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IBMA Awards 2017- Live results & reactions   Leave a comment

Well, I got the stream going just a couple minutes late- looks like Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver had the honour of starting things off. Hosts Bela Fleck and spouse Abigail Washburn are now attempting humour. Sigh. Funny that the screen has a big black box on the right side. Maybe just me.

Namechecking every banjo player of the last 100 years.

I will be dropping in my commentary as the awards are announced. We will eventually get there. You would never know that bluegrass had a history of incorporating comedy listening to this painful opening segment.

Show is dedicated to Pete Kuykendall. As has happened before I believe, Dale Ann Bradley opens the awards with Joe Mullins-

DOBRO PLAYER OF THE YEAR Jerry Douglas; Andy Hall; Rob Ickes; Phil Leadbetter; Josh Swift.

I predicted that Josh Swift would win, and was also hoping he might. It will not happen again tonight, but I was right on both counts. Kudos to me. First mention of Jesus.

BASS PLAYER OF THE YEAR Barry Bales; Alan Bartram; Mike Bub; Missy Raines; Tim Surrett

I am hoping for Del & ‘Em’s Alan Bartram, but predicting Surrett. The winner is…Alan Bartram, his first win I believe…and he is nowhere to be found. Kenny Smith accepts.

First appearance of a baby. Sigh. And first mention of Glen Campbell who did so much for bluegrass. Yes, that is sarcasm. Here we go with  live performance of John Hartford’s “Gentle on My Mind” from Flatt Lonesome, who I predict will have a fairly significant evening. And, the first appearance of buffering in the Bluegrass Bunker.

Interestingly, that doesn’t much sound like “Gentle on My Mind.” I must have misunderstood something in the introduction- could have sworn they were said to be playing “Gentle On My Mind.” But… first commercial.

Becky Buller and Larry Stephenson present:

GOSPEL RECORDED PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR “Give Me Jesus”

Larry Cordle (artist), Traditional/Larry Cordle (writer), “Give Me Jesus” (album), Larry Cordle (producer), Mighty Cord Records (label); “Hallelujah”

Blue Highway (artist), Public Domain arranged by Blue Highway (writer), “Original Traditional” (album), Blue Highway (producer), Rounder Records (label); <b>”I Found a Church Today” The Gibson Brothers (artist), Eric Gibson/Leigh Gibson (writers), “In the Ground” (album), Eric Gibson, Leigh Gibson, and Mike Barber (producers), Rounder Records (label) “S

Sacred Memories”Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers with Ricky Skaggs and Sharon White Skaggs (artist), Dolly Parton (writer), “Sacred Memories” (album), Joe Mullins (producer), Rebel Records (label);

“Wish You Were Here” Balsam Range (artist), James Stover/Michael Williams (writers), “Mountain Voodoo” (album), Balsam Range (producer), Mountain Home Records (label)

Honestly, before they played the clips I could only hear one of these songs in my head, The Gibson Brothers tune. a real good one, so that is my hope, but my prediction was for “Sacred Memories. And, there is a tie between those two songs! How does that happen? Well, I know how- let’s see- three of my Hopes have won so far, and two of my predictions. Won’t last. 

Now,

NSTRUMENTAL RECORDED PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR  “Fiddler’s Dream”

Michael Cleveland (artist), Arthur Smith (writer), “Fiddler’s Dream” (album), Jeff White and Michael Cleveland (producers), Compass Records (label);  “Great Waterton” Kristin Scott Benson (artist), Kristin Scott Benson (writer), “Stringworks” (album), Kristin Scott Benson (producer), Mountain Home Records (label); “Greenbrier” Sam Bush (artist), Sam Bush/Scott Vestal (writers), “Storyman” (album), Sugar Hill Records (label); “Little Liza Jane” Adam Steffey (artist), Tommy Duncan/James Robert Wills (writers), “Here to Stay” (album), Adam Steffey (producer), Mountain Home Records (label); “Flint Hill Special” The Earls of Leicester (artist), Earl Scruggs (writer), “Rattle & Roar” (album), Jerry Douglas (producer), Rounder Records (label)

My prediction was for Michael Cleveland, always a safe bet, but I am hoping for Kristin Scott Benson, one of the most exciting players going. And they give the award to…Michael Cleveland. Many, 3 predictions out of 4. I’m doing pretty good.

Balsam Range performs “Girl of the Highland.” Some mic problems are now fixed. Great band. Would like to see them come north some day.

Missy Raines and the leader of Bluegrass 45 are presenting:

GUITAR PLAYER OF THE YEAR Jim Hurst; Kenny Smith; Bryan Sutton; Molly Tuttle; Josh Williams

Hoping for Kenny Smith, but feel like Molly Tuttle will get it…on the basis of an EP and live appearances. Feels like time for a female picker to get recognized…and she is: Molly Tuttle. No doubt a great player- I was thinking she might get the Emerging Artist award, and she still may.

MANDOLIN PLAYER OF THE YEAR Jesse Brock; Sam Bush; Sierra Hull; Frank Solivan; Adam Steffey

My computer froze up like a banjo-player’s claw. I always hope for Jesse Brock in this category, but am okay with Sierra Hull winning for the second year in a row.

Earls of Leicester and Bluegrass 45 collaborating on “Salty Dog Blues.” I can listen to Shawn Camp any time, but something got lost in the translation here: maybe a handful too many players on the stage.

I am not sure I have ever before predicted four awards in a row. It can’t last.

