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IBMA Noms Fall Short for Worthy Talent

Some people are vehemently opposed to awards show and argue that they should be avoided at all cost. Some will even argue that award shows are single-handedly smothering the very life out the genres of music that we love so much. I don’t agree with either statement. I think award shows have a place and people just need to know their purpose in the music industry, or any industry that uses them.

For those looking for a chance to wear their Sunday best during the week or hob-nob with a plethora of A-listers, award shows are great as long as you don’t forget your trusty selfie stick. People wanting to see a great concert that features some great collaborations will find award shows to be pure awesomeness. If those are the things you seek, you should definitely set out to secure tickets for as many award shows as possible. Award shows are fine as long as you don’t fall into the trap of believing that they have any type of credibility when it comes to determining the true best of the best of the year’s performances.

The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) nominations proved this point once again. It is hard to believe that after having a phenomenal year, some outstanding artists -- Dailey & Vincent, Darin and Brooke Aldridge, and surely many more -- are nowhere to be found on this list. In the instrumentalist categories, the same names keep reappearing, although amazing new players join the scene every year. Has anyone taken a listen to the musicianship of the Snyder Family Band?

The Aldridges' release, Snapshots, isn’t just another record in their career. It was a critically-acclaimed effort that is arguably the best album of their career. True to its title, the disc is a snapshot of the diverse talent of this incredible duo. It has clearly been a fan favorite as well. The album debuted at #8 on Billboard’s Bluegrass charts.

This year, Darin and Brooke Aldridge made their first appearance at the CMA Music Festival in June, winning country music fans along the way. Snapshots includes their take on “Tennessee Flat Top Box,” a song that was recorded by both Johnny Cash and Rosanne Cash. There is a music video for the cover, and Rosanne herself lauded the Aldridges' version.

It’s not like Darin and Brooke Aldridge have never been invited to the party. This awesome duo received two nominations last year, one for Gospel recorded project for “Love Does” and a nomination for Best Graphic Design for a Recorded Project. The graphic design was done by talented artist Lynn Weathers.

I am certainly glad that their Flying album received some attention. However, I can’t understand how IBMA members have ignored Snapshots this year.

Then again, I probably shouldn’t be surprised. Nominations don’t always match what is popular or deserving. Sometimes, nominations only represent what came to mind first for busy folks who have nothing to gain or lose and, therefore, don’t put a lot of effort into their selections. This isn’t true only about the IBMA awards, but award shows in general.

For example, it is hard to believe that, in 2015, Viola Davis became the first African-American to win the Emmy for Best Actress in a television series.

When it comes to the Academy Awards, most movies that are the huge blockbusters often don’t get nominated for Best Picture. That’s not to say those nominated aren’t great films and worthy to be selected, but I wonder how much award show nominations really reflect the choice of the fans and reflect what is popular.

Similarly, whoever wins the IBMA awards will be talented and worthy of the award. Still, I question why folks like Darin and Brooke Aldridge won’t have a chance to win this year.

Although they have been ignored by those that nominate artists for the IBMA awards, they are still winners. Every time they step onto the stage, the audience has a great time and enjoys the show. Being able to connect with audience in the way they do is the real award. After all, isn’t that what music is all about?

Country Music Association (CMA) members, IBMA members, and others in the position to recognize achievements through association awards programs probably don’t realize their own power and the impact they can have. Nominations and wins offer not only a nice pat on the back of recognition, but also result in greater media coverage, more bookings and appearances, and simply, more work and sales.

In politics, name recognition is considered a major factor in winning elections. People who only participate casually will simply go for the name they recognize. Maybe the IBMA members will pay more attention next year. To coin a bluegrass phrase, they need to get beyond mere name recognition and “dig a little deeper.”

The 2015 IBMA award winners will be announced in Raleigh on Oct. 1 during World of Bluegrass week.

It is NOT hard to believe that after having a phenomenal year, some outstanding artists -- Dailey & Vincent, Darin and Brooke Aldridge, and surely many more -- are nowhere to be found on this list. 

Year after year, it is the same people casting votes.  As a result, year after year, probably 80% of the names on the ballot are the same.  IBMA is a political organization and there are deep politics within it.  This is why the SPBGMA awards have so much more meaning to me than the IBMA's.

The writer makes a great point ... that those who participate (or don't take advantage of the opportunity to participate) don't realize their own power. While there may be strategizing and politics and other things going on, the bottom line is that all professional members of the IBMA have an opportunity to nominate and to vote. It's a great benefit that, I suspect, most members do not take advantage of ... or they step up in the final voting without taking part in earlier nomination and voting rounds. The great thing about bluegrass is that established artists seem very willing to encourage, support, collaborate with, and generally make room for newcomers. I'll bet that those 'usual suspects' would be just as happy to see some new names on the ballot. It's the membership that needs to rally and take part.

Suggesting the IBMA and SPEGMA are analogous is plain silly; one is a professional organization, the other a private operation/corporation. If the Snyder Family Band played bluegrass, they might be considered for IBMA awards. There were many wonderful bluegrass albums released last year, and "Snapshots" was one of them. Not every strong album can receive a final-five position, and while I may believe, for example, Flatt Lonesome has no business being nominated for the award, the professional voting members of the IBMA disagree with me. As for Dailey & Vincent, perhaps the voting members of the organization have grown tired of their schtick; that they didn't release a bluegrass album this year may also be a factor.

The IBMA Instrumental nominations and awards are admittedly fairly stable year-to-year, but are very different from the Emmys and other awards in that the names are submitted without being tied to particular projects. If one wanted some shakeup within these categories, perhaps insisting that (for example) Rob Ickes' nomination be accompanied by a citation toward a recorded project drawn from the period under consideration, much like actors are nominated for particular roles and episodes. This would, of course, eliminate the impact concert performance have on the awards.

Two things I appreciate about the IBMA Awards, at least the ones voted on my the professional membership, not select committees. 1. is that the system is wide open and representative of the opinions of those involved. I've never heard suggestion that things are bent. 2. the nominees and winners are always genuinely appreciative of the recognition, their deserved recognition.

As always, I look forward to the broadcast this week, even if I am sure to disagree with the outcome of many of the award categories. And, dang it- can Hazel Dickens be named to the Hall of Fame already?

Good article