The First Ladies Of Bluegrass
Photo: Shannon Kelly
First Ladies Of Bluegrass Make History At IBMA Wide Open Street Fest
Get the inside scoop on the all-star band at the center of Friday night's festivities in Raleigh
There is a strange moment that happens at the end of the annual International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass convention in Raleigh, N.C. A surreal transition takes place on Friday afternoon. After a week of business being done, seminars and workshops taking place, and bands doing late night showcases for talent buyers, record label reps and DJs from all over the world, the mood changes abruptly.
Once the IBMA Awards show on Thursday night is over and the free-form jams that last until dawn have died out, the streets of Raleigh are blocked off, stages are set up and the vendors get ready for the Wide Open Street Fest.
Beginning at noon on Friday, tens of thousands of festival goers show up to enjoy eight stages of live music with some of the best musicians in the world playing for who really counts: the general public.
A big part of the Wide Open Bluegrass Street Festival is the performances at the beautiful 5,500-seat Red Hat Amphitheater located in the heart of Raleigh. This year, on Sept. 28, the headliners are the First Ladies of Bluegrass, an amazing group of women who have bursted through the ceiling of the bluegrass genre to rightfully claim their place in history.
The First Ladies of Bluegrass include Missy Raines, the first and only female musician to win the IBMA Bass Player of the Year award, Alison Brown, the first woman to win the IBMA Banjo Player of the Year award, Sierra Hull, the first and only woman to ever win the IBMA Mandolin Player of the Year award, Becky Buller, the first and only woman to ever win the IBMA Fiddler of the Year prize, and Molly Tuttle, the first and only female to ever take home the IBMA Guitar Player of the Year honor.
Raines and Brown’s breakthroughs happened in the 1990s, but Hull, Buller and Tuttle’s awards came about within the last two years. The times are still changing.
The impetus for this lineup came from the recording of Raines’ new album, Royal Traveler, a year ago. Produced by Brown for Brown’s label, Compass Records, an idea was hatched to bring in Hull, Tuttle and Buller for the recording of the song “Swept Away.” From there, the all-star collaboration that would grace the stage at Wide Open Street Fest was set in motion
To add to the excitement of the show, two special guest musicians were added to the First Ladies of Bluegrass bill: Rhiannon Giddens and Gillian Welch. Both Giddens and Welch are GRAMMY-winning artists, and Giddens gave the IBMA World of Bluegrass Keynote Address a couple of years ago.
Before the First Ladies of Bluegrass band takes the stage, however, lightning strikes for this special lineup of female talent when on the evening of Sept. 27, exactly 24 hours before their headlining show, Raines, Brown, Tuttle, Hull, and Buller won the IBMA Recorded Event of the Year Award for “Swept Away." Additionally, Hull earned another IBMA Mandolin Player of the Year title and Tuttle won her second IBMA Guitar Player of the Year award in a row. Backstage at the Fest, we talked to Raines, Buller and Giddens about this historic grouping.
When Raines was growing up near the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia and going to bluegrass festivals as a kid, she was inspired by watching the Katie Laur Band perform. Laur was one of the first females to lead a bluegrass band of men that were not related to her in any way.
“I think about Katie Laur a lot because, even though I wasn’t imagining leading a band when I was a teenager, she stood out to me because she was in stark contrast to a lot of the women I saw playing music at the time,” said Raines. “It was Katie’s group and she was leading it and fronting a band of men, and that was something you didn’t see much then. And, there was a style about her while onstage that I really liked. She would talk to people like they were in her living room, and I was very influenced by her presence and what she was doing onstage as much as her music.”
Giddens grew up listening to all kinds of music as a kid in North Carolina. While her own style is more on the old-time, African-American blues and old-school country side with modern sensibilities and a little funk thrown into the mix, bluegrass music was in her ears for as long as she can remember.
“Bluegrass is probably the genre that I have had the longest relationship with because my uncle was a bluegrass musician and evidently my grandfather was one as well, though I never met him,” said Giddens. “It was a part of my upbringing and a part of who I am. I don’t play it, but I sure appreciate it and have my favorite sound in it. I am drawn to the older stuff. Newer bluegrass is very virtuosic and the modern pickers are amazing and they can do all kinds of things. But, I like my bluegrass a bit more gritty. One of my favorite mandolin players is Mike Compton, who plays a style that is real. He just digs in there and does it. I’m not really into the clean, fast picking, even though it is amazing to see.”
