For the third time running, the Dailey & Vincent duo claimed the International Bluegrass Music Association’s entertainer of the year award. The awards were presented Thursday evening (Sept. 30) in ceremonies held at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.
Dailey & Vincent also captured the album and vocal group of the year trophies. The emerging artist prize went to the Josh Williams Band, and Williams scored again as the year’s top guitar player.
Other double winners were Michael Cleveland (who was voted best fiddler and whose band, Flamekeeper, scooped up the instrumental group crown), the Gibson Brothers (recorded gospel performance and song of the year) and Adam Steffey (top mandolinist and instrumental recorded performance).
The male vocalist and female vocalist awards went to Russell Moore and Claire Lynch.
The 2010 Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame inductees were songwriter-musician John Hartford and pioneering talent manager Louise Scruggs, the wife of banjo legend Earl Scruggs. Hartford died in 2001, Scruggs in 2006.
Although the show was not televised, it was broadcast live on Sirius XM Satellite Radio and recorded for airing on 300 stations internationally. Since the proceedings weren’t being televised, performing acts set up in plain view of the audience as awards were being handed out and acceptance speeches given at the front of the stage.
Dobro wizard Jerry Douglas and sisters Sharon and Cheryl White hosted the ceremonies. Douglas toured as a member of the Whites’ band in the early ’80s. More recently, he has worked with Alison Krauss & Union Station.
Country star Dierks Bentley opened the show with “Fiddlin’ Around” from his current — and first — bluegrass-oriented album, Up on the Ridge. Propelling him along was an ad hoc assembly of celebrated pickers, including his producer, Jon Randall Stewart on guitar, mandolin prodigy Sierra Hull, fiddler Stuart Duncan, Dobro player Rob Ickes, banjoist Robbie McCoury and bassist Mike Bub.
The evening sparkled with great performances for an appreciative audience that clearly knew the who and what of bluegrass.
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver gave a supercharged rendering of Paul Simon’s “Gone at Last” that seemed to roll out from the stage in waves.
Dailey & Vincent sang “Elizabeth” from their award-winning album, Dailey & Vincent Sing the Statler Brothers. Two verses into the performance, Jimmy Fortune, a former member of the Statler Brothers and the song’s writer, stepped out to lend his stratospheric tenor vocals to the mix.
Claire Lynch revisited an old Bill Monroe tune, “My Florida Sunshine,” accompanied by the three fiddles of Michael Cleveland, Aubrey Haynie and Ron Stewart. Douglas told the crowd that the exacting and cantankerous Monroe occasionally toured with three fiddlers in the early days but discontinued the practice with the explanation, “They don’t get along.”
Songwriter Darrell Scott came to the stage with Blue Highway to play guitar and sing lead on his own moving composition, “Bleeding for a Little Peace of Mind.” It was nominated for recorded event of the year but lost out to the Larry Stephenson/Dailey & Vincent collaboration on “Give This Message to Your Heart.”
The Whites (including father Buck) and Alison Krauss & Union Station teamed up to sing a medley of hits from O Brother, Where Art Thou, the 2000 Coen Brothers movie that gave bluegrass music the most cinematic attention it had enjoyed since Warren Beatty used “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” as the theme for Bonnie & Clyde in 1967.
Krauss and her band began the medley with an a cappella reading of “Down to the River to Pray.” Then came the Whites with “Sunny Side of Life.” Union Station’s Dan Tyminski wrapped up the set with “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow,” the only song from the film to make Billboard’s country chart.
At this point, the scholarly disc jockey Eddie Stubbs stepped forward to formally induct Louise Scruggs into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame. Noting she excelled in business classes while in high school, Stubbs said she took over booking and de facto management of Flatt & Scruggs in 1955, assisted only by “a telephone, a manual typewriter and a manual adding machine.”
Even so, she masterminded Flatt & Scruggs’ entrance into the college market, television and movies and secured them shows (that led to live albums) at such high-profile venues as Carnegie Hall and Vanderbilt University.
After Flatt & Scruggs split up in 1969, Mrs. Scruggs developed new markets and marketing strategies for the Earl Scruggs Revue, which featured sons Gary, Randy and Steve. All these achievements, Stubbs reminded the audience, occurred in a business arena that had been essentially “a man’s world.”
The elder Scruggs and surviving sons Randy and Gary accepted the award.
“Mom’s forte,” said Gary, “was that she didn’t let that man’s world define her.”
Added Randy, “She did as much as anyone — maybe more — to elevate bluegrass music.”
Returning to the stage, Douglas recalled that veteran bluegrass musicians were swept away during the 1993 awards show by a band of young players, one of whom was a current nominee, Josh Williams.
By this time, Williams had already won the emerging artist prize and would soon be singled out as guitar player of the year. Williams and his band, joined by stellar guitarist Tony Rice, took the stage to romp through “Blue Railroad Train.”
Next up was Earl, Randy and Gary Scruggs, accompanied by Dierks Bentley, Jon Randall Stewart and Rob Ickes. While best known for his banjo artistry, the 83-year-old Scruggs also excels at finger-picking the guitar, a talent he demonstrated magnificently by leading the band through the old Carter Family gem, “You Are My Flower.”
In days past, Scruggs would hold the guitar aloft, press his ear to its side and pick. This time he played seated and crouched over his instrument, but the magic was still there.
“We’re all honored to be representing Mom,” Gary said. “We love this place [the Ryman]. This is the room where Mom and Dad met.”
“John represents the past, present and future of all music,” O’Brien asserted, “and he’s one of ours. … If he’d only written ’Gentle on My Mind,’ he still would have been one of the greatest songwriters of all time.”
