“I want to thank the other nominees — and thank them for losing,” Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin!), with his tongue planted firmly in-cheek, said to the packed crowd Thursday night (Sept. 29) at the 22nd Annual International Bluegrass Music Association Awards held at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.
The actor and banjo player made his remarks during his acceptance speech for Entertainer of the Year – a prize he shared with the Steep Canyon Rangers. Earlier this year, Martin and the band released the well-received album “Rare Bird Alert,” and went on tour to promote the disc with tour. The record has been a mainstay atop the Blugrass Albums chart for the past 28 weeks; it peeked at No. 1 and currently sits at No. 2 behind Alison Krauss & Union Station.
The evening’s ongoing theme by many of the performers and presenters was a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of genre founder Bill Monroe, and the awards reflected a sense of tradition.
Russell Moore, lead singer of IIIrd Tyme Out, won his fourth trophy for Male Vocalist of the Year — repeating his win in 2010. And, though she was up against some formidable competition, Dale Ann Bradley claimed her fourth Female Vocalist of the Year trophy, coming on the heels of the release of her newest record, Somewhere South of Crazy .
It was also a big night for the Gibson Brothers. The Compass recording artists walked away with Vocal Group of the Year as well as Album of the Year for Help My Brother.
Another act that fared well during the presentation was the Boxcars. Winning Instrumental Group of the Year and Emerging Artist of the Year, the band’s Adam Steffey notched his eighth win in the Mandolin category, and Ron Stewart tied with the Grascals’ Kristin Scott Benson for Banjo Player of the Year. Both expressed honor at having been presented the award by the legendary Sonny Osborne and Roland White.
Other Instrumentalist honors of the night went to Michael Cleveland for Fiddle for a seventh time, Blue Highway’s Rob Ickes for Dobro (his thirteenth), and Bryan Sutton for Guitar for the first time since 2006. Marshall Wilborn rounded out the winners of the Instrumentalist categories with a win for his Bass work.
Cleveland also tallied in the Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year category for “Goin’ Up Dry Branch,’ with his band, Flamekeeper. Veteran performers J.D. Crowe, Doyle Lawson, and Paul Williams carried home the Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year and Recorded Event of the Year awards for “Prayer Bells In Heaven,” and the Balsam Range tune “Trains I Missed” won for Song of the Year for writers Walt Wilkins, Nicole Witt, and Giles Goddard.
Two artists were inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame during the night. George Shuffler – longtime Bass player for Ralph and Carter Stanley was inducted for his many years of service to the Bluegrass community, as well as longtime fan favorite Del McCoury. A one-time member of Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys, McCoury went out on his own in 1967, and is still creating music to this day. His most recent work is Old Memories, a tribute record to Monroe.
The night was filled with great musical moments, as well. Some of the evening’s most memorable moments included Sierra Hull, Doyle Lawson, and Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers’ rendition of “Me and Paul Revere.” The Grascals provided one of the evening’s more emotional moments with their nominated “I Am Strong,” which included young patients from St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis and Nashville’s Monroe Carell Jr. facility at Vanderbilt.
One performance that got the crowd on their feet was Dailey and Vincent’s “Close By.” A Monroe standard, the song is slated to be on their forthcoming album, due for release in early 2012.
Bluegrass fans of all ages were represented at the Ryman, and the show was broadcast live over WSM-AM 650 and Sirius / XM Satellite Radio. The awards are part of The World Of Bluegrass / Bluegrass Fan Fest week, which is taking place in Nashville through Sunday.