Dailey & Vincent Are Top Winners at SPBGMA Awards

The Gibson Brothers and the Grascals Also Shine

The duo Dailey & Vincent dominated the 38th annual Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America awards show Sunday evening (Feb. 5) at the Sheraton Music City Hotel in Nashville. Together and separately, they collected a total of six trophies.

In an unusual twist for someone who doesn’t perform solo, Jamie Dailey won the evening’s top prize as entertainer of the year.

As a team, Dailey & Vincent took the vocal group, overall bluegrass band and contemporary gospel group honors.

Dailey also copped the contemporary male vocalist prize, while partner Darrin Vincent carried home the award for best bass player.

The other multiple award-winners were the Gibson Brothers, who claimed the best album, song and songwriter distinctions, and the Grascals, who were voted best instrumental group and whose Kristin Scott Benson was proclaimed the year’s best banjo player.

Much to the crowd’s delight, ace banjo picker Kenny Ingram was inducted into the SPBGMA Hall of Greats by his mentor, Sonny Osborne of the Osborne Brothers, the fabled Grand Ole Opry act.

Always a long and slow-paced event, this year’s show fell just 25 minutes short of extending into Monday morning. It began at 7 p.m. and closed when Dailey & Vincent and their band exited the stage at 11:35 p.m.

Backstage, performers spoke to CMT.com about a variety of projects, including Rhonda Vincent on her impending gospel DVD and CD and B. J. Cherryholmes on what his siblings are up to since their award-winning family band, Cherryholmes, disbanded last spring.

During their segment of the proceedings, Dailey & Vincent announced they will begin recording a “hardcore bluegrass album” next month.

The band Nothin’ Fancy opened the show with the fiddle favorite, “Angeline the Baker,” detoured to a chirpy, bouncy cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” plowed on to the romantically challenged “I Met My Baby in a Porta-John Line” and concluded with the wistful Tom T. and Dixie Hall-penned reverie, “Once Upon a Road.”

Osborne, who is retired from performing, took the stage to a standing ovation.

“Where were you when I needed you?” he asked in mock reproach, even as he grinned in appreciation of the tribute.

Noting this was only his third public appearance in four years, he explained he was happy to break his isolation to sing Ingram’s praises. He noted that Ingram was 12 years old when he was lured into music after watching the Flatt & Scruggs syndicated television series.

In 1964, Osborne continued, Ingram’s father bought him a $34.95 banjo from Sears. Ingram went on to serve musical apprenticeships with James Monroe and Jimmy Martin before joining Lester Flatt‘s Nashville Grass band in 1973. He stayed with Flatt until 1978, when the bluegrass legend became too ill to play.

Ingram joined Rhonda Vincent’s band, the Rage, in 2001 and remained in that slot until 2008. He now plays in Larry Stephenson’s band.

Ingram said his response was “I’m not a bandleader — I’m just a sideman,” when he first learned SPBGMA was honoring him. But he acknowledged the importance of sidemen play when they focus on what’s best for their band.

“You’ve got to be a professional offstage as well as on,” he said, adding that he and Osborne used to spend hours together listening to music and dissecting instrumental techniques.

The husband-and-wife team of Darin & Brooke Aldridge then stepped into the spotlight to offer a set that varied from a lilting cover of Shania Twain‘s “No One Needs to Know” to the grimly cinematic crucifixion hymn, “The Last Thing on His Mind.” A formidable vocalist, Brooke Aldridge closed with “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” complete with the traditional yodels.

Grasstowne followed, leaning toward such time-tested pieces as “Nine Pound Hammer” and “Where the Soul Never Dies.” Lead by mandolin whiz Alan Bibey, the band wrapped up its set with an instrumental medley of Bill Monroe tunes.

During a break in the entertainment, SPBGMA honored Tom T. and Dixie Hall with the grandmaster songwriting award for having won the songwriter of the year award for 10 years in a row.

In accepting the award, the always acerbic Tom T. observed that “it takes longer for us old folks to get up here [to the stage] than it does for some of these people to do their whole damn show.”

Rarely Herd, the band that hosted the show, paused from these labors to present some first-rate picking and singing. Among the highlights were the flirtatious “Hang Your Coat” and a smooth cover of Terri Gibb’s 1983 single, “Anybody Else’s Heart but Mine.”

However, it was band member Jim Stack’s achingly sweet rendition of Harley Allen’s “The Waving Girl” that completely stilled the crowd.

Just before the set was over, a fiddler walked onstage playing the opening bars of “New York, New York,” signaling the fact that the New York Giants had just defeated the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

As befitted a crowd that was listening to bluegrass instead of watching the game, the news was greeted with polite cheering but less than an ovation.