O’Brien said Hartford had given him some invaluable advice just as he was starting his career with Hot Rize. “He said, ’Do what you love. If it doesn’t work out, you haven’t wasted your time.'” Hartford, he added, was driven by “an insatiable curiosity.”
A visual as well as a sonic performer, the wraith thin Hartford, in cocked derby hat and loose vest, would often play while dancing out rhythms on an amplified square of plywood and pursing his mouth like a horse eager to run.
O’Brien lauded his performance style, observing that “he took his life in his hand” by strolling out into a crowd while fiddling the incendiary “Orange Blossom Special.”
“John Hartford fans are going to be coming along forever,” O’Brien proclaimed. He said he was humbled when the family asked him to sing “Gentle on My Mind” at Hartford’s funeral.
Hartford’s son Jamie and daughter Katie Hogue, along with their families, spoke on the his behalf.
Noting how much he had relied on his father for guidance and encouragement, Jamie said, “For years, I found myself picking up the phone and calling that number. It doesn’t work anymore.”
Said Katie, “The only thing that would make this better is if Dad could be here.” Were he here, she continued, he might have uttered the observation he once made about the music he loved.
“Bluegrass is America’s last small town,” Hartford wrote. “Everyone knows everyone, and you don’t have to lock your doors.”
Award-winning vocalist Russell Moore and his band, IIIrd Tyme Out, then came out to sing the nostalgic “Carolina’s Arms.”
Leading up to the announcement of the entertainer of the year recipient, performances by the Del McCoury Band and the Sam Bush Band kept the crowd alert and leaning forward. McCoury dazzled with “Hello Lonely,” while Bush and company imparted a somber mood with “The Ballad of Stringbean and Estelle.” The latter song chronicles the 1973 robbery and murder of Grand Ole Opry star David “Stringbean” Akeman and his wife.
While most of the acceptance remarks were of the routine “I’d like to thank” variety, a few stood out.
Adam Steffey, who was elsewhere in the auditorium when his award for mandolin player of the year was announced, finally found his way to the microphone a few minutes later. He was properly modest about his win. “If you walked into a Baskin-Robbins and it was a mandolin store, I’d be vanilla,” he said.
Josh Williams thanked his unborn son when he accepted the emerging artist trophy. “My wife is pregnant,” he burbled. “We’re going to have a baby in December.”
Eric Gibson of the Gibson Brothers said they discovered “Ring the Bell,” which won the gospel performance award, while playing in a bar in Muncie, Ind.
Larry Stephenson dedicated his recorded event prize to the colorful Col. Tom Riggs, head of Pinecastle Records, the label Stephenson had recorded with for 18 years. Because of Riggs’ declining health, Pinecastle closed three weeks before the scheduled release of Stephenson’s album. This led Stephenson to issue it on his own Whysper Dream imprint.
“This was my dream record if I ever had a record to make,” said Jamie Dailey of Dailey & Vincent Sing the Statler Brothers. He said he had been an ardent fan of the group since his dad gave him a Statler album when he was 9 years old.
Douglas was a consistently witty host, delivering his Telepromptered lines with an archness that suggested he could write better material on his own. He departed from the script time and again to take pokes at his old buddy Ricky Skaggs’ luxuriant mane of white hair.
Near the end of the show, Douglas came to the stage wearing a tacky blonde wig to announce that he had decided to issue some special awards. He cited Del McCoury for best traditional hair, the Punch Brothers’ Chris Thile for best contemporary hair and Dailey, whom he dubbed “Spike” for his tonsorial excesses, for best overall hair.
The splendidly attired Cherryholmes family, Douglas concluded, won for best use of a Bedazzler.
Here is a complete list of IBMA winners:
Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame: John Hartford, Louise Scruggs
Entertainer of the Year: Dailey & Vincent
Album: Dailey & Vincent Sing the Statler Brothers
Song: “Ring the Bell,” written by Chet O’Keefe, recorded by the Gibson Brothers
Recorded Event: “Give This Message to Your Heart,” Larry Stephenson featuring Dailey & Vincent
Vocal Group: Dailey & Vincent
Gospel Recorded Performance: “Ring the Bell,” the Gibson Brothers
Instrumental Group: Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper
Female Vocalist: Claire Lynch
Male Vocalist: Russell Moore
Instrumental Recorded Performance: “Durang’s Hornpipe,” Adam Steffey
Emerging Artist: Josh Williams Band
Instrumental Performers of the Year
Banjo: Kristin Scott Benson
Guitar: Josh Williams
Fiddle: Michael Cleveland
Mandolin: Adam Steffey
Dobro: Rob Ickes
Bass: Marshall Wilborn
Distinguished Achievement Award: Sherry Williams Boyd (disc jockey and festival host), Benjamin F. “Tex” Logan (performer and songwriter), Lynn Morris (former bandleader and songwriter), Richard Weize (head of Bear Family Records), Pete Wernick (co-founder of Hot Rize and longtime IBMA president)
Bluegrass Event: 14th annual Podunk Bluegrass Music Festival, East Hartford, Conn.
Bluegrass Broadcaster: Kyle Cantrell, Sirius XM Satellite Radio
Print Media: Ralph Stanley and Eddie Dean for Man of Constant Sorrow: My Life and Times
Best Liner Notes: Dr. Ted Olson, Appalachia Music From Home, various artists, Lonesome Records
Best Graphic Design for Recorded Project: Julie Craig, Dailey & Vincent Sing the Statler Brothers