It was a good run for Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers Thursday evening (Sept. 26) at the 30th annual International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) awards show, held at the Duke Energy Performing Arts Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. Not only did Mullins and his band cop the entertainer of the year trophy, they also shared the collaborative recording prize with Del McCoury for “The Guitar Song.”
Unlike in years past, no one act swept the awards.
McCoury, who co-hosted the event with Jim Lauderdale, also won the top album nod for Del McCoury Still Sings Bluegrass. Billy Strings was voted best new artist and guitar player of the year.
Michael Cleveland took the top fiddle player honor, and he and his band, Flamekeeper, won as best instrumental group. Sister Sadie, an all-female band that includes Tina Adair, Dale Ann Bradley, Gena Britt, and Deanie Richardson, landed their first-ever Vocal Group award.
Bill Emerson, Mike Auldridge and The Kentucky Colonels were inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.
The show ran long, but it was illuminated by a number of standout performances. The always reliable Rhonda Vincent & The Rage radiated love at its most earnest in “Please,” an Elton John song Vincent recorded with Dolly Parton.
Sam Bush Band gave a driving, assertive rendition of “Play By Your Own Rules.” McCoury and his band rocked the rails with “That Ol’ Train.” Darin & Brooke Aldridge offered a serenely angelic reading of “When You Love Someone.”
In a segment memorializing bluegrass musicians who had died during in the past year, John Starling, a founding member of the Seldom Scene, and Country Music Hall of Fame member Mac Wiseman were singled out for a special tribute. Particularly touching was an archival video of Wiseman singing his signature, “I Wonder How the Old Folks Are at Home.”
Here is a complete list of the award winners:
ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR: Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers
FEMALE VOCALIST: Brooke Aldridge
MALE VOCALIST: Russell Moore
NEW ARTIST: Billy Strings
VOCAL GROUP: Sister Sadie
INSTRUMENTAL GROUP: Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper
BANJO PLAYER: Kristin Scott Benson
BASS PLAYER: Missy Raines
FIDDLE PLAYER: Michael Cleveland
GUITAR PLAYER: Billy Strings
MANDOLIN PLAYER: Alan Bibey
RESOPHONIC GUITAR (DOBRO) PLAYER: Phil Leadbetter
SONG: “Thunder Dan” — Sideline (artist), Josh Manning (writer) Tim Surrett (producer), Mountain Home Music Company (label)
ALBUM: Del McCoury Still Sings Bluegrass — Del McCoury Band (artist), Del and Ronnie McCoury (producer), McCoury Music (label)
GOSPEL RECORDING: “Gonna Sing, Gonna Shout”– Claire Lynch (artist), Jerry Salley (producer), Billy Blue Records (label)
INSTRUMENTAL RECORDING: “Darlin’ Pal(s) of Mine” — Missy Raines with Alison Brown, Mike Bub, and Todd Phillips (artist), Alison Brown (producer), Compass Records (label)
COLLABORATIVE RECORDING: “The Guitar Song” — Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers with Del McCoury (artists), Joe Mullins (producer), Jerry Salley (associate producer) Billy Blue (label)
INTERNATIONAL BLUEGRASS MUSIC HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES; Bill Emerson, Mike Auldridge, The Kentucky Colonels
BROADCASTER OF THE YEAR: Michelle Lee
EVENT: Blueberry Bluegrass Festival in Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada
LINER NOTES: Epilogue: A Tribute to John Duffey; Akira Otsuka, Dudley Connell, Jeff Place, Katy Daley
GRAPHIC DESIGNER: Michael Armistead
WRITER: David Morris
SONGWRITER: Jerry Salley
SOUND ENGINEER: Ben Surratt
Distinguished Achievement Award: Katy Daley, Mickey Gamble, Dan Hays, Alan Mills, Moonshiner