Bluegrass Corner

October Bluegrass Happenings

IBMA. Fall is World of Bluegrass (IBMA) season. Every year, in late September or early October, the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) and its worldwide tribe gather in Raleigh, North Carolina for a week of seminars, concerts, workshops, kids activities, the annual Bluegrass Music Awards Show, international events, and more. The IBMA activities are hosted at the Raleigh Convention Center and its adjoining Red Hat Amphitheater. There is also what is called the “Bluegrass Ramble,” comprised of evening concerts at a variety of local Raleigh clubs and venues featuring up and coming showcase bands. All in all, the IBMA week earns its tongue-in-cheek name: “IBMA” stands for “I’ve been mostly awake.”

Awards show. In this month’s column I’ll take a look at one aspect of the IBMA week:the Awards Show. The IBMA Bluegrass Music Awards are the equivalent of the Bluegrass Oscars, representing the highest award a bluegrass musician, band, or related professional can achieve. The most coveted award is for Entertainer of the Year, but there are also awards for each of the bluegrass instruments, for male and female vocalist of the year, best gospel, best instrumental, and much more, including awards for writers, graphic artists, and other bluegrass professionals who do not perform music. Nominees are selected through a voting process of IBMA members.

This year the nominees for the top award of Entertainer of the Year are: Balsam Range, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, the Earls of Leicester, Flatt Lonesome, and the Gibson Brothers. For Vocal Group of the Year: Balsam Range, Blue Highway, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Flatt Lonesome, the Gibson Brothers. For Instrumental Group of the Year it’s Balsam Range, the Earls of Leicester, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper, and the Punch Brothers. To see all the nominees in all categories visit: www.ibma.org. I’ll report on the winners in next month’s column.

Bob Siggins. Bob Siggins has seen a lot of bluegrass in his life and is still going strong playing banjo, Dobro, pedal steel, and bass. As a Harvard student he started on banjo in the late 1950s; became a founding member of the Charles River Valley Boys, a hot group that cut several successful records; toured Europe; and helped define the East Coast bluegrass/old time sound of the times. Among others who went on to stardom the group featured Joe Val. Bob and his group also released an album called Beatle Country with bluegrass/old time versions of Beatles tunes that had significant chart success. Other interesting tidbits: Joan Baez was his then wife’s roommate, Bob did early performing and recording with Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band and managed to find time to play Club 47 in Boston (later, Club Passim), the Troubadour in Santa Monica, the Birchmere, and the Cellar Door in the DC area, and famous clubs throughout Europe.

All the while Bob pursued an equally impressive career in physiology and bio-chemistry, which took him as a new PhD graduate to the NIH outside Washington DC to do research on peptides. From there, he came to San Diego to work at the Salk Institute and later at the Scripps Research Institute, from which he is now retired but where he still serves in an emeritus capacity, mentoring post-docs. Through it all his music has remained as important to him as his research.

Now in retirement, Bob has a small performance area set up in his Carmel Valley home and hosts bi-monthly musical get-togethers with many outstanding musicians coming from San Diego and L.A., including one who occasionally flies to San Diego from Nashville in his private plane for these home events. Bob also plays out regularly with his current band, East of Echo, which bills itself on its business card as playing “psychedelic reggae rock jazz bluegrass dub.” With a bright eyed grin, Bob told me that his music is as exciting and vital as ever, and he is having the time of his life with it. Let us all take instruction from that!

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