ARTS REVIEWS & NEWS
Tuesday, October 7, 2003
McCOURY GETS SURPRISE IN 2003's TOP AWARD
By David Royko
Special to the Tribune
LOUISVILLE -- The International Bluegrass Music Association's annual weeklong World Of Bluegrass is the genre's big event, allowing the industry to honor the giants of the past and present while introducing the artists who represent the future.
Thursday night's International Bluegrass Music Awards, hosted with poise and humor by Alison Krauss and Dan Tyminski, held several surprises, none more potent than that delivered to Entertainer of the Year winner Del McCoury. Stepping onto the stage to receive the award, McCoury was greeted by Ricky Skaggs and Sonny Osborne, on hand to invite him to become the newest member of the Grand Old Opry. To see sons Ron and Rob McCoury--both members of the Del McCoury Band--wiping tears from their eyes as their father accepted the honor brought home the fact that while the bluegrass business might in many respects be like any other part of the music industry, the emotion and meaning of the music is just as powerful for those at the top as it is for those trying to get there.
And those trying to get there had their ultimate representation in a performance by the Young American Bluegrass Idols. These children, including the charismatic 12-year-old mandolinist Sierra Hull, were chosen for their precocious talent and served as a reprise of the first IBMA Bluegrass Youth All-Stars, organized for the 1993 awards. After the Idols' first number, they were joined by the members of the 1993 unit, which included Josh Williams, Cody Kilby, Michael Cleveland--all established bluegrass heavyweights--and Chris Thile, the Nickel Creek mandolin phenom.
This year's Hall of Honor inductee, banjoist and bandleader J.D. Crowe, performed "The Old Home Place" with what has become one of the most revered front lines in bluegrass history, the original New South with Tony Rice, Skaggs, Bobby Slone and Jerry Douglas, another example of young pups who grew into today's big dogs.
But it was a quartet of pups that offered perhaps the most exciting new music of the week. Performing in various showcases and on the Fan Fest's Roots and Branches stage, the newgrass group Daybreak brought a unique sound and dazzling creativity to every tune it delivered. Drawing from jazz and Celtic forms as well as bluegrass and old-time string-band music, the band leavened its virtuosity and serious compositional devices with a ticklish wit that brought the urge to both giggle and marvel.
The banjo-free sound of Daybreak, along with their youthful hipness and good looks, and the fact that they are fronted by a woman fiddler, has already elicited comparisons with Nickel Creek. Such comparisons, however, are facile, and one need only look at their recent composition, "Smurfin'" to hear why. The piece's wisps of cockeyed dissonance were mingled with a Swingle Singers-like trio of voices employed to drive an island groove. The result was an ideal balance of the visceral and the cerebral.
Daybreak's instrumentation--fiddle, guitar, Dobro, acoustic bass--allowed for a wide range of expressive possibilities, and the pure joy that its members, particularly guitarist Edward O'Day and fiddler DeAnn Whalen, projected was reflected in the music's energy. Daybreak is a band to get excited about.
Another festival highlight was Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, who came up big in this year's awards, taking the prizes for Gospel Recorded Performance, Vocal Group, and Song of the Year. The group's trademark blend of vocal harmonies and passionate delivery proved that there is plenty left to mine from the deepest bluegrass traditions.
Copyright © 2003, Chicago Tribune
[Photo: Doyle Lawson (left) and Jamie Daley of Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver perform Thursday at the 14th annual bluegrass awards.]