In the general world of show business, comedian/actor Steve Martin would be considered a marquee name. But at the International Bluegrass Music Association convention in Raleigh in late September, he’ll be another banjo player. OK, maybe not just another banjo player, but certainly not the biggest name in the world of bluegrass that is camping in Raleigh.
Alison Krauss may lead the way in terms of the big-name artists, but old-timey bluegrass legend Del McCoury will be there, along with banjo innovator Bela Fleck, dobro king Jerry Douglas, mandolinist Sam Bush, cutting edge mando player Chris Thile and guitar wizard Tony Rice. Martin will be playing with the Steep Canyon Rangers, with whom he’s been touring and recording.
The amphitheater seems sometimes as if it has been underutilized, but there won’t be any cobwebs on it come October. It will likely be filled with fans for a couple of days, fans who enjoy the romantic ballads of Krauss but also favor the lightning licks of the world’s fastest musicians. There’s more to bluegrass than speed, of course, but those who developed this special and ever-more-popular type of music, Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs, have long been remembered for their incredible virtuosity, full throttle.
Raleigh captured the IBMA for three years after its long run in Nashville. Perhaps if the Capital City’s bluegrass fans turn out in strength, the convention will find a longer-term home here.