Well, IBMA (the International Bluegrass Music Assoc.) just held their annual Awards Show — “virtually” and completely on-line due to the Covid pandemic. I watched it on a live Facebook link, and listened to it on Sirius/XM Bluegrass Junction. However, the FB live feed included commercials. Sirius/XM didn’t broadcast commercials, so as the show(s) went along, Sirius/XM got way ahead of the FB feed in “real time”. Oh well, it gave me some exercise running from computer to radio (in different rooms of the house).
The big negative was the complete lack of any audience response. Also the editing of the pre-recorded material was blindingly tight and fast. NO PAUSES at all between the conclusion of an Awardee’s acceptance speech and the next Award announcement.
There were surprising positives: The “sound” of the performances was MUCH MUCH better than the live sound in the Duke Center in Raleigh (honestly, they’ve never been able to find sound crews who could mix bluegrass even with rehearsals). Also, the program did NOT run overtime. It’s amazing how much time is spent waiting on awardees to come up out of the audience and get to the mic to give their acceptance speeches. Also, every nominee had to record an acceptance speech “in case” they won! So that meant all the acceptance speeches were “prepared” instead of off-the-cuff and rambling. Another positive was the visual backdrops: I noticed a lot of use of the Ryman Auditorium stage (often with the performers’ and presenters’ backs to the empty audience seating) and the Station Inn (facing the audience area!). This was more pleasing than the dim dark background used on the Duke Center stage in Raleigh, which can only be described as cave-like. There was a great tribute to JD Crowe, with all 5 Banjoist of the Year nominees taking breaks on Crowe’s tune “Blackjack”. It was FAST and CLEAN. Also a few seconds of video of Crowe saying “thanks!”.
Another highlight was the Hall of Fame induction of the Johnson Mountain Boys, one my favorite three bands of the 1980s. Every member of the various incarnations of the band participated in the recorded acceptance speeches, even Larry Robbins (bass fiddle) and Richard Underwood (banjo).
All in all I enjoyed the show. But I must say the voting members of IBMA are certainly recognizing the “new” directions of bluegrass. Thank goodness Danny Paisley won Male Vocalist of the Year, that gave me some hope. Mile Twelve won the New Artist of the Year. The Po’ Rambling Boys had some nominations and did a good job singing their hit song “Hickory Walnut and Pine” from the Station Inn stage. I suppose it’s inevitable since the traditionalists are either dying off or not getting the modern promotion and management that all the young folks use.
Here’s a summary of all winners from “Bluegrass Today.”