The IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) World of Bluegrass Week came and went like all other weeks but this one was special for Michelle Lee and myself. Not only were we excited about wearing the lanyards that had our names on BOTH sides, but we were also excited about attending the Conference as a married couple. Yep, that’s right, we got married Sept 16th at the awesome Mohican Bluegrass Festival in Ohio and then decided to celebrate our wedding with all of you at the IBMA World of Bluegrass Week in Raleigh, NC. True, it was not your typical honeymoon trip but what better way to celebrate such an event but with awesome bluegrass entertainment, good food and great people…. well, you top it off by inviting your parents to come along. So, we did! Ha ha! I am so lucky to have awesome parents that love me and now Michelle Lee (actually, maybe even more than me, ha ha). We all enjoyed every minute of IBMA!
Oh, you read it correctly, the lanyards had our names on both sides!! Thank you IBMA for recognizing and hearing all the suggestions last year regarding that topic. As the name headache was corrected, we all seemed to have a new headache arise, our name badges falling off the actual lanyards themselves. Thank goodness I watched MacGyver when I was young, a little tape saved the day!
As alum of the IBMA Leadership Bluegrass, Michelle Lee took me as her “plus one” to the reception at the NC Museum of History. It was one of the first events and it was so awesome to see friends we haven’t seen in a little while. I have to be honest, the first thing that caught my eye was the Dale Earnhardt race car that was there. My dad loved the #3 car and I have to admit, Dale Earnhardt absolutely made his mark in the racing world. After that, great food and great conversations happened for hours. I have to admit, some of the conversations had me close to “peeing my pants” but I love how the environment in the bluegrass world is so relaxed and welcoming. For the amount of talent and well-known people in the Leadership Bluegrass group, I would not have expected that.
I don’t want to bore you with giving you my opinion on all the performances I saw but I am going to share the ones that I am still in aww of months later. Now, obviously I am a little bias on all the performances that were at our booth this year (Starlett & Big John, Caleb Bailey, Caroline Owens, Echo Valley, Backline, Jackson Hollow and Alex Leach) because it was like getting my very own concert! Thanks to all those artists, I enjoyed all of it! A couple booths down from us Keith Barnacastle was also hosting some great music for all the fans and other artists. Heck, I was even able to hear Mike Mitchell and Dawn Kenney debut our wedding song that they wrote specifically for Michelle and I. “Love Came True” is such a beautiful song and will be a great memory of mine for years to come (probably Michelle’s as well). Hopefully it will become a recorded track to share with the whole world!
The big day arrive and so did the nerves. The IBMA Industry Award Day is always a big day for Michelle Lee. Just like everyone else, recognition for all your hard work means a lot. Michelle Lee was so honored to be nominated for Broadcaster of the Year. Being able to become nominated with other great Broadcaster of such magnitude. Congratulations to Ned Luberecki for winning the 2023 IBMA Broadcaster of the Year.
Like all awards shows there were bands that performed and showcased their hard work and awesome music. One of the bands that we saw and gave me the “wow” was ‘Crying Uncle’ from California. As someone that is still learning about bands within the bluegrass genre, I was unfamiliar with this band from the west coast. I am definitely aware of them now and have downloaded their music to listen and to follow. These guys are definitely one to watch!
Another band that made an impression in mind was ‘Wild Goose Chase’. I loved the music they created, and they are both very talented with many instruments. The biggest thing that I remember was how they added the cello – I have always loved the bass (still do!) but oh my gosh, I am in love with the cello.
IBMA has done an excellent job with improving the part “I” part of IBMA with the improved “international” inclusion. Just like last year, the international band impressed me. ‘Country Gongbang’ from Korea was the talk around town that week and days after! Even though we didn’t understand the language of words, the music had us feeling all the emotions one should within each song. The band gave everything the fans wanted from the slower tempo songs to the fast jamming ones. ‘Country Gongbang’ had beautiful voices and awesome sounds, I definitely was drawn in and toe-tapping.
Not sure about you but I loved hearing all the hustle and bustle – gave me the sense of being back to a little bit of normalcies, whatever the new normal is. Being back at Raleigh allowed us to eat the great breakfast, lunch and/or dinner at Jimmy V’s – not sure if you are like me but when you like a place, you stick with them. Not sure if having a waiter remember you from the year before is a good thing or bad …. ha ha!
The most exciting and entertaining part of the week was the Awards Night, or as titled “Prom Night”. I must say, this years’ awards show was so well written and executed. It was far the best in the three years that I have attended. The show opened with a great rendition of a Bobby Osborne song by a group of outstanding artists including CJ Lewandowski. Every performance from both artists and speakers were spot on and full of entertainment. I do have to admit, I was excited to hear each award winners announced but there were two that truly made me come out of my chair and cheer for – Male Vocalist and Bass Player. For both of these artists, I have followed since the first time I heard and met them. Yes, I know I am newer to the bluegrass scene but I feel three years is a good amount of time to learn someone’s talent and believe they are worthy of such award. I know, I know, there are many other good male singers and bass players – and they were up for the award with some of them! Greg Blake, IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year, has a special place in my heart. He not only is a true man of God, he is genuine, kind-hearted, talented and so much more but most of all, someone I feel comfortable calling “friend”. Vickie Vaughn, IBMA Bass Player of the Year, is that person I have met and seen only a few times but has definitely left a mark. She is one of the most passionate artists I have ever seen play a bass and that draws the crowd in along with keeping the band on course. When I heard their names called as the recipient to win these awards for the first time, I literally came out of my seat in joy! Congratulations to these two, Greg and Vickie, and to all the other wonderful artists that won at IBMA this year! My world would definitely be a little dull if I didn’t have all the outstanding music that you create for us fans. THANK YOU!
Like all of you, I am looking forward to the slower pace off season of the festival time and trying to re-coup. This year’s IBMA World of Bluegrass Week was the best yet in my three years of going and I cannot wait to see what next year will bring. Again, I want to thank EVERYONE that has a hand in making the IBMA World of Bluegrass Week a success!