Frank Solivan and Kristin Scott Benson presenting:

RECORDED EVENT OF THE YEAR  “East Virginia Blues” Ricky Wasson and Dan Tyminski (artists), “Croweology: The Study of J.D. Crowe’s Musical Legacy” (album), Rickey Wasson (producer), Truegrass Entertainment (label); “Going Back to Bristol” Shawn Camp with Mac Wiseman, Peter Cooper, Thomm Jutz (artists), “I Sang the Song (Life of the Voice with a Heart)” (album), Peter Cooper and Thomm Jutz (producers), Mountain Fever Records (label); “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You” Bobby Osborne with Sierra Hull, Alison Brown, Rob Ickes, Stuart Duncan, Trey Hensley, Todd Phillips, Kenny Malone, Claire Lynch, and Bryan McDowell (artists), “Original” (album), Alison Brown (producer), Compass Records (label) “Steamboat Whistle Blues” Michael Cleveland featuring Sam Bush (artists), “Fiddler’s Dream” (album), Jeff White and Michael Cleveland (producers), Compass Records (label); “‘Tis Sweet to Be Remembered” Mac Wiseman and Alison Krauss (artists), “I Sang the Song (Life of the Voice with a Heart)” (album), Peter Cooper and Thomm Jutz (producers), Mountain Fever Records (label)

I believe the entire “I Sang the Song (Life of the Voice with a Heart” album should walk away with this award, but since that isn’t the way the award works…

I know Bobby Osborne will win, but I believe the entire I Sang the Song (Life of the Voice with a Heart) album should walk away with this award, but that isn’t the way the award works…and I don’t know if enough folks heard the music from it…I was right- Bobby Osborne singing a Bee Gees song with a cast of IBMA favourites wins this award. I guess: I didn’t hear it, but others obviously did. No doubt, Bobby Osborne has not been recognized enough by the IBMA in recent years, as he has released several terrific albums. I just didn’t think Original was one of them. Good to hear him speak, and he is obviously appreciative of his Compass Records team. Compass does get their deserving artists to the fore, just ask Dale Ann Bradley and Special Consensus.

EMERGING ARTIST OF THE YEAR Front Country; The Lonely Heartstring Band; Molly Tuttle; Sister Sadie; Volume Five

I predict Molly Tuttle, but have my fingers crossed for the veterans of Sister Sadie. Will only be disappointed in one result. The winner is…Volume Five. Didn’t see that one coming; if memory serves, they have been up for this award before. Two times before, apparently. Good band of few words.

God, Banjo Mingle dot com is not funny. Just move the show along, please. JCMISAP.

This is more like it- a whole passel of folks paying tribute to the Bristol sessions. Jim Lauderdale, Carl Jackson, Becky Buller (man, she is tall!) Sammy Shelor, Michael Cleveland, Sierra Hull, and is that Larry Cordle? Nice.

This may be the last summer-like evening in Central Alberta this autumn, and I am in the Bluegrass Bunker reporting on these awards. Such is my dedication to my art.

Alison Brown and Jeremy Garrett present:

FIDDLE PLAYER OF THE YEAR Becky Buller; Jason Carter; Michael Cleveland; Stuart Duncan; Patrick McAvinue; Ron Stewart

Pulling for Buller (and Stewart) but have learned to never bet against Michael Cleveland. Patrick McAvinue comes out of left field to snag this one. He has been around awhile.

BANJO PLAYER OF THE YEAR Ned Luberecki; Joe Mullins; Noam Pikelny; Kristin Scott Benson; Sammy Shelor

A banjo joke. Not a good one. Predicting Joe Mullins, who has never got his due, but fingers crossed for Benson- three lady pickers in one year? Nope. Noam Pikelny. So, my average has dropped back to earth: not a sniff the last three awards. That feels about right. Five predictions in a row will never be matched…not by me! Still, would be nice if Noam played more bluegrass.

Of course, the feed starts buffering just as Missy Raines and Jim Hurst are about to pay tribute to the ‘grassers that passed away this year. Back, at the Ms. Lots of names I am not familiar with…must have attempted to overcome previous criticisms for not having mentioned ‘so and so’ and went with mentioning everyone. Can’t be knocked for that, especially within a music and industry that is so regionalized: every community has their bluegrass pillars who should be remembered.

Now, paying tribute to Pete Kuykendall- a man whose contribution to bluegrass is pretty dang near impossible to measure. Dubbed the music’s Godfather, in the familial sense. Seems appropriate. Tim O’Brien, Jerry Douglas, Molly Tuttle, Missy Raines, and a guitar player I can’t recognize (so sorry) perform “I Am Weary, Let Me Rest,” a most poignant choice. Oh, that’s Danny Paisley! Funny, as soon as he took his lead, I recognized him. Dang, buffering again.

Completely lost the feed now. Intermittent now-

Michael Cleveland is accepting an award, but I don’t know what. Going to guess Instrumental Group of the Year, but will wait to see if I get back the show.

INSTRUMENTAL GROUP OF THE YEAR Balsam Range; The Earls of Leicester; Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen; Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper; Punch Brothers

I am going to post this in hopes that I was correct and Flamekeeper got Instrumental Group of the Year. I should have considered the “Compass” factor into my predictions. I didn’t.

FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR Brooke Aldridge; Dale Ann Bradley; Sierra Hull; Amanda Smith; Molly Tuttle

I will always hope for DAB, and predicted Sierra Hull, but I was leaning toward predicting Brooke Aldridge, but wasn’t willing to put money on her…should have- well deserved, I think. I have lost the stream again. Restarting doesn’t help. Sigh. Back to the Female Vocalist category- with Brooke Aldridge’s victory, there has now been a different winner each of the last six years: Dale Ann, Claire Lynch, Amanda Smith, Rhonda Vincent, Becky Buller, and now Brooke. Bluegrass has come a long way since the days that RV won 7 years in a row. Always has been a diverse field, but now it is being recognized.

Lost the plot entirely now- not sure what is happening. God, it comes back just in time for more Banjo Mingle ‘humour.’ It isn’t my night. Lost it again.

Would love to be hearing Front Country. Restart your router, the advice is…it isn’t my router!

Apparently facebook streaming is not the way to get bluegrass in front of the masses. Sorry to say, it ain’t working, and I am moving on. I will update with the rest of the winners later tonight when the press releases come out.

Just got it back in time for Hazel Dickens’ and Alice Gerrard’s induction into the Hall of Fame, appropriately by [an increasingly emotional, I think] Laurie Lewis. No more typing for now, just watching. Learn, y’all.

Hazel Dickens did so much in bluegrass, and I am so pleased that Laurie is including quotes from her bluegrass peers in this tribute. So sad that the stream is so poor, at least for me: I’ve tried everything. So disappointed- I’ve been waiting 15 years to see Hazel inducted, and I can’t. I am hoping someone will post this later. Missed much of Laurie’s speech, and almost the entirety of Hazel’s nephew’s. Catching much of Alice’s, if with many drop outs. Now, Laurie joins Alice and musicians in a song, which doesn’t play for me.

