resh from a slew of wins at the IBMA Awards on Thursday, reigning Entertainer of the Year duo Dailey & Vincent were clearly the favorites at Saturday night's IBMA showcase. Even a simple pre-show sound check threatened to become a full-fledged concert as early-bird attendees filled the seats and shouted for the band to continue.
After a few last minute adjustments, they began their shuffling, sympathetic lament to the working class, Poor Boy Working Blues, (with the lyrics "work all night, work all day/ life ain't worth living this way"). They then put mandolin player and ace vocalist Jeff Parker to work on Still Got the Time and the toe-tapping Do Me Like You Do. Darrin Vincent introduced Male Vocalist of the Year Jamie Dailey for the slow, sweeping gospel number, I Believe (not to be confused with the Irvin Graham/Jimmy Sheryl classic). His pure, almost bird-like voice and sincere emotion prompted several in the audience to raise their hands and shout "Amen!"
The group ran through their set staples, Name on a Wall, By the Mark and the rousing Southern Gospel a capella number, Don't You Want to Go to Heaven, before trading barbs with each other.
"It takes a real man to sing like a woman," quipped Vincent after Dailey's ending tenor note on Don't You Want to Go to Heaven. "Well, Darrin used to use Head and Shoulders; now he uses Mop & Glow," Dailey rebutted.
They then let the crowd know that they expect a new record to be released on Rounder in February 2009, and for their "Rolling Your Way" tour to begin early next year, before bringing out six-year-old mandolin prodigy Kyle Ranning to guest on an instrumental number. The talented youngster swapped leads with fiddle player Adam Hanes and Vincent, and earned the largest standing ovation of the night.
According to country music superstar, guitar player extraordinaire and sometimes bluegrass player Vince Gill, he was "the only one dumb enough to follow Dailey and Vincent...but it's a good year to be named Vincent." Gill performed some cuts from the Little Brother CD from his 2006 box set. Backed by Deenie Richardson on fiddle, Charles Cushman on banjo and Jeff White on guitar/harmony, Gill began with the reckless banjo-driven Give Me the Highway" and a Bill Anderson gem, the mournful Cold Gray Light of Gone. White at times mimicked Dailey & Vincent's own Jamie Dailey. Gill quipped afterwards, "Yes, we are finally coming out the closet-we've started a new bluegrass duo called Jeffrey and Vincent." Still recovering from recent knee surgery, Gill apologized that his voice was a bit hoarse, but it sounded beautiful. Each time Gill sings bluegrass, it seems like a pity he hasn't recorded more bluegrass to fit his pitch-perfect, crystalline tenor voice.
He and his band then rambled through the instrumental Shucking the Corn, John Cowan'sA Good Woman's Love, the chicken-pickin' Little Girl of Mine in Tennessee, d another great song from Gill's "Little Brother" album, All Prayed Up. Gill introduced his last song of the evening as a tribute to his brother, before launching into a sing-a-long, slightly uptempo, mandolin-leaded version of Go Rest High on that Mountain. The crowd seem happy to have Gill on the bluegrass side of music for a night, but it took a while for them to warm up to him.
Bradley Walker performed Hang Tough, Paying Your Dues, a cover of the Merle Haggard hit, Today I Started Loving You Again, and Bill Monroe's Living Like a Fool. He debuted the video for his single, A Little Change, which he says has been released to Great American Country (GAC) and Country Music Television (CMT). Nicely straddling the line between country and bluegrass, Walker's appearance and voice slightly resemble Brad Paisley. Placing Walker after Gill was an unfortunate misstep, as most of the IBMA crowd had left at this point. Walker has a pleasant voice, preferring to let the songs themselves take center stage. His rendition of Carl Jackson's If I Hadn't Reached for the Stars, was special, as Jackson was on hand to introduce Walker.
Another country superstar-turned-bluegrass lover, Kathy Mattea earned several Grammys and CMA Awards in the early nineties before scoring a number one record on the bluegrass charts. Her latest album, Coal, celebrated the lives of coal miners, and she performed several of those songs, including the haunting and real Way Down in the Mines ("the stream of your blood will run black as coal"). Don't Stop Here Anymore, is reminiscent of her early country hits, while her version of Never Leave Harlan Alive really showcased her gritty alto voice, sounding better than Paisley's version on his Part II record. "It is intimidating to sing after Dailey & Vincent and Vince Gill," she joked, "but I am heartened by the fact that my voice is lower than any of theirs." She ended her set with audience request Walk the Way the Wind Blows. While Mattea was more folk than bluegrass, she was a great addition to the lineup.