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IBMA World of Bluegrass 2000 in Louisville ? an informal report. October 23, 2000

Music Ramble: IBMA World of Bluegrass 2000 in Louisville – an informal report

October 23, 2000

I was in Louisville from about 3:00AM Wednesday night/Thursday morning, left Sunday around lunch time, and it passed in a heartbeat.

Marty Stuart's hosting of the awards was superb. He is very fast at improvising commentary, and at the same time so eloquent. Dolly's presence was a big plus as well.

About an hour before I left work Wednesday to drive down to Louisville, I received an e-mail from my editor at the Trib expressing concern about me covering an event for which I'm a nominee. Reasonable concern, but his solution was that I not cover anything at all. I quickly e-mailed back suggesting I at least cover the fanfest, which he OK'd. But that's why there isn't even a hint of anything awards-related in my review (here).

So many highlights, musical and otherwise, it is hard to sum them up. Too bad the Trib asked for 550 words but only had space for about 490, which meant my paragraph on Rhonda Vincent's set was cut.

I filed my Trib review at around 9:30pm Saturday, and in the Brown Room from 11:45 PM until after 2:00 AM that night, I was lucky enough to witness Chris Thile stitching another strand into the fabric of what should someday be a legendary career.

It started with 15 or so minutes of unaccompanied mandolin compositions, moved through duets with a fine fiddler Chris had met at IBMA (Mountain Heart’s Jimmy Van Cleve), duets with an impressive (and cute) kid mandolinist he'd been jamming with the day before (Michelle Porter), a staggering, very free-associative duet with guitarist Bryan Sutton, a "Sonatina" he called a "Sonatine" since it only had 3 movements instead of 4 and which he co-composed and played with a guy whose name I failed to catch (and is one of the most impressive things Thile's written so far, I think), a duet with Mark Schatz's body, and ended with a jam that included Schatz, the fiddler, a Russian banjoist, and Sutton. This was something Chris put together on very short notice, and it was mindblowing. It really felt like some sort of coming-out party for Chris, a chance to show off a range of what he can do, and it was something truly special. Whatever musical paths he chooses for the future, I'm glad to be able to watch his journey. One of the giants of our (and probably all-) time, that's for sure.

And the single most exciting bit of news I heard all week/end is that Thile and Michael Cleveland will be flying to Switzerland this winter to collaborate with the Krugers for an album. Last week before I left for IBMA, a friend of mine and I were playing a favorite fantasy game ("I just won the lotery and I'm starting my own record label") and my #1 project would be to throw the Krugers and Chris into a room for a week together with a tape recorder. Looks like I'm going to get to hear the results, and without having to win the lottery.

Speaking of the Krugers, has anyone ever heard a version of "The Cuckoo bird" that can touch theirs? The long "introduction" that makes you think it is an instrumental version is some of the most profoundly beautiful "folk" music imaginable.

Dave Royko

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