Unfortunately, I’m out. I guess I should have invested in Sirius. Frustrated that facebook doesn’t seem to be able to handle 900+ viewers. Later.

I’m back. Facebook remains unwatchable here in the north, but by scrounging the ‘net I am finding additional results. Unfortunately, I missed the inductions into the HofF of Roland White and Bobby Hicks.

VOCAL GROUP OF THE YEAR Balsam Range; Blue Highway; Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver; Flatt Lonesome; The Gibson Brothers

I would advocate for Blue Highway to be the Vocal Group annually, and do, but I really thought this year would be Flatt Lonesome’s and I was right. At least my predictive powers have recuperated in the time away from facebook live.

MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR Shawn Camp; Eric Gibson; Leigh Gibson; Buddy Melton; Russell Moore

I so wanted the Gibsons to walk up together and receive this award, but despite Eric’s campaign to have Leigh named (or was it the other way around) neither was- I thought Moore, not the most interesting vocalist in this group in my opinion, would win, but was more than pleased to read that Shawn Camp received his second nod as Male Vocalist.

The stream still isn’t working here, and other streams are: I don’t think it is me. Too bad the IBMA can’t find a stable, sustainable platform for video of their awards show.

SONG OF THE YEAR “Blue Collar Dreams” Balsam Range (artist), Aaron Bibelhauser (writer); “Going Back to Bristol” Shawn Camp (artist), Mac Wiseman/Thomm Jutz/Peter Cooper (writers; “I Am a Drifter” Volume Five (artist), Donna Ulisse/Marc Rossi (writers); “Someday Soon” Darin & Brooke Aldridge (artist), Ian Tyson (writer); “The Train That Carried My Girl from Town” The Earls of Leicester (artist), Frank Hutchison (writer)

 I don’t believe songs forty, fifty, and more years old should be eligible for this award, although I had no problem with “Man of Common Sorrow” capturing the award years ago. Inconsistency is part of bluegrass, Saturday night drunkenness and murder, Sunday morning gospel. “Going Back to Bristol” is a brilliantly crafted song, but I thought BR would win this one. Again, didn’t see Volume Five rising to this level. I guess I will have to start reconsidering them, eh? I still don’t think “I Am A Drifter” is as significant a song as “Going Back to Bristol,” but since when does that matter?

ALBUM OF THE YEAR Fiddler’s Dream” Michael Cleveland (artist), Jeff White and Michael Cleveland (producers), Compass Records (label); “In the Ground” The Gibson Brothers (artist), Eric Gibson, Leigh Gibson, and Mike Barber (producers), Rounder Records (label); “Mountain Voodoo Balsam Range (artist), Balsam Range (producer), Mountain Home Records (label); Original Bobby Osborne (artist), Alison Brown (producer), Compass Records (label); Rattle & Roar The Earls of Leicester (artist), Jerry Douglas (producer), Rounder Records (label)

As assured as I am that In The Ground is the finest bluegrass album- by a lot- in this category (all original material, expertly executed instrumentally and vocally) I was equally sure that Bobby Osborne would receive this award. Balsam Range released a very good album, without a doubt- I just thought the voters would go in a different direction. Any of four albums would have deserved this award.

Sam Bush and Sierra Hull are frozen on my screen, and in a brief second of movement the Earls of Leicester appeared to walk toward the podium. Putting all that together tells me that I won’t see the finale featuring the Osborne Brothers and that the Entertainer of the Year award has been given out:

ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR Balsam Range; Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver; The Earls of Leicester; Flatt Lonesome; The Gibson Brothers

Any other year I would have been thrilled to have The Earls named Entertainers of the Year, and they are great, but I thought The Gibsons deserved the nod. Better that the alternative, definitely.

Sorry for the funky fonts.

Missed perhaps by some was the youthful emergence witnessed in the individual instrument awards. Hull, now a two-time winner, is 26, and Pikelny (also a two-time winner) is 36. Bartram, the old-man of the six and a first-time winner is 40, while first timers Tuttle (24), McAvinue (28), and Swift (31) bring the average age of the group to under 31. Without doing any additional math, I am going to predict that is a record: prove me wrong. Add in Brooke Aldridge, whose age I can’t easily locate, and we may have an irreversible changing-of-the-guard.

I guess that is the IBMA Awards for another year. Best I can tell, only three of my chosen won (the first three awards of the night) and seven of my predictions came true, not quite as good as I did last year. That result tells me that while what I most like in bluegrass isn’t what the industry is supporting, I am still connected enough to the bluegrass happenings that I can guess almost as often as not who they will support. And in some cases- Brooke Aldridge, Instrumental Group- I should have predicted with my gut. See you in a year!

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Posted 2017 September 28 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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Do we need more negative bluegrass reviews?   Leave a comment

Over at No Depression, thoughtful bluegrass prognosticator Ted Lehmann recently reflected on the overwhelmingly number of ‘positive’ bluegrass reviews against a wider view that there seems to be fewer reviewers willing to write challenging criticisms of albums. So as not to misrepresent anything Ted expresses, I refer you to his published piece.

While I don’t agree with everything Ted argues, there is merit to his thesis. Without running the numbers, there does appear to be fewer ‘negative’ bluegrass album reviews than there should be. I have my theories as to why, including that the bluegrass world is so insular and interdependent there is little tolerance of ‘outliers’ whose opinions are contrary to the greater interests of the industry.

Simply put, to write negatively about an album is to accept that you will quite possibly be cut off the publicist’s contact list and the record label’s servicing run, not to be mentioned attacked by overly aggressive parents and colleagues, and have your inability to play “Cumberland Gap” held up as evidence that you have no right to express an opinion. Therefore, like me, if someone writing about bluegrass encounters an album they feel is lacking, it seems they are most likely to ignore it than to spend hours crafting a hatchet piece: most of us are not making the dollars writing that makes it worthwhile to rip an album to shreds, even if it deserves such. Instead, we move onto an album that we can write about more positively.

