There’s no denial, anger or bargaining involved. And I’m not talking about getting over bluegrass addiction, for which there is no cure or need of a cure. I’m talking about careers – the ones we’ve watched develop and evolve in the bluegrass universe. Our lineup this Wednesday is a picture of artists at four different stages of a life in this awesome, career-oriented music. It proves that fans stick with great artists over the long haul, and it suggests that today’s young artists have a lot to look forward to.
It may sound funny to call Sierra Hull the newcomer, since she’s earned so much attention and acclaim so fast, but she’s more than a decade younger than Josh Williams and she’s only recently released her second album. The bluegrass artist spends years in training, which Sierra did at jam sessions and contests around her home of Byrdstown, TN. She earned a great mentor in Alison Krauss and captivated the folks at Rounder Records when she was but 13. Prodigious and hard-working, Hull made an instant impact with her debut album Secrets. She’s a clear-toned singer, a stunning mandolin picker and a quality songwriter who’s only just begun an epic journey. She’s earned five IBMA nominations so far, and there would be little surprise if she’d added a few more by the time our IBMA afternoon press conference is over and the show begins.
Josh Williams is the picture of the young artist who’s proven himself as a band member, picker and band leader. He was part of the enduring ensemble Special Consensus out of Chicago for a time and a long time member of Rhonda Vincent’s busy touring band. He polished his credentials by winning IBMA’s Guitar Player of the Year for the past three years. Now in charge of his own Josh Williams band, he’s spearheading a lean, lonesome quartet that hews to a full-bodied traditional sound. The apprenticeships are over; Josh has entered the prime of his career.
If you had to name one band that’s been beloved and productive through the last two decades, you might well choose IIIrd Tyme Out. Always true to the music’s ancient tones but always relevant and fresh, this band has built a platinum reputation on the strength of its vocal prowess. Russell Moore sets the bar really high. He won IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year twice back in the mid 1990s, and then he stunned everyone by taking the prize again at last year’s awards. It was an emotional moment, and one so well deserved. In the post Jimmy Martin era, I can’t think of anyone whose clarion tenor more perfectly defines what it means to be a bluegrass singer.
Rounding out our night and our tour through bluegrass longevity, we have the wise and seasoned veteran Doyle Lawson. What a trooper. What a serious, good-hearted man. The many former members of his band Quicksilver would tell you he’s tough and sets a high standard for precision and intonation. But they also all tell you about a brilliant musician and a supportive boss. Before starting Quicksilver in 1979, this Kingsport, TN native worked for Jimmy Martin and the Country Gentlemen, among others, connecting him to the very origins of modern bluegrass music. And on that IBMA front, because we’re in cahoots with them this week on this special show, DL&Q ties IIIrd Tyme Out for the most wins in the Vocal Group category with seven trophies. And they could take it again in any given year. They’re still that great.
So don’t deny the urge. Don’t bargain with the family. Just get yourself to the Loveless Barn for a lineup that really couldn’t be topped. You’ll see all the bluegrass stages on one stage.