It wouldn’t be World of Bluegrass without mandolin icon Sam Bush, so it’s a good thing he’s coming back this year.
Bush will join the Wide Open Bluegrass closing event. The late addition was announced Monday. He and former Doobie Brother John Cowan will join Colorado jam band Leftover Salmon for the “Wide Open Jam,” Sept. 29 at downtown Raleigh’s Red Hat Amphitheater.
Bush, a festival staple, plays the International Bluegrass Music Association’s annual shindig just about every year — including 2017, when he organized a well-received tribute to heritage bluegrass band the Country Gentlemen. But he had not turned up on the 2018 schedule until this announcement.
World of Bluegrass is Sept. 25-29 in Raleigh and includes the IBMA business convention, the IBMA Awards (hosted this year by Hot Rize) and a free weekend street festival.
Bush recently spoke to The News & Observer before an Aug. 11 concert at the Cat’s Cradle. He said he has been impressed with Raleigh as a host city for the event.
“The first time I came to Raleigh for IBMA, it was obvious that the town was doing way more for IBMA,” he said. “The accommodation of the city and the way it’s an open festival downtown and you can walk to different stages, Raleigh just celebrates IBMA. In that way, it’s very successful and it’s obviously working. I really appreciate the way Raleigh does accommodate all the music.”
Also joining the Wide Open Bluegrass lineup is Michael Cleveland, 10-time IBMA fiddle player of the year. The complete Red Hat schedule is below. The free street-festival schedule will be announced later.
In other festival news, a number of North Carolina acts figure into nominations for the “Special Awards” and “Momentum Awards” that IBMA presents at each year’s conference. Pisgah Forest combo Carolina Blue’s latest album “Sounds of Kentucky” picked up nominations for graphic design and liner notes.
Carolina Blue fiddler Aynsley Porchak was also nominated as best instrumentalist in the Momentum Awards, presented to up-and-coming acts.
Cane Mill Road, a young group from the late great Doc Watson’s old hometown of Deep Gap, earned Momentum Award nominations for band and instrumentalist, the latter for banjo player Trajan Wellington.
This will be the festival’s sixth year in Raleigh. It has drawn big names to town including 2017 keynote speaker Rhiannon Giddens (who will return this year to the Wide Open Bluegrass lineup at Red Hat Amphitheater) and Steve Martin.
Last year’s World of Bluegrass events — business convention, nightclub performances, awards show and Wide Open Bluegrass — drew a total estimated attendance of more than 221,000. Since 2013, World of Bluegrass has drawn more than 856,000 people.
In May, the IBMA announced a three-year extension to keep the event here through 2021.
David Menconi: 919-829-4759, @NCDavidMenconi
Wide Open Bluegrass
Here is the schedule for Red Hat Amphitheater. For tickets and other details, go to WorldOfBluegrass.org.
Friday, Sept. 28
2 p.m. — Michel Cleveland & Flamekeeper
3 p.m. — Flatt Lonesome
4:15 p.m. — “The Trust”: Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Balsam Range, Lonesome River Band, Donna Ulisse, Chris Jones & Night Drivers, Sideline, Love Canon
6:15 p.m. — Tommy Emmanuel with Bryan Sutton, Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley, Jack Pearson
7:45 p.m. — Earls of Leicester
Saturday, Sept. 29
2 p.m. — Volume Five
3 p.m. — Laurie Lewis & Friends
4:15 p.m. — Gibson Brothers
7:45 p.m. — Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder with special guest Patty Loveless
9:30 p.m. — Leftover Salmon’s Wide Open Jam with Sam Bush, John Cowan and other guests