It seemed as though every time a door opened at the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) World of Bluegrass Convention in Louisville, Ky., you’d find a banjo player standing on the other side. Whether riding in an elevator, checking out showcases or simply entering the hotel lobby, somebody was plucking something — from mandolin or guitar to upright bass or banjo. Plenty of high lonesome singing, too.
The Del McCoury Band scored its sixth win in seven years in the entertainer of the year category, and his two sons — who are also in the band — honored him from the stage.
“I’d like to thank all those folks who have been entertaining folks for a lot longer than I have. I don’t think I’m all that entertaining, really. He’s pretty entertaining, Dad is,” said Ronnie McCoury, pointing a thumb in his dad’s direction.
“I’d like to thank my dad for inspiring us kids to play music and to be an inspiration every night on stage, and giving 110 percent,” added Ronnie McCoury. “He’s the real entertainer of the band, that’s for sure. He keeps us entertained too.”
The band’s Mike Bub also won for bass player. And despite McCoury’s tenure in the bluegrass biz, the five-man band also rode home with its first trophy for song of the year for their recording of “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” songwriter Richard Thompson’s ode to a motorcycle.
“It’s an unusual song,” McCoury noted in his acceptance speech. “I used to ride a motorcycle, so that’s why it hit me. I didn’t even know what a Vincent was until we recorded that record.”
Talented newcomers like Mountain Heart (with Adam Steffey on mandolin) and Michael Cleveland also walked away with multiple awards, while Dan Tyminski and Rhonda Vincent repeated as male and female vocalists of the year. Down From the Mountain, a live album recorded at the beginning of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack phenomenon, won for best album. Other winners included Skaggs, Ralph Stanley , Jerry Douglas , the Chapmans, Tom Adams and Jim Hurst.
Loveless turned in a chilling rendition of “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive,” while Skaggs and his band Kentucky Thunder plowed through “Black Eyed Susan.” Alison Krauss & Union Station performed their hit, “Let Me Touch You for a While.”
Although known mostly for their gospel material, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver aroused the crowd with astonishingly high harmonies in “Blue Train.” Lawson underwent a quadruple bypass surgery earlier this year.
“I love to sing,” Lawson said in accepting the vocal group award. “I always did love to sing, and I always will love to sing. As of about 10 weeks ago, I don’t take anything for granted. I want to thank my mom and daddy for singing those wonderful old gospel songs at home that never left me and never will.”
A trade show and nightly showcases kept bluegrass listeners entertained early in the week, with many of Wednesday’s intimate suite performances concluding at 2 a.m. the following morning. The convention was held at the Galt House in downtown Louisville.