Set List Bonus: World Of Bluegrass Week

  • Steve Martin and Edie Brickell
    Photo: Lynne Margolis

Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.

By Lynne Margolis
Raleigh, N.C.

The city of Raleigh, N.C., pulled out all the stops to lure the International Bluegrass Music Association's annual conference from Nashville, Tenn., and once it did it turned on the charm, even decorating its Sir Walter Raleigh statue with a banjo.

Billed as World of Bluegrass Week, the IBMA Business Conference (Sept. 24–28), five nights of Bluegrass Ramble showcases, the IBMA Awards (Sept. 26), and the Wide Open Bluegrass street festival (Sept. 27-28) filled downtown Raleigh with pickers of all kinds — many of whom proudly claim residency or roots in the state that also produced banjo pioneer Earl Scruggs and guitarist Doc Watson.

Four-time GRAMMY winner Scruggs and seven-time GRAMMY winner Watson, both Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient who passed away in 2012, were paid homages throughout the week. GRAMMY winner Béla Fleck and an all-star group featuring mandolin player Sam Bush, Dobro player Jerry Douglas, bassist Mark Schatz, and guitar legends Del McCoury and Tony Rice dedicated several songs to Scruggs while headlining the festival on Sept. 27. They followed the GRAMMY-nominated Punch Brothers, whose merger of bluegrass, jazz and classical could be called "avant-grass."

The Punch Brothers represent bluegrass' new guard, a status shared by groups such as Della Mae, who were named the 2013 Emerging Artist of the Year. They're putting their own twists on an art form once heard mainly in the hills of Appalachia.

The festival's biggest headliner was Texas-born GRAMMY winner Steve Martin, who performed with North Carolinians the Steep Canyon Rangers and fellow Texas native Edie Brickell. Martin also plucked a couple of songs onstage with the Kruger Brothers at the Raleigh Convention Center. GRAMMY winner Jim Lauderdale performed with Della Mae on the Center Street stage, set amid downtown hotels, vibrant street sculpture and booths filled with art and food vendors. Fleck joined Martin's main set at the Red Hat Amphitheater, which drew a sold-out audience of nearly 6,000 in one of the weekend's few ticketed events. Martin earned as much applause for his skill as guffaws for his jokes.

"It's a real honor to be here tonight performing for your cell phones," he quipped early on. Later, he deadpanned, "If you didn't enjoy the show tonight, you're wrong." It was, after all, as Martin pointed out, delivered by him and his Steep Canyon Rangers, who were named IBMA's 2011 Entertainer of the Year.

The 2013 Entertainer of the Year recipients were, for the second year in a row, the Gibson Brothers, who also won Vocal Group of the Year. Other winners included the Boxcars (Instrumental Group of the Year), Junior Sisk (Male Vocalist of the Year) and Claire Lynch (Female Vocalist of the Year). Rob Ickes was named Dobro Player of the Year for the 15th time.

Raleigh, now billing itself as North Carolina's live music destination, has signed a three-year agreement with IBMA and hopes to make the arrangement permanent, according to various officials. The state supported this year's festival in a big way. The City of Raleigh Museum mounted an exhibit titled Seeds Of Grass: Radio And The Rise Of Bluegrass In Raleigh. The Museum of Regional History in Mt. Airy launched The Luthier's Craft, an exhibit exploring the traditional art of creating fiddles, guitars and banjos in southern Appalachia.

"Everybody is bluegrass-crazy in Raleigh, if you haven't noticed," said Raleigh Museum Executive Director Ernest Dollar. In fact, Dollar noted that, while in Raleigh in 1938, legendary mandolin player Bill Monroe split up the duet he shared with his brother Charlie, "which led to the formation of bluegrass."

Daniel Routh, a veteran IBMA member and co-founder of the band Nu-Blu, noted, "Just about every mainstream bluegrass band has somebody from North Carolina in it."

(Austin-based writer/editor Lynne Margolis contributes regularly to print, broadcast and online media including American Songwriter and Lone Star Music magazines. Outlets also have included the Christian Science MonitorPaste, Rollingstone.com and NPR affiliates. A contributing editor to the encyclopedia, The Ties That Bind: Bruce Springsteen From A To E To Z, she also writes bios for new and established artists.)

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