Voices In Ones, Twos and Threes

The International Bluegrass Music Awards, held every fall at the Ryman Auditorium, is always a fabulous event, but it can be slow to change. Rhonda Vincent, for example, took home the Female Vocalist of the Year trophy for seven consecutive years. Not that Rhonda’s not fantastic, but in 2007 when that award came up and the oft-nominated but always-a-bridesmaid Dale Ann Bradley was announced as the winner, it made for one of the happiest and charged moments at IBMA in quite a while.

Now Bradley looks to be on her own streak; she just won her third consecutive female vocalist award. So after many years of working with intensity and integrity, she’s finally taken her place in the top ranks of bluegrass singers. She was raised in deeply rural Kentucky with no electricity until she was in high school. She came to widespread notice as part of the New Coon Creek Girls during the 1990s, and since 1997 she’s been a solo artist with her own distinct style.

Bradley’s new album on Compass Records is a glorious piece of work called Don’t Turn Your Back. She offers her velvet touch on traditional gospel bluegrass with Dailey & Vincent, a reworking of the Carter Family standard “Fifty Miles of Elbow Room” and one of her signature takes on the popular music she’s so fond of – in this case a banjo drenched “Over My Head” from the files of Fleetwood Mac and Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down.”

Besides this sublime lead vocalist, Music City Roots this week features one of Nashville’s newest duos and the hottest rising-star trio from Fort Worth since the Dixie Chicks. The duo would be the music scribes turned music practitioners Eric Brace and Peter Cooper. Actually Brace has been a major Americana force as leader of the DC/Nashville band Last Train Home, even as he wrote a music column for the Washington Post. Cooper has been and still is the award-winning music writer for the Tennessean. His songs have earned him the praise of his own heroes like Kris Kristofferson and Todd Snider. Together, Brace and Cooper have released a superb duo album and collaborated on many more projects.

And from out of nowhere and into the hearts of roots music fans around the country come the Quebe Sisters. Pronounce it KWAY-be, because you’ll be saying it a lot if you’re a fan of Western swing and great fiddling. These siblings were all prodigious and they’ve channel their skills into dazzling three-part fiddle and vocal tours de force. We’re lucky to have them as they stop through town.

Rounding things out, we’ve got the sharp roots pop of The Coal Men, led by the low-key but remarkable Dave Coleman. Dave’s that quintessential Nashville cat – the kindly barista at your favorite coffee house who just happens to be a world class songwriter and band leader. I’ve spent a lot of hours listening to their 2004 opus Nowhere’s Too Far, and I’m looking forward to hearing songs from their new disc Kids With Songs.

And on this night of abundance, we’re also going to hear from bluegrass standout Pam Daley. It should be intoxicating. Come out and join us.

Craig H


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