Giddens is also well-aware of the history being made with Raines’ group.
“The image of bluegrass music is still, to a certain extent, a bunch of guys in suits playing onstage,” said Giddens. “Image doesn’t always reflect reality. That is why things like this First Ladies of Bluegrass show are important so people know that women are playing these instruments and have been influential going back to the beginning. It is like, ‘We are here, and we kick butt and have been kicking butt for a long time, so we’re letting you in on a little secret.”
Buller grew up in Minnesota before making her way south to the wonderful Bluegrass, Old-time and Country Music Program at East Tennessee State University. Now, even as a performer who has won some big awards, she gets emotional thinking about standing beside and playing music with such impressive women.
“I still think of myself as a bluegrass picker from Minnesota who grew up playing with my family,” said Buller. “I never dared to dream that I would get to do this at the level that I am getting to do it now. I look over and I think, ‘Whew! It’s Alison Brown. Wow. And, I’m playing with her.’ Each and every one of these ladies is a hero of mine. All of these women are so nice and it is just a joy to get to spend time with them, and then to get to create music with them as well."
With all of this history and excitement mounting around the First Ladies of Bluegrass' special IBMA Wide Open Street Fest appearance, the anticipation is palpable – especially for Buller.
"I imagine that at this show a part of me is going to be flipping out," added Buller. "But, the other part of me is saying, ‘Yeah, man! Let’s pick!’”
Allen Hughes' "The Defiant Ones" Wins Best Music Film | 2018 GRAMMY
Director Allen Hughes' four-part documentary takes home Best Music Film honors for its portrayal of the unlikely partnership that changed the music business
The team behind The Defiant Ones celebrated a big win for Best Music Film at the 60th GRAMMY Awards. The crew awarded include director Allen Hughes and producers Sarah Anthony, Fritzi Horstman, Broderick Johnson, Gene Kirkwood, Andrew Kosove, Laura Lancaster, Michael Lombardo, Jerry Longarzo, Doug Pray & Steven Williams.
In a year rife with quality music documentaries and series, the bar has been set high for this dynamic category. The Defiant Ones is a four-part HBO documentary telling the story of an unlikely duo taking the music business by storm seems better suited for fantastical pages of a comic book, but for engineer-turned-mogul Jimmy Iovine and super-producer Dr. Dre, it's all truth.The Defiant Ones recounts their histories, their tribulations and their wild success. These include first-hand accounts from those who were there in Iovine's early days, such as Bruce Springsteen and U2's Bono, as well as those on board when Dre and Iovine joined forces, such as Snoop Dogg and Eminem.
The competition was stiff as the category was filled with compelling films such as One More Time With Feeling, Two Trains Runnin', Soundbreaking, and Long Strange Trip.
Portugal. The Man To Aida Cuevas: Backstage At The 2018 GRAMMYs
Also see James Fauntleroy, Reba McIntire, Latroit, and more after they stepped off the GRAMMY stage
What do artists do the moment they walk off the GRAMMY stage from presenting, accepting an award or performing? Now, you can find out.
Also see Best Pop Duo/Group Performance GRAMMY winners Portugal. The Man posing with their first career GRAMMY Award, Best Roots Gospel Album GRAMMY winner Reba McIntire right after she walked offstage, Best R&B Song GRAMMY winner James Fauntleroy, Best Remixed Recording GRAMMY winner Latroit, and many more, with these photos from backstage during the 60th GRAMMY Awards.
Bruno Mars Wins Song Of The Year | 2018 GRAMMYs
The Hawaiian native takes home Song Of The Year for "That's What I Like" at the 60th GRAMMY Awards
Feeling the 24K Magic, Bruno Mars' successful progress through the categories he's been nominated in at the 60th GRAMMY Awards picked up another one at Song Of The Year for "That's What I Like."
