haven’t heard her sing in years
Alison Krauss- four-time winner, but nothing since 1995. Unbelievable.
Claire Lynch- two-time winner; IMO, a wonderful singer who doesn’t sing very much bluegrass
Rhonda Vincent- after owning the award for seven years, she’s been frozen out

Who I would have voted for: Dale Ann Bradley My prediction: Dale Ann Bradley- although I would be fine with A.K. coming through on the strength of her live performances and Paper Airplane.

SONG OF THE YEAR- a crapshoot: I’m not sure more than one of these would have been on my list

“Help My Brother,” The Gibson Brothers (artists), Leigh Gibson (songwriter)

“I Am Strong;” The Grascals featuring Dolly Parton (artists); Jamie Johnson, Susanne Mumpower-Johnson, Jenee Fleenor (songwriters)

“I’ll Take Love,” Dale Ann Bradley with Alison Krauss & Steve Gulley (artists), Louisa Branscomb & Dale Ann Bradley (songwriters)

“Trains I Missed;” Balsam Range (artists); Walt Wilkins, Gilles Godard, Nicole Witt (songwriters)

“Walkin’ West to Memphis,” The Gibson Brothers (artists), Chris Henry (songwriter)

 Who I would have voted for: “Trains I Missed” My prediction: “Help My Brother”
ALBUM OF THE YEAR- again, not the albums I would have listed but I’m used to that being the case; surprisingly, I actually bought- with cash money- four of the five albums.

The All-Star Jam: Live At Graves Mountain– will get plenty of votes because of its wide cross-section of talents

Almost Home, Larry Sparks- very deserving

The Boxcars, The Boxcars- lots of buzz around this one when it came out

Help My Brother, The Gibson Brothers- no argument here

Rare Bird Alert, Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers- an elaborate album

Trains I Missed, Balsam Range- good, but not great

Who I would have voted for: Almost Home, Larry Sparks My prediction: Help My Brother, The Gibson Brothers


“God’s Front Porch,” Lou Reid & Carolina; “He Can Be Found,” The Gibson Brothers; “In God’s Hands,” The Boxcars; “Prayer Bells of Heaven;” J.D. Crowe, Doyle Lawson & Paul Williams; “Sailing On,” Russell Moore & Dale Ann Bradley

Who I would have voted for: “Sailing On,” Moore and DAB

My prediction: no idea- I went into this thinking this was the year of the Gibson’s so…
INSTRUMENTAL RECORDED PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR- I lost interest in this award when it was changed from album to single cut

“Goin’ Up Dry Branch,” Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper

“Ground Speed;” Rural Rhythm All-Stars: Sammy Shelor, Carl Jackson, Brandon Rickman, Wayne Benson, Mike Hartgrove, Mike Anglin

“Jumpin’ the Track,” The Boxcars

“Pretty Little Girl,” Lonesome River Band

“Rare Bird Alert,” Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon

All good tunes; not sure any are award-winning quality.

Who I would have voted for: “Rare Bird Alert,” Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon

My prediction: voters seem to love massive projects, so I’ll go with “Ground Speed”

RECORDED EVENT OF THE YEAR- ditto to the above- lost its lustre for me when it set aside full-album performances

“Graves Mountain Memories;” Rural Rhythm All-Stars featuring Carl Jackson, Mark Newton, Audie Blaylock, Lou Reid, Russell Moore, Carrie Hassler, Sammy Shelor, Mike Hartgrove, Wayne Benson, Mike Anglin

“I Am Strong,” The Grascals featuring Dolly Parton

“I’ll Take Love,” Dale Ann Bradley featuring Alison Krauss and Steve Gulley

“Lonesome River,” Lou Reid & Carolina featuring Russell Moore (artists)

“Prayer Bells of Heaven;” J.D. Crowe, Doyle Lawson & Paul Williams (artists)

Who I would have voted for: “I’ll Take Love,” Dale Ann Bradley featuring Alison Krauss and Steve Gulley My prediction: For reasons stated above, “Graves Mountain Memories”



Terry Baucom- a legend who has never been honoured with the award

Kristin Scott Benson- the past three years

Ron Block- never won; probably not flashy enough

J.D. Crowe- two-time winner

Sammy Shelor- four-time winner, but not since the 90s

Ron Stewart- another who has never won

 Who I would have voted for: Ron Block

My prediction: Terry Baucom and well-deserving of it


Barry Bales- one-time recipient

Mike Bub- five-time winner, enjoying his highest profile as a musician and producer since leaving Del and ‘em

Missy Raines- perennial nominee and seven-time winner

Mark Schatz- two-time winner, last in 1995

Marshall Wilborn- the last two years, maybe the most popular man in bluegrass

Who I would have voted for: Barry Bales

My prediction: Marshall Wilborn

Fiddle:  Hunter Berry; Jason Carter; Michael Cleveland- has owned the award recently; Stuart Duncan; Ron Stewart

Little to nothing to choose between these five.

Who I would have voted for: Ron Stewart My prediction: Ron Stewart


Mike Auldridge- the legend, never recognized with the award

Jerry Douglas- eight-time winner

Rob Ickes- twelve-time winner

Randy Kohrs- has a chance…a slim chance, but has bided his time

Phil Leadbetter- only person other than Ickes and Douglas to have won this award

Who I would have voted for: Mike Auldridge, just because My prediction: Phil Leadbetter- sentiment goes a long way in the bluegrass world


Cody Kilby- oft mentioned, never awarded

Tony Rice- six-time winner; not sure recent output justifies a nomination

Kenny Smith- always nominated, two-time winner

Bryan Sutton- five-time winner, not since 2006

Josh Williams- took home the award the past three years

Who I would have voted for: I’ll almost always vote for Jim Nunally, but out of this group…probably would have tossed a vote Smith’s direction My prediction: Josh Williams


Wayne Benson- never won, usually nominated; Sam Bush- four-times; Sierra Hull- not yet; Ronnie McCoury-eight-times, but not in the last ten; Adam Steffey- seven-times

Not much to separate the field.

Who I would have voted for: I’d have tossed some love Ronnie’s direction

My prediction: Sierra Hull. I think the climate is right for this one.


Katy Daley; WAMU’s Bluegrass Country; Washington, D.C.

Chris Jones; Sirius XM Satellite Radio; Nashville, Tenn.

Tim White; Song of the Mountains; Marion, Va.

Couldn’t say as I don’t listen regularly. Jones is darn good, though and as a part-time Albertan, I’m hoping for him.


G. Carr & Salli Ratts (designers), Rare Bird Alert, Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers (artists), Rounder Records (label)

Erica Harris (artist) & Ricardo Alessio (designer), City of Refuge, Abigail Washburn (artist), Rounder Records (label)

Albert J. Roman (designer), Daybreak, Sierra Hull (artist), Rounder Records (label)

I can’t imagine anything surpassing Rare Bird Alert, although some may claim it was a bit too much.


Colin Escott (writer), A Mother’s Prayer, Ralph Stanley (artist), Rebel Records (label)

Geoffrey Himes (writer), The Rounder Records Story, Various Artists, Rounder Records (label)

Steve Martin (writer), Rare Bird Alert, Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers (artists), Rounder Records (label)

Just re-read two of the three; I’ll go with Escott although my fave notes of the year accompanied James Reams & the Barnstormers’ One Foot in the Honky Tonk.

As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. No wagering. Donald

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