There was a tropical storm roaring up the eastern US, and the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) had planned a huge outdoor festival in Raleigh, NC. No problem. IBMA and Raleigh pivoted to relocate all the weekend’s events into the Raleigh Convention Center, and World of Bluegrass – the world’s largest bluegrass music festival – was saved.
This was a return to normal for IBMA, after a virtual conference and festival in 2020 and a much reduced event in 2021. The showcases and impromptu bands picking in corners of the convention center and hotel were back, and the quality and quantity of music was impressive. There’s a whole generation of astounding talent in the world of bluegrass, and it was on display in Raleigh.
As always, IBMA uses World of Bluegrass to recognize talent and achievement. Three new members were inducted into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame: Normal Blake, Paul “Moon” Mullins and Peter Rowan. They were recognized on Thursday September 29 in a gala ceremony and concert at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium.
At the same time, IBMA presented its annual awards for pickers, singers, songwriters and producers. Banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck, who’s been touring with a supergroup who contributed to his album My Bluegrass Heart, was the night’s big winner, taking Banjo Player of the Year, Instrumental Group of the Year, Instrumental Recording of the Year for Vertigo, and Album of the Year. Billy Strings was a repeat winner of Entertainer of the Year and won song of the year for Red Daisy. Dolly Parton’s In the Sweet By and By, on which she is joined by Carl Jackson, Larry Cordle, Bradley Walker and Jerry Salley, won Gospel Recording of the Year and Collaborative Recording of the Year.
Earlier in the day, IBMA presented its Industry Awards. Distinguished Achievement Awards went to Dan Crary, the FreshGrass Foundation, Peghead Nation, Steve Huber and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the recording Will the Circle Be Unbroken. Industry awards honor a broadcaster, songwriter, writer, graphic designer and sound engineer, as well as liner notes and an Event of the Year.
The award winners are selected by the professional member of IBMA, the nonprofit professional organization for the global bluegrass music community. Here’s a full list of winners.
Bluegrass Music Awards
ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR – Billy Strings
VOCAL GROUP OF THE YEAR – Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver
INSTRUMENTAL GROUP OF THE YEAR – Béla Fleck’s My Bluegrass Heart
NEW ARTIST OF THE YEAR – Rick Faris
SONG OF THE YEAR – Red Daisy – Billy Strings; written by Jarrod Walker/Christian Ward
ALBUM OF THE YEAR – Béla Fleck’s My Bluegrass Heart
GOSPEL RECORDING OF THE YEAR – In the Sweet By and By – Dolly Parton with Carl Jackson, Larry Cordle, Bradley Walker, and Jerry Salley
INSTRUMENTAL RECORDING OF THE YEAR – Vertigo – Béla Fleck featuring Sam Bush, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Bryan Sutton
COLLABORATIVE RECORDING OF THE YEAR – In the Sweet By and By – Dolly Parton with Carl Jackson, Larry Cordle, Bradley Walker, and Jerry Salley
MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR – Del McCoury
FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR – Molly Tuttle
BANJO PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Béla Fleck
BASS PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Jason Moore
FIDDLE PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Bronwyn Keith-Hynes
RESOPHONIC GUITAR PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Justin Moses
GUITAR PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Cody Kilby
MANDOLIN PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Sierra Hull
DISTINGUISHED ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band for Will the Circle Be Unbroken album
BROADCASTER OF THE YEAR – Chris Jones
EVENT OF THE YEAR – Industrial Strength Bluegrass Festival, Wilmington, OH
GRAPHIC DESIGNER OF THE YEAR – Grace van’t Hof
LINER NOTES OF THE YEAR – Ted Olson for Doc Watson: Life’s Work: A Retrospective
SONGWRITER OF THE YEAR – Ronnie Bowman
SOUND ENGINEER OF THE YEAR – Steve Chandler
WRITER OF THE YEAR – Akira Otsuka