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Balsam Range, First Ladies of Bluegrass on a roll at 2018 IBMA Awards

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If bluegrass music was a sport, the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA)’s annual awards night would be considered the industry’s All-Star game.

Held Thursday, Sept. 27, as part of IBMA’s 2018 annual weeklong business conference and Wide Open Bluegrass, the party celebrating the best in individual and band achievement for the year was hosted by Hot Rize, the first group to ever win the coveted entertainer of the year award.

The boys from Haywood County, North Carolina, took home the top prize during the ceremony at the Duke Energy Center in Raleigh. Balsam Range  earned two other awards at the ceremony, highlighting individual talents in the group. Vocalist and fiddle player Buddy Melton was awarded Male Vocalist of the Year and bassist and dobro player Tim Surrett was named Bass Player of the Year. This marks the third time the group has received the honor, voted on by the IBMA membership, according to the group’s label Mountain Home Music Company. With these awards, Balsam Range has won more than a dozen honors at IBMA, the label said in a release.

Special Consensus went home with the Album of the Year award for “Rivers and Roads” and Song of the Year went to Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers for “If I’d Have Wrote that Song,” written by Larry Cordle, Larry Shell, and James Silvers.

The First Ladies of Bluegrass — Molly Tuttle, Sierra Hull, Becky Buller, Alison Brown and Missy Raines — was awarded Recorded Event of the Year honors for the song “Swept Away,” written by Laurie Lewis. Raines said recording the song for Raines’ new album was what brought this group together. All of the women were the first women to win awards in their respective instrumental categories.

On Thursday, Tuttle reprised her historic win last year for Guitar Player of the Year, and Hull extended her streak to three years in a row for Mandolin Player of the Year. The group will be playing at IBMA’s Wide Open Bluegrass festival at Red Hat Amphitheatre tonight as the First Ladies of Bluegrass.

Brooke Aldridge continues her reign as the IBMA’s Female Vocalist of the Year, after receiving the honor for a second time at this year’s awards ceremony. Aldridge will continue her week at IBMA with a performance alongside her husband, Darin Aldridge, on tonight at 6:15 p.m. on the Plaza Stage.

Following is the full list of winners:

ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR:
Balsam Range

VOCAL GROUP OF THE YEAR:
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver

INTRUMENTAL GROUP OF THE YEAR:
The Travelin’ McCourys

SONG OF THE YEAR:
“If I’d Have Wrote That Song” – Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers (artist), Larry Cordle/Larry Shell/James Silvers (writers)

ALBUM OF THE YEAR:
Rivers & Roads – Special Consensus (artist), Alison Brown (producer), Compass Records (label)

GOSPEL RECORDED PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR:
“Speakin’ to That Mountain” – Becky Buller (artist), Becky Buller/Jeff Hyde (writers), Crepe Paper Heart (album), Stephen Mougin (producer), Dark Shadow Recording (label)

INSTRUMENTAL RECORDED PERFORMANCE:
“Squirrel Hunters” – Special Consensus with John Hartford, Rachel Baiman, Christian Sedelmyer, and Alison Brown (artist), Traditional arranged by Alison Brown/Special Consensus (writers), Rivers & Roads (album), Alison Brown (producer), Compass Records (label)

EMERGING ARTIST OF THE YEAR:
The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys

RECORDED EVENT OF THE YEAR:
“Swept Away” – Missy Raines with Alison Brown, Becky Buller, Sierra Hull, and Molly Tuttle (artists), single release, Alison Brown (producer), Compass Records (label)

FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR:
Brooke Aldridge

MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR:
Buddy Melton

BANJO PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Ned Luberecki

BASS PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Tim Surrett

DOBRO PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Justin Moses

FIDDLE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Michael Cleveland

GUITAR PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Molly Tuttle

MANDOLIN PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Sierra Hull

Ricky Skaggs, Paul Williams, Tom T. and Dixie Hall were honored at as the 2018 inductees into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.

Earlier in the day, the IBMA gave out its Special Awards, including 2018 Distinguished Achievement Awards for George Gruhn, Christopher Howard-Williams, Curtis McPeake, Walter Saunders, and Chris Thile. In a speech accepting his award, Thile emphasized the spirit of community in music in general, and bluegrass in particular. After presenter Sierra Hull recalled Thile jamming with her, when she was 10, at MerleFest, Thile pointed out that bluegrass festivals are “our living room,” where conversations are had both in speech and in music, and strong bonds are formed.

Music offers hope for humanity, he said, through good times and bad. “When we find something beautiful, our first instinct is to find someone to share it with,” he said. “That bodes well for us.”

Here are the winners of the Special Awards:

BLUEGRASS BROADCASTER OF THE YEAR:
Steve Martin (Northern Kentucky-based host of “Steve Martin’s Unreal Bluegrass”)

BLUEGRASS EVENT OF THE YEAR:
Bluegrass on the Green– Frankfort, IL

BEST LINER NOTES FOR A RECORDED PROJECT (tie):
Craig Havighurst – The Story We Tell by Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers
Peter Wernick – Carter Stanley’s Eyes by Peter Rowan

BEST GRAPHIC DESIGN FOR A RECORDED PROJECT:
Lou Everhart for A Heart Never Knows by The Price Sisters

BLUEGRASS PRINT/MEDIA PERSON OF THE YEAR:
Neil Rosenberg

BLUEGRASS SONGWRITER OF THE YEAR:
Jerry Salley

SOUND ENGINEER OF THE YEAR:
Ben Surratt

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