However, beyond this obvious element there is another set of reasons why I believe there are fewer negative bluegrass album reviews than which we might expect: for the most part, bluegrass albums today are pretty darn strong!

The top bluegrass performers, even when they are spinning their tires, are usually so darned good at what they do that it is difficult to criticize them for their representation of the art. They play in tune (always a good thing), understand how to feature themselves and each other most artfully, understand and execute vocal harmony, and are creative in their arrangements of familiar songs. Essentially, they know what that heck they are doing, and it sounds good.

Most often when I consider something to be of lower-quality, it is a matter of taste and opinion—I have little patience for overwrought, wimpy-arsed, watered-down, and slickly-produced bluegrass, but realize that for whatever misguided reason, some folks actually like that type of saccharine-infused, cloying sentimental trash.

When a major artist does release something less than impressive, whether due to questionable song choices, pedestrian effort, or simply misguided execution—and I am assigned to write about it—I am obligated to call them on it, whether that runs contrary to popular opinion or industry interests. Fortunately, in the bluegrass world, that doesn’t happen very often. Most of what I encounter is of a very high calibre, but if I feel a project is lacking, I try my best to communicate that in an up-front and professional manner, even if sometimes folks may have to read between the lines to pick up on it. I figure that is the reader’s obligation, and if I’ve done my job correctly, they are able to achieve it.

I guess we have to trust readers (and bluegrass listeners) to look for reviews that meet their needs. If they want reprints of promo releases and one-sheets, there is a bluegrass website for that. If they want bluegrass industry cheerleading and baby pictures where never a discouraging word is heard, there is a website for that. Heck, there is even a bluegrass site that features bluegrass only in rare situations. If they want honest opinion, mostly the good, sometimes the bad, and occasionally (usually around IBMA time) the snarky, there is a website for that. I call it Fervor Coulee!

I don’t believe we need more negative bluegrass reviews. We just have to continue to pay attention to the quality music that surrounds us.

Posted 2017 September 1 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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Rodney Crowell Trio, Red Deer August 16, 2017   Leave a comment

rodney

Made the drive south to see Rodney Crowell Trio in Red Deer last night; a most unusual experience. I’ve written a review for CST, and you can get to it by clicking on this link. Good show, no doubt: very good. And as someone who has repeatedly criticized the sound quality at The Hideout, things were of a high quality last night, much better than last time five years back when our table walked out on Hayes Carll. So, kudos.

Set List:

Glasgow Girl
Earthbound
Stuff That Works
Come Back Baby
Frankie Please
Fever On The Bayou
It’s Hard to Kiss At Night…
That’s Alright, Mama (forty years since Elvis’ death)
‘Til I Gain Control Again
East Houston Blues
Reckless
It Ain’t Over
She’s Crazy For Leaving
After All This Time
Dancin’ Circles Around The Sun
Leaving Louisiana In The Broad Daylight
The Flyboy & The Kid

All of which got me to thinking of the songs I wish he had done—not that I didn’t enjoy that which was performed: maybe like no one outside of Springsteen, I have so many favourite Crowell songs that I could think of an entire separate set list that I would have been just as pleased to hear…so, that’s what I’ve created. Not better, just different: what could the set list have looked like and I would have been just as happy? Kept it to seventeen songs, no duplicates, had to get a Guy Clark co-write (or more) in, find a way to tie-in Elvis, consider pacing, and do all that with songs Crowell has recorded (with the exception of “Eamon” a Clark co-write that appeared on Someday The Song Writes You) and which would be (almost) of as much interest to the audience as me.)

I Ain’t Living Long Like This
When The Blue Hour Comes
Eamon
Fate’s Right Hand
Voila, An American Dream
Shame On The Moon
Tell Me The Truth
I Don’t Care Anymore
Tobacco Road
Stay (Don’t Be Cruel)
Many A Long And Lonesome Highway
The Rock of My Soul
Say You Love Me
Lovin’ All Night
I Couldn’t Leave You If I Tried
Heartbroke
Nashville 1972

How would that sound? And I have another 17 songs that would make a fine second alternate set…and I didn’t even get to “She Loves The Jerk” and “Jewel of the South,” another two favourites.

I amuse myself.

Blueberry Bluegrass & Country Music Society Festival, 2017   Leave a comment

It isn’t often you get to reinvent yourself after 31 years, but that is what Blueberry Bluegrass needed and was able to achieve during their 2017 event, August 4-6. BBG

Held in Stony Plain, Alberta, the Society celebrated their 32nd edition by pulling out all the stops to even hold the event. The current organizing committee didn’t take the reins of the fest until late February, and with no advance work having been done for the 2017 event, many feared for the future of the festival. But thanks to the efforts of area bluegrass stalwarts, many associated with but separate from the Northern Bluegrass Circle Music Society, it happened. And thank goodness it did.

Blueberry has long been one of Canada’s premier bluegrass events, having been referred to (accurately or not) as the largest and oldest bluegrass festival in the country, going through periods of growth (and stints of fallow) over the course of its three decades. It has battled August snow storms, near tornado-like winds and rain, sound system failures, no-shows, and performance disappointments while also embracing warm, azure Alberta skies, life-altering shows from legends, facilitating friendships and an intermittently strong provincial bluegrass scene.

Prior to this year’s event, Blueberry had gone through the management of essentially three different teams of leadership, each featuring individual strengths, foci, perspective, and vision during their years of control. Respect for all who previously headed the fest. While no event can satisfy each and every bluegrass fan—and I stayed away out of dissatisfaction for much of the decade from 2004-2014—Blueberry has done a pretty good job of meeting the needs of most. Quibbles aside, the Alberta bluegrass community has been well-served by Blueberry, and many of the most important names and bands have played the fest, Bill Monroe & the Blue Grass Boys, Mac Wiseman, Jimmy Martin, and J. D. Crowe on through to today’s hottest bands including The Earls of Leicester, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, and the Del McCoury Band. Local heroes have developed at Blueberry, among them Jerusalem Ridge and Down To The Wood.

Without getting into gossip and ‘inside baseball’ territory—the details of which I am not privy—or criticizing prior practices, Blueberry Bluegrass dived into their next era this year, and the effect was immediately apparent.