Rhonda Vincent, a many-time winner of SPBGMA’s entertainer of the year award and older sister of Darrin Vincent, brought her band, the Rage, on for one of the most exciting segments of the evening.

Beginning with “Ragin’ Live Tonight” and “All American Bluegrass Girl,” Vincent paused to announce that her band has added a Dobro player for the first time and predicted the player, Brent Burke, was already well on his way to becoming “the next Jerry Douglas.”

She added that Burke, a newly-minted graduate of East Tennessee State University, is the school’s first graduate to earn a bachelor’s degree in bluegrass, old-time and country music. Later, she let him strut his stuff during an instrumental romp that blended such classics as “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” “Wildwood Flower” and “Chicken Reel.”

A bandleader who ranks with Bill Monroe and Ricky Skaggs when it comes to inventiveness, virtuosity and discipline, Vincent played to each of her band member’s strengths, urging them along with her own driving excellence as a vocalist, mandolinist and fiddler.

She beckoned the Gibson Brothers to the stage to join her in a vocal trio cover of the Jim & Jesse favorite, “I’ll Never Love Anybody Else but You.”

Reminding the crowd she had recorded a duet album last year with country great Gene WatsonYour Money and My Good Looks — Vincent turned to her superb bass player, Mickey Harris, to sing Watson’s part on the rueful ballad “Gone for Good.”

She then pointed out that her guitar player — Ben Helson — had recently graduated from Bethel College after having spent a year touring with Ricky Skaggs’ Kentucky Thunder band. She urged the younger players in the audience to investigate college programs in bluegrass, noting that some offer full scholarships.

Following her set, which ended with “Ridin’ the Bluegrass Express,” Vincent told CMT.com her still-untitled gospel DVD and CD will feature 23 songs and should be ready for release within a few months. She said it was filmed last summer at her 100-year-old home church in Missouri.

The Grascals rolled into their set with the Elvis standard, “Mystery Train,” and sped on to Waylon Jennings‘s “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line.” Alan Bibey stood in for the band’s regular mandolin player, Danny Roberts, who was attending to family affairs following the recent death of his grandfather.

The band concluded with the mournful and repentant “Road to Surrender.”

Much of the audience had melted away by the time Dailey & Vincent ascended the stage at 11:07 p.m.. Those who remained fed on the energy of such lighter fare as “Black-Eyed Susie,” “Howdy, Neighbor, Howdy” (the Porter Wagoner staple) and “Back to Hancock County.”

Then the group rounded out their segment — and wrapped up the evening — with a cluster of gospel songs that included “After Awhile,” Willie Nelson‘s “Family Bible” and “Are Your Troubles Cast Aside.”

Following the show, Dailey & Vincent’s new fiddle player and guitarist, B. J. Cherryholmes, brought CMT.com up to date on what is happening with the other members of his illustrious family.

After nearly 12 years of performing, the band Cherryholmes played its last show in May 2011, he said, thereby allowing its members to go their own musical ways.

Brother Skip has formed the Skip Cherryholmes Quintet, a bluegrass group. Older sister Cia, a banjo virtuoso, is working on a duet project, and younger sister Molly, an acclaimed fiddler, is in the studio recording what B. J. described as “alternative rock.”

In 2005, barely six years after coming together as a family band, Cherryholmes won the entertainer of the year award from the International Bluegrass Music Association.

Father Jere and mother Sandy Cherryholmes continue to live and work at their home in Goodlettsville, Tenn. B. J. reported.

Here is the complete list of winners at the SPBGMA Awards:

Entertainer of the Year: Jamie Dailey

Entertaining Group: Nothin’ Fancy

Album: Help My Brother, the Gibson Brothers

Song: “Help My Brother,” the Gibson Brothers

Best Bluegrass Band: Dailey & Vincent

Female Vocalist (Contemporary): Rhonda Vincent

Female Vocalist (Traditional): Jeanette Williams

Male Vocalist (Contemporary): Jamie Dailey

Male Vocalist (Traditional): James King

Vocal Group: Dailey & Vincent

Instrumental Group: The Grascals

Gospel Group (Contemporary): Dailey & Vincent

Gospel Group (Traditional): Paul Williams & the Victory Trio

Songwriter: Leigh and Eric Gibson

Top instrumental performers: Darrin Vincent (bass fiddle), Tim Graves (Dobro), Josh Williams (guitar), Larry Stephenson (mandolin), Kristin Scott Benson (banjo), Michael Cleveland (fiddle)

Promoter: D. A. Callaway

Radio station: WDVX-FM/Knoxville, Tenn.

DJ: Joe Mullins, WBZI-AM/Xenia, Ohio

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.