August Blog from Hillbilly Boogie
Welcome, dear readers, to the August Blog from Hillbilly Boogie.
As Autumn (or Fall, you choose) approaches we are normally thinking of returning to
Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion on the Virginia/Tennessee state line and Carolina in the Fall in Wilkesboro, North Carolina; sadly, there will be no transatlantic trip this September but we plan to return in 2018.
Autumn/Fall is also the time that Raleigh, North Carolina is besieged by the Bluegrass faithful (and hopeful) attending the annual IBMA World of Bluegrass event. For some, it will be a networking opportunity, for others it will be just be attending one of the many concerts and showcases that take place but for others the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards will be the highlight. Personally, I look forward to reading the transcript of this year’s keynote speaker, Rhiannon Giddens.
With the hullabaloo caused by the announcement of the IBMA Awards nominees, my mind (once again) started to churn over just how I feel about the awards bestowed by IBMA and SPBGMA (Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America) (pronounced: spig’ma). While there are many awards such as the Grammy and Mercury Awards it is the music represented by IBMA and SPBGMA that I am most familiar with). Before I go any further, let me state that I am NOT criticising either the IBMA or SPBGMA it is just that I feel ambivalent about the awards. I was thrilled to see that Molly Tuttle has received three nominations – Guitarist of the Year, Female Vocalist of the Year and Emerging Artist of the Year. Front Country and Volume Five are also nominees and, if you have listened to Hillbilly Boogie you will appreciate how glad I was to see their names listed.
So why do I feel ambivalent?....
I really hope that Molly walks away with all three awards, I also hope that Volume Five’s ‘I Am A Drifter’ wins Song of the Year and with Volume Five and Front Country being nominated in Emerging Artist of the Year I am glad that I don’t have to cast the deciding vote on that decision! I am genuinely excited at the prospect of seeing recognition for musicians that I admire yet there is part of me that wishes that IBMA and SPBGMA would do more to recognise some of the exceptional ‘grassroots’ initiatives and organisations.
Before I go any further, can I applaud the IBMA’s Bluegrass Trust Fund which is largely funded by the Wide Open Bluegrass event held as part of the IBMA World of Bluegrass celebration. I would recommend the article on the Trust written by John Lawless on Bluegrass Today featuring Phil Leadbetter.
So what would I like to see? I will give one example..
JAM – or Junior Appalachian Musicians – is an organisation that is active in over 40 localities and gives young people the opportunity to play music together. Their website says it better than I ever could:
In my mind, any organisation that seeks to help young people become involved in music at any level is to be applauded; that JAM do so to maintain traditional music deserves public support from organisations that proclaim ‘tradition’, ‘heritage’ and (of course) ‘preservation’.
Let me say again, JAM are active in over 40 localities – 40!
Anyone who has worked with young people at a music club will know how much organisation (and how many adults) it takes to provide a safe environment for the club to take place. Now multiply this by 40! Some of the people giving their time to teach and guide at JAM are musicians of the highest calibre. So while I would like to see recognition of JAM as an entity at IBMA and SPBGMA, I am sure that any of the 40 localities were visited we would see a massive commitment to Bluegrass & Old-Time music at the grassroots level.
Let’s not forget organisations such as Music For Veterans who also bring people together through music.
To use an expression from my childhood, wishing that large music organisations would give more recognition to organisations like JAM or Music for Veterans may be ‘pie in the sky’ but when I see the same names year after year (even though I own many CDs by them, even though I delight in seeing them play live, even though I admire and respect their musicianship) I would love to see the awards committees step out from under the bright lights a little.
Before I shuffle off over the horizon for another month I would like to mention a fantastic community event that we attended recently in Northampton. Various community organisations came together to host a Mela in Becket’s Park. This multi-cultural event was an absolute delight (accompanied by typical British weather or sunshine and showers). There was a performance by the Northampton General Hospital Choir and displays by a local gymnastics group (Gymnastricks), Bhangra Blaze (a Bhangra dance/fitness group) and Tamil dancers but my absolute favourite were the Bollywood Bros.
Initially, I wasn’t sure if they were going to be my ‘cup of tea’ – I was wrong! They came off the stage, and before too long had the crowd dancing. Other highlights, picking up a flyer for a Punjabi Hawaiian Luau (I have a great selection on ‘mad’ shirts) and the best vegetable samosas and chick-pea daal I have ever had. Will I be swapping banjos for Bhangra on Hillbilly Boogie? No…. but if see the Bollywood Bros again I’ll be down the front!
See you soon….as ever, Be Good!