While getting into the festival site was a bit of a mess on Saturday morning (the only day I was able to attend this year—I don’t believe I have the stamina to take in a three-day fest), the twenty minutes spent in line awaiting admittance was the only negative I experienced all day. Well, the weather wasn’t great but that is well-beyond anyone’s control.  So many positive adjustments were apparent, some of them very significant.

Most notable, the use of the available facilities was taken to positive advantage. Blueberry has long been fortunate to have a gravelled stage site, access to flushables, and a covered pavilion for venders and additional conveniences. A new building had been built on the site, and the new board grabbed it to allow a second stage, this one indoor. As we all know, any fest is at the mercy of the weather, and by taking advantage of the new building, the organizers  advanced the festival to its next level.

BMB

The Bix Mix Boys- well, most of them. Sorry, Jim.

Not only does the second stage provide an indoor respite for those looking for such (and additional washrooms) it also allowed the festival programmers the advantage of broadening their artistic vision. Providing listeners choice (something admittedly not all welcomed when competing stage times caused undesirable conflicts) the festival allows guests their preference: inside/outside, Band A/Band B, wet/dry. According to one of the performers, the ballroom is not particularly ‘sound-friendly,’ but no one would have discerned that. Why? The festival invested in excellent equipment and sound talent, going as far as bringing in Miles Wilkinson to head up the interior sound team. Amazing. As well, the second floor of the new hall allowed for a private green room for the performers, a separate area for volunteer meals and such, and an intimate workshop space. No complaints heard. A third stage was available for the workshops and jams as well as additional performances.

The organizing committee went extra lengths to provide opportunities for attendees to participate in a variety of activities, some related to bluegrass, some not. While the music is what matters to me, I am glad that the committee recognizes that ‘value added’ elements will help grow the festival. Among the many activities organized for younger guests were a petting zoo, an arcade, and colouring contest, as well as bluegrass-related films, instrumental and singing workshops throughout the days, and facilitated jamming tents. Additionally, the venders market was vastly expanded and improved, and this was only possible by re-establishing relationships with area venders and artisans. The concourse area was filled with tables featuring commercial products, handcrafted items, and instruments, providing additional energy and vitality.

Building relationships is part of all good festival experiences, and the Blueberry board recognizes this. To secure talent, they were able to draw on the personal relationships built with professional musicians through years of involvement within the bluegrass community. The time they committed to working with the local government, communities, and service groups was apparent. Also obvious was the liaising that had been done between Blueberry and other area music presenters, the folk clubs and other western roots music fests, many of which had information tables. Gary Glewinski provided ukulele workshops.

None of this would matter if the quality of the stage presentations was lacking. Despite challenges, this year’s Blueberry line-up was more than satisfying. Of the seven full sets I witnessed, not a single one disappointed and the diversity was appreciated. Each performer seemed to match and exceed those that came before: who was my favourite? Who played last?

Blue Highway, the Foggy Hogtown Boys, and David Peterson & 1946 (two sets) displayed different shades of ‘grass, and showed that this music has room for the traditional and original, for the progressive and that which emulates a previous time. (However, I still don’t need yodelling in my bluegrass.) While I didn’t catch their sets, reports were that the Spinney Brothers and Feller and Hill were also well received, while Fervor Coulee faves In With the Old, Russell DeCarle, and Nomad Jones performed on days when I wasn’t present.

OML

Old Man Luedecke…and his mic stand

Old Man Luedecke provided a bridge to the folk world, while Foghorn Stringband brought in the country/old-time element. Both received extended ovations. Local and area bluegrass talent was also given additional prominence this year, something that had been less respected in recent years. The Bix Mix Boys, whose energetic set I did catch, and Kayla and Matt Hotte were appreciated by their audiences.

While some criticized the lack of BIG NAMES (whomever that is supposed to be- you don’t get bigger than Blue Highway) this year’s festival has to be considered an artistic and entertainment success. Notable was the inclusion of eastern Canadian acts this year—The Spinney Brothers, The Foggy Hogtown Boys, and Old Man Luedecke—when it was previously asserted that it “wasn’t worth the money” to bring talent west. A Canadian festival must support developing and established Canadian bluegrass.

1946

David Peterson & 1946

I was familiar with all the performers I witnessed on Saturday, but there were still surprises. David Peterson brought Mike Bub along, the bassist making his Blueberry debut twenty years after missing due to illness his scheduled appearance with the Del McCoury Band. Also with Peterson was his tenor foil Mickey Boles, a terrific mandolinist and vocalist, and the team of Corrina Rose Logston (fiddle) and Jeremy Stephens (banjo). What a band, and as a bonus Corrina and Jeremy gifted me a pair of albums, including their highly impressive High Fidelity band release. I had forgotten how powerful a singer Peterson is, and as he was singing “In The Mountaintops to Roams,” he just kept twisting emotion from the song. I’ve already filled a couple holes in my DP&1946 collection purchasing two downloads this week.

Adding to the enjoyment and in another essential progression, a rotating cast of personable MCs worked the stages, keeping the focus where it belongs—on the festival and the talent.

Of all the developments apparent at the 2017 edition of Blueberry, none seemed to be better received than the ‘late night’ old-time country dances. Featuring ever-popular local legends Calvin Vollrath & Alfie Myhres Friday and The Caleb Klauder Country Band on Saturday, reportedly the audience filled the hall and dance floor for high-spirited, communal celebration. These dances were a risk for the Blueberry folks, and it appears to have paid off in full.

FHSB

3/4 of Foghorn Stringband

The festival would be nothing without its volunteers, and while I understand some long-serving volunteers were not brought into the fold this past year, those who were working the festival were unfailingly polite and helpful. Hopefully those who were overlooked this time out, perhaps due to the lack of transition support received by the new organizers, will be encouraged back into the event.

During the course of the weekend—and as a result of meticulous planning and effort—Blueberry Bluegrass was completely revitalized!

The Board of Blueberry Bluegrass & Country Music Society Festival must grow their event, attracting additional paying guests and sponsorship. Keeping the focus on bluegrass will be a must, but incorporating the folk, old-time, traditional (but high-quality) country, Americana, and broader acoustic roots worlds will be an important part of the festival’s long-term health and vitality. Similarly, continuing to network with the local communities and governments will be vital, as will ensuring the festival offers its attendees more than just the music—opportunities for families to experience the music together being paramount.

