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Bluegrass Artists Continue to Turn Out Great Music in 2008

Compact disc sales continued to slide in 2008, and the major record labels continued to shrink both their payrolls and artist rosters. But that doesn't mean there wasn't any great music released this past year. You just have to dig a little deeper to find it. We have a look back at the year in Bluegrass.

The early January release of Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent's first CD as a duo launched what turned out to be an exceptionally good year in Bluegrass music.

On December 31, 2007, Jamie Dailey was best-known as the lead singer of Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. Darrin Vincent was working with Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder. The duo of Dailey and Vincent released their first CD January 29, which makes it all the more incredible that when the 2008 nominees were announced eight months later, Dailey and Vincent were up for 10 honors, winning seven of them. In an interview just hours before the awards ceremony, both men sounded shocked by their good fortune.

"We're very thankful to have 10 nominations. It's overwhelming, exciting …," said Vincent

But, were they taken aback when the nominations were announced?

"We were crying. During the press conference, Darrin and I both stood there and cried," said Dailey. "I mean, we were blown away! We did not expect that. We thought, 'Man, if we can get one nomination we are going to be so happy!' And we got 10, and we could not believe what we were hearing! We are so humbled, too, because we know that what we have today could be gone tomorrow. So we're living for the moment and enjoying it. It's wonderful!"

The traditional sound of Dailey and Vincent wasn't the only debut recording on music critics 2008 "Best of Bluegrass" lists. Many are singling out The Steeldrivers, who, like Dailey and Vincent, are a new band made up of veteran Nashville musicians. But there is one big difference. While Dailey and Vincent rely on outside songwriters for much of their material, every song on The Steeldrivers' first album was written by the band. Among them is Blue Side of the Mountain, which has brought the group their first Grammy nomination.

The Steeldrivers' first CD is proving to be a hit not just with music fans, but with other musicians, who've nominated that song for the 2009 Grammy Award for Best Country Performance By A Duo or Group with Vocals.

But it wasn't just new bands that put out critically acclaimed bluegrass CDs in 2008. Veterans like The Del McCoury Band, Earl Scruggs, Rhonda Vincent, and The Gibson Brothers also had new releases this year, as did Blue Highway. Through The Window Of A Train is the group's eighth release, and it's full of the stellar picking and singing that fans have come to expect from the group. It's the group's second release made up of all original songs.

Blue Highway bassist Wayne Taylor may have gotten it right when he said, "You can't go wrong with a train song in Bluegrass."

And as good as the 2008 crop of Bluegrass CDs is, there's much to look forward to in 2009, including new releases by Dailey and Vincent, The Greencards, and Dry Branch Fire Squad. Michael Martin Murphy will be releasing his first-ever Bluegrass recording. Comedian, actor, author and longtime banjo player Steve Martin will be releasing his first all-music CD next year. That disk will contain 15 songs written by Martin, and features guest appearances by Dolly Parton, Earl Scruggs and John McCuen. Also appearing on the still untitled recording is Tony Trischka, who had a new release of his own in 2008. Territory is filled with 21 tracks that showcase many, but not all, of the styles of music the imaginative musician is known for playing on his banjo. Among them: Bluegrass, Celtic, blues, folk and Hawaiian, as evidenced by this track called "Hawaii Slide-O."