Christopher Brody Brown and Philip Lawrence co-write with Mars under the name Shampoo Press & Curl. The other winning songwriters for Mars' hit tonight in this category are James Fauntleroy and production team "The Sterotypes" — Ray Charles McCullough II, Jeremy Reeves, Ray Romulus and Jonathan Yip.
The Album Of The Year GRAMMY Award wrapped up the night and wrapped up Bruno Mars' complete rampage through his six nominated categories — now six wins.
Photo: David Crotty/Getty Images
Mariah Carey Tells Fans Fire Music Is Coming With New Album 'Caution'
The sultry R&B/pop superstar has announced she will release her 15th studio album next month – what will she bring us this time around?
Never one to do things quietly, the GRAMMY-winning R&B/pop diva with the angelic voice Mariah Carey came boldly onto the scene in 1990 with her GRAMMY-nominated debut self-titled album. At the 33rd GRAMMY Awards she took home her first two wins: Best New Artist and for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for "Vision Of Love," which she performed on the GRAMMY stage. The song was the album's first single and Carey's first No. 1 song. Since taking center stage at the beginning of the '90s the star hasn't looked back, releasing 13 studio albums and plenty of hits over the years. Four years after the release of her last album, she has announced that her next one is a month away. What will she serve up on her 15th LP?
The star recently shared on Twitter that her latest album is called Caution and will be released on Nov. 16, 2018. We first got a hint of a new album on Sept. 13 when she announced an album was in the works and released the lead single, "GTFO." The album's second single, "With You," followed on Oct. 4.
On "GTFO" she confidently asks a soon-to-be-ex lover "How 'bout you get the f*** out?" in breathy vocals over a slow, melodic beat by GRAMMY-winning producer Nineteen85. "With You" feels like a classic Carey R&B love song with her angelic vocals backed by snapping and a melodic slow jam groove produced by hip-hop beat maker DJ Mustard, who lets her voice shine on an uncharacteristically mellow track for him. These songs hint that her latest release will give us songs that not only showcase her incredible vocal range and versatility, but also give us both nostalgia-inducing tracks as well as radio-ready hits.
"GTFO" gives us a taste of some of the new flavor that she is bringing to her new album, singing the song's coy lyrics completely in more-understated breathy vocals without belting any big high notes, not even during the chorus. It's a catchy, playful breakup song, as she confidently sings "get the f*** out/how 'bout you take your tings and be on your merry way?/Fly off with the wind, bye bye baby/How 'bout you scusami, Mimi'll call you a valet."
The song was co-written and co-produced by Jeff Jefferies aka Nineteen85, who is half of OVO R&B duo dvsn and is responsible for producing some of Drake's biggest hits, including the GRAMMY-winning mega-hit "Hotline Bling." On the Drake's song "Emotionless" from his latest album, Scorpion, he samples Carey's lyrics from remixed classic hit "Emotions." Hopefully Jefferies has some catchy hits up his sleeve for Carey, and maybe even brings in some OVO artist surprises.
Carey has released some great collabs over the years, a majority with R&B and hip-hop artists, including Boyz II Men on heartfelt slow jam "One Sweet Day" from 1995's Daydream and Jay-Z on the upbeat classic belter "Heartbreaker" from 1999's Rainbow. We can only hope that the new album will offer some new, soon-to-be-classic hits with some of our other favorite artists.
Her most recent album, Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse, released in 2014, had more collab tracks than usual for her, which could perhaps point towards some hot features on Caution. The deluxe edition of the 2014 album had six songs with other artists, including rappers Nas, Fabolous, Wale and R. Kelly as well as R&B singers Miguel and Mary J. Blige. The album's lead single, "Beautiful," has Miguel and Carey singing a soulful, feel-good duet, while "Dedicated" features a bounce-y, electronic-infused hip-hop beat with a verse from Nas. Seeing that she worked with big-time hip-hop producers on the new album's lead singles, we can only hope that they not only offered their production genus to more of the tracks, but perhaps brought some of their friends into the studio as well.
Fans only have to wait a month for the full dose of new music from Carey, but until then we will send our prayers to the music gods that the album will feature all of our dream collabs, perhaps some old and new friends, and offer up some new favorite songs, with some to slow dance to and others to belt out in the shower.