My relationship with Stony Plain, Alberta goes back well before I discovered bluegrass or attended my first Blueberry in 1997. Stony Plain was where I had my first milkshake (at the long gone Gulf station restaurant out on the highway), attended my first pancake breakfast, and saw my first parade. Stony Plain was where Dr. Patterson was, where I went for speech therapy, and where once—as a four-or five-year old—I got onto the floor of the high school gym during a basketball game. It was the town of significance nearest our farm, and I thought I would always live near. Turns out, I haven’t—but for a weekend (or part of one) each year, I return. A dozen times I have driven into town for the festival, and I immediately feel at home. This past Blueberry Bluegrass was that much more significant for its improvements, and I have seldom felt so welcomed.

Way to go, Blueberry organizers: here’s to the next 32 years! See you August 3-5, 2018.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

2016 International Bluegrass Music Association Awards, part 2   Leave a comment

I am really missing the IBMA live stream: all the asides and quips, and especially the various “thanks” that are offered—you can learn a lot about a person by the way they accept an award. The ‘in memory’ segment is something for which I have great respect. Also, I regret not being able to hear the Rounder folks receive their Hall of Fame honours; I am certain Ken Irwin had fine words. Finally, the live performances are almost always memorable.

I can’t imagine why there is no live stream this year beyond a lack of sponsorship, which is too bad. I wonder why the IBMA can’t just ‘do it’ on their own…even if only on Periscope!

Mountain Faith, a band that made their name on a reality series, was just awarded Emerging Artist of the Year. Sigh. The less I say…

Song of the Year just went to a song originally released in 1990. I called it. I wouldn’t have voted for it. “You’re the One,” by Flatt Lonesome, giving them two awards tonight, and I predict they will get the hat trick later on. I believe it is the weakest performance on their (quite enjoyable) album; what the hell do I know?!

Again, the less I say…

Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen were awarded Instrumental Group of the Year…my prediction percentage is falling—barely over 50% now. I heard The Earls of Leicester and Dirty Kitchen side-by-side this summer. No offense…to these ears and when it comes to ‘bluegrass,’ it ain’t close.

That is after self-revision/editing.

Penny Parsons, author of Foggy Mountain Troubadour, was named Bluegrass Media Person of the Year. I had placed her bio of Curly Seckler on my ‘to buy’ list, but then forgot about it…need to correct that.

It is hard for the bluegrass industry to receive true, critical coverage when folks are eligible (vying?) for recognition from the professional industry. No? Looking at the list of very fine past winners, perhaps Bluegrass Media Promoter of the Year would be a better name for the award.

Other Special Awards presented earlier went to the IBMA’s new chairperson, Joe Mullins, as Broadcaster of the Year, and his son Daniel for Best Liner notes for a Traditional Grass compilation…a band featuring Joe Mullins. Yes, the industry is a bit incestuous…

Flatt Lonesome won Album of the Year, an album much, much stronger than their previous and one I positively reviewed. Still, Runaway Train wouldn’t have been in my top 25 bluegrass albums of the year, and where I predicted the ‘hat trick’ above, I thought they would get Entertainer of the Year. The SteelDrivers got themselves robbed.

The evening’s final award—Entertainer of the Year—rightfully goes to The Earls of Leicester! As it should be. (I predicted Flatt Lonesome, but hoped for the Earls.) I believe that puts me below 50% for the night on the predications, probably better than I have ever done before…not exactly pleased about that, but glad about many of them.

I wonder what I missed? Hopefully next year the video live stream is back…or at least someone in the audience decides to Periscope the event.

 

2016 International Bluegrass Music Association Awards   Leave a comment

Most years I live blog about the awards as they occur, but this year I am having to rely on Twitter, and specifically @StacyChandler for information as they are not streaming the awards this year. I am sure there is a reason for this, a good one, but it is disappointing.

Therefore, I will only post a couple times tonight and leave the instantaneous reactions to those present.

I posted my thoughts and predictions over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass earlier this week, if you care.

The first award of the evening goes to The Special Consensus for Instrumental Performance of the Year, “Fireball.” I’m one-for-one…it won’t last.

I am not surprised that Recorded Event of the Year was awarded to “Longneck Blues” from the popular Junior Sisk and Ronnie Bowman despite my belief that it isn’t a terribly strong song. No longer batting 1.000.

Banjo player of the year: Charlie Cushman of The Earls of Leicester. I didn’t call this one because I (for some reason) felt the noodlers would have their way, but I couldn’t be happier. Cushman knows how to play bluegrass. Beautiful.

Dobro player of the year: Jerry Douglas, the true Earl of Leicester, for the tenth time and second year in a row. Called that one. I also believe it will be cold this winter.

Bass player of the year: Barry Bales, making the E of L three-for-three. My mistake in not going with BB: with Rob McCoury ‘finally’ winning as Banjo player of the year last year, I thought maybe this time the organization would get behind the Del McCoury Band/Travellin’ McCoury’s other member that has never been crowned by the IBMA, Alan Bartrum. I was wrong.

Getting all the instrumental awards out of the way, apparently. Next, Mandolin player of the year, and a first time winner- Sierra Hull. I hedged on this one, backing both Adam Steffey and Sierra Hull: not my kind of music—barely in the big tent last time I listened—but not surprised that the powerbrokers of the industry went with her.

Fiddle player of the year: Wow! I got another one—Becky Buller.

Guitar player of the year is Bryan Sutton, for the tenth time—well deserved. He is one heck of a player, and released an excellent album. And, I called it. Let’s see…that makes me four-and-a-half for eight, which is spooky.

Now, onto the vocalists…I’m surprised that Becky Buller has just been named Female Vocalist of the Year. She didn’t release a new album, but I guess her increased presence in the industry has been rewarded. Deserving. Not as deserving as Dale Ann Bradley, but…

Gospel recorded performance of the year, “All Dressed Up” by Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers, a song I thought was pretty good initially, but which in retrospect is too ‘by the books’ for my tastes. Still, a fine performance, I just happened to enjoy what Laurie Lewis & the Right Hands did more. My prediction that she wouldn’t win was correct, so I’m counting this one!

