The International Bluegrass Music Association, or IBMA, recently held its annual convention and festival in Nashville, Tennessee. The highlight of "bluegrass week" was the annual Awards show, honoring the year's best singers, songwriters and performers. VOA's Katherine Cole reports, who didn't win at the 18th annual International Bluegrass Music Awards was as big a story as who did.
For the past seven years, Rhonda Vincent has won Female Vocalist of the Year honors at the IBMA Awards show, but not this year. Instead, the award went to Dale Ann Bradley.
"I don't have anything prepared, but I've got a lot in my heart to tell you! I appreciate this more than I can ever tell you," he said. "I thank everyone I've had the opportunity to work for throughout my career, and especially the band I have now."
Dale Ann Bradley wasn't the only first-time winner. Bradley Walker, who has muscular dystrophy and sings seated in a wheelchair, received a standing ovation when Kathy Mattea announced that he had beaten Larry Sparks, Ronnie Bowman, Tim O'Brien and Russell Moore to take the Male Vocalist of the Year Award.
"Oh man! This is unbelievable y'all. This is unbelievable! I do not know what to say. I've been singing all my life, as a lot of y'all know, and for this to happen tonight is just unbelievable," he said. "My parents have always supported me, running me up and down the road. You all know how hard it is to get to these shows. It takes a lot of work, and for me, it takes a lot of extra work. There are a lot of folks who do a lot of that, my mama, my dad, my grandparents, and my Aunt Caroline. My whole family that is here tonight, and everybody who has just always supported me, thank you all so much.
But the upset of some perennial IBMA prizewinners wasn't the only story of the night. For the first time, there was a tie in the Album of the Year category, something that seemed to surprise even Chris Jones, who himself won the 2007 IBMA Broadcaster of the Year and Songwriter of the Year awards.
"And the award goes to ? Lefty's Old Guitar, by J.D. Crowe and the New South, produced by J.D. Crowe and the New South for Rounder Records," Jone said. "But wait! We have a tie! It's a tie with Fork in the Road, by the Infamous Stringdusters, produced by Tim Stafford and the Infamous Stringdusters for Sugar Hill Records."
The Infamous Stringdusters, a young band that has only released one record, scored three big wins. In addition to Album of the Year, they shared Song of the Year with writers Chris Jones and John Pennell, and were also awarded the prestigious Emerging Artist of the Year trophy. Not bad for a band who wasn't even performing together two years ago.
But they weren't the only three-time winner at the 18th annual IBMA Awards. Banjomaster Tony Trischka received Banjo Player of the Year, and his most recent album, Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular, featuring Earl Scruggs, Bela Fleck and Steve Martin among the guest pickers, won both Instrumental Album of the Year and Recorded Event of the Year. Tony also performed during the IBMA Awards, accompanied by fellow banjo pickers Alison Brown, Kenny Ingram, and Scott Vestal.