LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Rhonda Vincent , a Missouri-born singer and mandolin player, and O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the Coen Brothers’ film soundtrack, emerged as top winners at the 12th Annual International Bluegrass Music Awards.
Honors were handed out Thursday night (Oct. 4) at the Kentucky Center for the Arts during a ceremony hosted by country artist Steve Wariner . Bluegrass Hall of Honor member Sonny Osborne of the Osborne Brothers opened the evening with a solo banjo performance of “America the Beautiful.” The audience rose in salute as a flag image waved on a large screen behind Osborne.
Vincent and her band, The Rage, were named entertainer of the year — the first time the group has claimed the top prize — and Vincent won her second consecutive trophy for female vocalist of the year. Mike Cleveland, The Rage’s popular fiddler, was named top fiddle player. The audience welcomed Cleveland to the stage with a standing ovation.
“I was just thinking how very sweet this is,” Vincent said as she accepted her honor for female vocalist. “You know, on Sept. 11, many of those folks walked in that building and had no idea that was their last day. Ever since, every day that we walk on stage, I travel with some wonderful guys, and we feel very lucky to live our dream. And this is the icing on the cake. Thank you very much. We love every minute.”
Vincent picked up a third trophy for recorded event of the year. She was a part of Carry Me Back to the Fold: A Tribute to Women in Bluegrass. Mark Newton coordinated the project, which enlisted 17 women.
Vincent has been in and out of bluegrass during her career. She left a family band in 1985 for a brief stint with country singer and Grand Ole Opry star Jim Ed Brown , and she issued two country albums on Giant Records in the mid ’90s. Vincent marked her return to bluegrass with the release last year of Back Home Again, followed this year by The Storm Still Rages.
Dan Tyminski, a member of Alison Krauss & Union Station, has been in the spotlight since recording “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow” for the O Brother movie. He was named male vocalist of the year. “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow,” written by the late Dick Burnett, arranged by Carter Stanley and recorded by The Soggy Bottom Boys, featuring Tyminski, was the IBMA song of the year. The O Brother soundtrack was album of the year.
“There’s a lot of people I should thank,” the low-key singer said as he accepted the male vocalist award. “S’pose I should start with George Clooney.” When he performed “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow” late in the show, flashbulbs popped all over the auditorium.
An accomplished guitarist, Tyminski also picked up an award for instrumental album of the year. He was part of a large cast of pickers featured on the album Knee Deep in Bluegrass: The AcuTab Sessions, as was Barry Bales, also a member of both Union Station and The Soggy Bottom Boys.
“I’ll Fly Away,” recorded for the movie by Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch, won gospel recorded song of the year. Union Station member Jerry Douglas , who appears several times on the soundtrack, was named Dobro player of the year — his 7th victory in the category — and film directors Ethan and Joel Coen and O Brother soundtrack producer T Bone Burnett shared a “distinguished achievement award.”
Two major streaks ended. Nickel Creek ‘s Chris Thile was named mandolin player of the year, halting an eight-year run by Ronnie McCoury. And Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, known for their tight, gospel-based harmonies, were named vocal group of the year; IIIrd Tyme Out had won the award seven times in a row.
“I love to play music for you guys. It’s so much fun,” Thile said to the audience. “I can’t even handle it. … I want to thank Jesus Christ for giving me something to play for and something to play. You guys, music is such a blessing. It’s a blessing for me to be able to play it for you, and I hope it’s a blessing for you to be able to listen to it, no matter how you get it, whether it’s from bluegrass or from anything else. Always listen, always listen. It’s the best thing we have.”
Lawson and his group find inspiration in sacred music. “To me,” he said, “there’s nothing more beautiful than a whole church full of people singing about our Lord. You can’t beat that.”
Nickel Creek, last year’s emerging artist of the year, were named instrumental group of the year. The group has had major exposure on CMT through their own videos, with Dolly Parton and as part of a long-form special on emerging artists.
The Karl Shiflett & Big Country Show , formed in 1993 by native Texan Shiflett, were named emerging artist of the year. The group recorded its second album, In Full Color, live around a vintage ribbon microphone.
Jim Mills, from Ricky Skaggs ‘ band, was named top banjo player for the third year in a row. Missy Raines was honored as top bassist for the fourth consecutive year. Raines’ performing and recording partner, Jim Hurst, captured honors as top guitarist for the first time.
The Carter Family — A.P., Sara and Maybelle — were inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Honor. The group’s repertoire — including songs such as “Keep on the Sunny Side” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” – has been a rich source of bluegrass material. Janette Carter, daugher of A.P. and Sara Carter, was on hand to accept the honor, presented by bluegrass stalwart Bill Clifton.
“I admire this IBMA for doing what they’re doing and trying to keep bluegrass a-goin’ — and it’s a-goin’,” Carter said.
Distinguished achievement awards, presented earlier in the day, went to musician, songwriter and magazine publisher Alice Gerrard; The Gibson Company; the late John Hartford and photographer Les Leverett.
A number of other specials awards were presented. Eddie Stubbs of WSM-AM (650) and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville was named broadcast personality of the year. Richard Smith, author of Can’t You Hear Me Callin’: The Life of Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass was honored as print media personality of the year. Jon Weisberger’s notes for a John Duffey anthology, Always in Style, were judged best liner notes for a recorded project. Sue Meyer’s design for a Doc Watson retrospective, The Doc Watson Guitar Instrumental Collection, 1964-1998, won best graphic design for a recorded project. And Huck Finn’s Country & Bluegrass Jubilee 2001 in Victorville, Calif., produced by Don Tucker, was honored as bluegrass event of the year.
When Nickel Creek claimed honors for instrumental group of the year, Thile waxed philosophic. “That’s one thing that really makes bluegrass stand out, that there’s no pretentiousness,” he said of the musical world in which he and his band have emerged as a premiere act after years as young aspiring performers. “Everybody just talks to everybody all the time. … We could go up to everybody, and they’d all talk to us. It’s not like that in other music. People, be proud. This is really, really a great form of music, and thank you so much for including us in it.”
The World of Bluegrass 2001 continues through Sunday (Oct. 7) at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville with the annual Bluegrass Fan Fest. Vincent & The Rage, Lawson & Quicksilver, Shiflett & Big Country Show, IIIrd Tyme Out and Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder are among the many acts lined up to play.