Male vocalist of the year, Danny Paisley. Some would say, “About time!” I’m one of them as I predicted this one. Again, I would have voted differently, but—again—deserving.

I called another one, which is frightening…Flatt Lonesome is Vocal group of the year. Again, not to my taste, but I take some satisfaction in at least being able to predict the direction the wind is blowing…even from a distance.

Originally published elsewhere:

With the change to fall colours comes the annual International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) World of Bluegrass festivities, seemingly the only major show who hasn’t cancelled on North Carolina. Well, perhaps ‘major’ is too strong a word. I’m sure there were a lot of reasons for not abandoning Raleigh, all of them tied to dollars.
The awards are to be handed out September 29.
I love bluegrass music, and look forward to the IBMA Awards show, an evening where the best of bluegrass is feted, an evening where shirts get tucked, an evening where a few folks don evening gowns, and Doyle Lawson isn’t the only one wearing sequins.
One of the highpoints of the evening is when the Hall of Fame Inductees are presented with the industry’s highest honour. This year, the Rounder founders-Bill Nowlin, Marian Leighton Levy, and Ken Irwin-are given their just recognition as is Clarence White. These are deserving recipients. Worth noting that Hazel Dickens is still a-waitin’.
Also recognized this year are Bluegrass Unlimited magazine, the Boston Bluegrass Union, Bill Emerson, Jim Rooney, and SiriusXM Radio’s Bluegrass Junction with Distinguished Achievement Awards. Most of those folks deserve recognition at this level, but one feels a little ‘I’ll massage your back, you keep massaging ours.” Still, hard to argue.
Now, onto the awards whose recipients we do not yet know…although, some are predictable; we’ll see if I’m right. (Heads up, don’t wager based on my guesses! I take no responsibility for your loses.)
Entertainer Of The Year:Balsam Range; The Del McCoury Band; The Earls of Leicester; Flatt Lonesome; The Gibson Brothers
For the past four years this award has gone to The Earls, Balsam Range, and the Gibsons. The McCourys haven’t won in a dozen years, and would I love to see them get recognized one more time: no band entertains me more. However, I have a feeling-like I had in 2005, the only year I attended the awards-that the unexpected/inexplicable will happen and Flatt Lonesome will get the nod. They have gained a lot of press, and folks seem to love them. I wouldn’t be voting for them (if I had a ballot, The Earls of Leicester would get my X,) but I can see others doing so.
Vocal Group Of The Year:Balsam Range; Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver; The Earls of Leicester; Flatt Lonesome; The Gibson Brothers
Based on what I know, Blue Highway should win this award most years. What? They aren’t nominated? Huh. Okay, then. Balsam Range and the Gibsons are the most recent winners. Again, is this Flatt Lonesome’s year? I am thinking so, but I would vote for The Earls.
Instrumental Group Of The Year:The Earls of Leicester; Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen; Punch Brothers; Sam Bush Band; The Travelin’ McCourys
I heard two of these bands this summer, The Earls and Dirty Kitchen. I’m kind of surprised at the inclusion of the other three. I would love to see either Sam Bush Band or the McCourys walk away with the award, but can’t imagine a tighter, more interesting band of bluegrass instrumentalists than The Earls of Leicester. I would vote for them.
Male Vocalist Of The Year:Shawn Camp; Del McCoury; Buddy Melton; Tim O’Brien; Danny Paisley
All great singers, obviously. Shawn Camp surprised most of us last year by winning, and he hasn’t done anything to lose the crown. Still, this award has bounced around a little and, the last time I heard him sing live, I still thought he was the best I ever heard. Del McCoury for the win. It will be Danny Paisley, I’m predicting-I believe he will have select industry support. Not a bad choice.
Female Vocalist Of The Year:Becky Buller; Dale Ann Bradley; Claire Lynch; Amanda Smith; Rhonda Vincent
Rhonda made a comeback last year and grabbed this one after a decade’s absence. The fact that I don’t think she has made a strong bluegrass album in years won’t matter, and I can see her repeating. Still, my vote every year will be for Dale Ann Bradley, and with the strength of the Sister Sadie disc, I am okay continuing in that direction.
Song Of The Year:”Black River” Sierra Hull (artist/writer); “Long Way Down” The SteelDrivers (artist), Elizabeth Mala Hengber, Tammy Rogers King, and Jerry Salley (writers); “Radio” Steep Canyon Rangers (artist), Graham Paul Sharp (writer); “Thunder & Lightning” Lonesome River Band (artist), Adam Wright (writer); “You’re the One” Flatt Lonesome (artist), Dwight Yoakum (writer)
I recall seeing this list when first released, and thinking, Again? For me it comes down to taste-what I like isn’t usually popular, and what is popular isn’t usually what I like, and each year lately when this list comes out I am out of the loop.
I don’t believe a song written more than twenty years ago should get this award, so that eliminates “You’re the One.” It also means it will win. I can’t believe “Radio” is nominated as it isn’t that strong of a song, in my opinion. Sierra Hull’s song isn’t my type of ‘grass, and the LRB song isn’t even the strongest on the album.
Examine the list of previous winners of this award, and with a couple exceptions those songs have become contemporary classics. Add “Long Way Down” to that list. I can’t understand how “The Bluefield West Virginia Blues” didn’t make the ballot.
Album Of The Year:”Bridging the Tradition” Lonesome River Band; “It’s About Tyme” Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out; “Runaway Train” Flatt Lonesome; “The Muscle Shoals Recordings” The SteelDrivers; “Weighted Mind” Sierra Hull
So as not to repeat myself, see above. “The Muscle Shoals Recordings,” no doubt; it is the only album on the list I would have in my top 5. I’m afraid it won’t win.
(If you care, my Top 5 would have included some combination of The SteelDrivers, Big Country Bluegrass, Dale Ann Bradley, James Reams & the Barnstormers, Jeff White, the Kathy Kallick Band, Laurie Lewis & the Right Hands, Sister Sadie, Ron Block, and The Hillbenders. I have no idea how I would have winnowed things down.)
Gospel Recorded Performance Of The Year:”All Dressed Up” Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers; “In The Heat of the Fire” Flatt Lonesome; “Rocking of the Cradle” Lonesome River Band; “The Savior Is Born” Becky Buller; “Won’t You Come and Sing For Me” Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands
I don’t believe there is any way Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands can win this award. They are far too ‘outside’ to do so. But, would I love to be proven incorrect. What a performance!
Instrumental Recorded Performance Of The Year:”Cazenovia Casanova” Frank Solivan with Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas; “Fireball” Special Consensus featuring Rob Ickes, Trey Hensley, and Alison Brown; “Hogan’s Goat” The Boxcars; Hogan’s House of Music Ron Block; “Smartville” Ron Block
I wish this award still went to an entire album, but in reading the criteria, it is most definitely for ‘a tune.’ Unless a clarification went out, I have no idea what songs Ron Block is nominated for as “Hogan’s House of Music” is the name of the album, not a song-at least, according to my download. “Smartville” is a good tune. I do like me some Special C.
Recorded Event Of The Year:”Fireball” Special Consensus featuring Rob Ickes, Trey Hensley, and Alison Brown; “Highway 40 Blues” Special Consensus with Della Mae; “In The Pines” Carl Jackson and Brad Paisley; “Longneck Blues” Junior Sisk and Ronnie Bowman; “Pretty Woman” Frank Solivan with Del McCoury I’ll go with “Fireball” on this one. I’m not sure a guitar duet is bluegrass, but it will probably win considering Brad Paisley’s contributions to bluegrass over the years. “Longneck Blues” isn’t that strong of a song, and this version of “Pretty Woman” is sleepy, even with Del along.
Emerging Artist Of The Year:Band of Ruhks; The Lonely Heartstring Band; Mountain Faith; Sister Sadie; Steve Gulley & New Pinnacle; Town Mountain
Okay, let me-for the first time ever-not endorse Dale Ann Bradley for an award. Groups with veterans of the stature of those comprising Sister Sadie and Band of Ruhks can’t be emerging, and Steve Gulley has been around a long, long time…hell, he was a member of Mountain Heart when they won this award in 1999. As for Town Mountain, they have been around for a decade, but have made moves in the last couple years. I believe The Lonely Heartstrings Band should win this one; they don’t make my kind of bluegrass, but there is no arguing their abilities.
Instrumental Performers Of The Year
Banjo: Charlie Cushman; Jens Kruger; Mike Munford; Noam Pikelny; Sammy Shelor
Of the instrumentalist awards, this is maybe the toughest to predict. No one has repeated since 2011, and last year’s winner Rob McCoury isn’t even on the list. I’m going to take a flyer and suggest Jens Kruger gets the award. I have no way of knowing why ’cause I am not a player and this award seems to be one that ‘noodlers’ are most invested in.
Bass: Barry Bales; Alan Bartram; Mike Bub; Missy Raines; Mark Schatz
Again, last year’s winner isn’t nominated-Tim Surrett. I’ll go with Alan Bartram.
Fiddle: Becky Buller; Jason Carter; Michael Cleveland; Stuart Duncan; Ron Stewart
Becky Buller had a big night a year ago, and I haven’t predicted her to take anything so far…so, now I will:Becky Buller.
Dobro: Jerry Douglas; Andy Hall; Rob Ickes; Phil Leadbetter; Josh Swift
Jerry Douglas won last year for the first time in quite a while. I believe he will repeat.
Guitar:Chris Eldridge; Jim Hurst; Kenny Smith; Bryan Sutton; Josh Williams
I don’t see why Bryan Sutton doesn’t win this award for the 10th time. He had a really strong album come out, and everyone seems to like the guy.
Mandolin: Jesse Brock; Sam Bush; Sierra Hull; Frank Solivan; Adam Steffey
Adam Steffey has won this award eleven of the last fourteen years. It’s another guess, but I’ll predict an even dozen by the time the night is over. Still, wouldn’t be surprised to see Sierra Hull get the nod.
There are my thoughts on the upcoming IBMA awards presentations. There is almost always a big surprise (last year, Becky Buller’s dominance) and I’m sure there will be at least one this time out.
Enjoy the awards.

