IBMA Bluegrass Ramble
Downtown Raleigh
Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015

My second night of the Bluegrass Ramble began in the former Longview Church space to catch an IBMA favorite, Chris Henry & The Hardcore Grass. Henry, who has emerged as one of the more stable supporters of Peter Rowan in recent years, brought a five-piece band that soon tuned into the nature acoustics of the historic space. Standout songs included the Rowan-assisted “Colorado Sweetheart,” the newer “I’m Gonna Wait On Jesus” and “Walking West to Memphis,” a number nominated for IBMA’s Song of the Year.

After a brief stop at the California Bluegrass Association’s suite in the Marriott to see Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen, it was, as with last night, back to the the Lincoln Theatre. The late addition of Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper was intriguing enough to keep me out for the midnight set, but first up was Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley. Ickes, the most awarded musician in the history of IBMA, has taken Hensley under his wing. The pair has even released an album together. Hensley has a big voice and the instrumental skills to match it. He fits nicely with Ickes, as they both unassumingly played stunning licks on the dobro. The set felt much too brief.

Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper ended my night. I’m not sure if it was the time they played, the rain outside or the last-minute addition, but the still-respectable crowd should have been larger. Still, Cleveland and company moved quickly through the set, playing their IBMA Song of the Year-nominated “Fiddlin’ Joe,” plus a chilling rendition of the traditional “Wayfaring Stranger” with Joshua Richards on lead vocals. The group has three other nominations for tonight’s awards, including Instrumental Group of the Year, Instrumental Recorded Performance and Fiddle Performer for Cleveland himself. They deserve ’em, I say.

Chris Henry & The Hardcore Grass, “I’m Gonna Wait On Jesus”

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