By Ellie Wilkinson
If you’re a bluegrass fan, you’ll definitely want to tune in to what has been happening in Nashville this week. From Sept. 24 to 30, the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) has organized networking events, music awards, concerts, and a fan festival, all part of its “World of Bluegrass Week,” which seeks to connect those in the bluegrass industry and to put the spotlight on standout bluegrass performers, veterans, and up-and-comers alike.
The event started this past Sunday when The Travelin’ McCourys and Friends hosted a free show at Cumberland Park after the Tennessee Titans game, and it has continued the past four days with business conferences during the day and performances at night. Tonight at 7:30 p.m. marks the highlight of the week: the International Bluegrass Music Awards.
Nominees for the awards were announced on August 15, and after a month of mulling it over, IBMA’s professional membership announces the winners this evening in Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, where the likes of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Patsy Cline have performed.
Standout nominees include Russell Moore & Illrd Tyme Out, bluegrass radio regulars who are often recognized for their rich vocal harmonies. In the past they’ve raked in awards from IBMA and the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA), and this year they’ve been nominated for Entertainer of the Year and Vocal Group, as well as for Instrumental Performance (“Carroll County Blues”) and Song of the Year (“Pretty Little Girl From Galax”). Their album, Prime Tyme, is also up for Album of the Year.
Alison Krauss & Union Station follow close behind Russell Moore & Illrd Tyme Out with nominations for Entertainer of the Year, Song of the Year (“Dust Bowl Children”) and Album of the Year for their self-produced Paper Airplane. You may recognize Alison Krauss, who sings and plays fiddle for the band—she has also recorded lead vocals to the Phish song, “If I Could,” and sang in several pieces on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.
The awards show won’t only honor veteran bluegrass musicians, though. There is also an “Emerging Artist of the Year” category, which will put the spotlight on some talented up-and-coming bluegrass artists. Five bands have been nominated: Darin & Brooke Aldridge, Della Mae, Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen and the Darrell Webb Band.
You can see a complete list of all the award nominees here.
This year, IBMA also introduced the “Momentum Awards.” These prizes, which were presented on Tuesday and Wednesday, recognized promising new bluegrass talent. Five artists received awards for vocal or instrumental performance and three key contributors to the bluegrass industry, including a publicist and a mentor, received industry prizes.
“The talents of emerging artists and industry professionals are essential to keeping bluegrass alive and growing, and the IBMA board feels these individuals deserve special recognition for the hard work and the contributions they are making to the industry as a whole,” said IBMA Executive Director Nancy Cardwell.
World of Bluegrass week will continue tomorrow through Sunday with the Bluegrass Fan Fest, which will put the spotlight on even more up-and-coming bluegrass talent. The lineup includes two slots for bands from the Kids on Bluegrass program to play during the festival.
By establishing the new Momentum Awards and opening space for aspiring musicians to play, IBMA demonstrates its desire to welcome the younger generation into the bluegrass industry.
“I think because we aren’t in the mainstream that people are just thrilled when someone younger shows an interest and wants to play the music and plays it well,” Cardwell told the Nashville Scene. “They will go out of their way to show them a new lick or how to play a certain song, because we do want to pass it on.”
Check out what’s been going on at IBMA’s World of Bluegrass Week with this Storify we put together that collects some of the funny, crazy, and otherwise awesome tweets from this week. You can continue to follow along by checking out IBMA’s Twitter feed, or by searching the hashtag #ibma.