Hit the Shuffle Button   Leave a comment

This morning I’ve spent a few hours reading and listening to music, quietly, so as not to wake the house. Found myself following a few links, one of which took me to Robert Ellis Orrall and a couple of videos and http://www.countrycalifornia.com/lets-shuffle-shall-we/ for a ‘what are the next 20 songs that come up on your device’ feature. My 20 are posted below, with added thoughts- none too deep: [somehow italics came on and I can’t get it off; double sigh.]

1.Niall Toner- William Smith Monre (also the most played song in my iTunes)
2.Blaze Foley- Livin in the Woods in a Tree
3.Diana Jones- Cold Grey Ground
4.Foster and Lloyd- Picasso’s Mandolin (a Guy Clark song from their latest)
5.Dave Alvin- Johnny Ace is Dead (a standout track from Eleven Eleven)
6.Merry Clayton- Country Road
7.Dale Ann Bradley, Alison Krauss, and Steve Gulley- I’ll Take Love
8.Laura Branigan- Gloria (proof I didn’t cheat)
9. Fred J Eaglesmith- Johnny Cash (You sure do like Johnny Cash now, now that they’ve put him in the ground)
10.Joe Cocker- Look What You’ve Done
11.The Jolly Boys- Ring of Fire
12. Rosie Flores- God May Forgive You (But I Won’t) (I believe the first song I heard from Rosie; still my favourite)
13. Stone the Crows- Penicillin Blues
14. Sylvia- As Soon As I Find My Voice (a Cheryl Wheeler song)
15.Bobby Blue Bland- Two Steps from the Blues
16.Darrell Scott- Every Road Leads Back to You
17.Jane Hawley- Why Do I Always Fall for You (Alberta content, finally)
18.Jeff Black- New Love Song (one of several Nashville-based connections)
19.John K Samson- www.ipetitions.com/petition/rivertonrifle (not a link; a song encouraging Reggie Leach’s induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame
20. John Paul Keith- Too Hip and
21. Katrina Leskanich- My Open Arms (of & the Waves)

Posted 2012 May 18 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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